A fresh brew is ready!
The sugitama, a symbol of brewers, shares in the good fortune of the sacred tree of the god of sake.
A large sphere formed from leaves of the Japanese cedar hangs from the eaves at the entrance of this brewery of sake. It is called a sugitama, and is considered a symbol of breweries in Japan. The scene shares in the good fortune of the holy trees of the Omiwa Shrine.
The god enshrined at the Omiwa Shrine is also known as a god of sake, and the god of sake brewers is also enshrined on the grounds. The home ground of Miwa is also said to be the birthplace of sake brewing, and the sugitama decoration originated here as well. The place still enjoys the strong faith of brewers throughout Japan today, and the Omiwa Shrine awards the sugitama as a mark of excellence.
The sugitama became a replacement for the sign at purveyors of sake from the early Edo period (in the 1600s). Later, a custom emerged of replacing the sugitama with a new one each year as the latest batch of sake was completed, making the sugitama itself a symbol of a fresh brew. The new sugitama of fresh green pine needles gradually turns brown, serving as a sign of the maturity of the sake to the shop’s patrons.
Handmade from “spirit water,” the sake of this 350 year old brewery has received numerous awards.
Sake is made from rice which is fermented much like beer or wine. However, that process is quite delicate, and takes more time and effort compared to other fermented drinks from throughout the world.
Because rice contains few sugars, the fermentation process takes place parallel to saccharification, and the preparations are repeated over and over again to brew the sake in a complex process that depends on the master brewer’s trained eye and skill.
Today, the Imanishi Shuzo brewery is the last brewery that continues the traditional approach of brewing by hand at the foot of Mount Miwa, the land where sake originated. Watched over by the god of sake, the concept of the venerable 350 year old brewery is the “Libation of Miwa.”
Brewed from spring water from Mount Miwa, which is covered with Japanese cedar trees, and rice grown locally, the sake made here has received many awards, including the Gold Prizes at both the National New Sake Excellence Awards and the Fine Sake Awards, Japan for three years in a row. The crisp flavor brings out the natural umami taste of the rice and features a gentle fragrance and clean acidity.
Dine on eggs with sake as an offering to the white serpent that is the embodiment of a god.
The brewery building was constructed roughly 170 years ago. Visitors to the main branch of Imanishi Shuzo may enjoy sake tasting, featuring five different types of sake that taste best during that season, surrounded by the deep history of the brewery.
Tasting the sake as you receive an explanation directly from the brewing staff is an exceptional experience. Other attractions include a “Guided Tour of Holy Places” around the various nearby sites related to sake brewing, and a stamp rally. The guides of the tour include the owner, master brewer, and brewing staff, making the tour popular with both sake connoisseurs and tourists alike.
Meanwhile, the number one attraction here is the “offering of eggs and sacred wine.” The physical manifestation of Omononushi Omikami, the god of sake, is a white serpent. Familiarly known as “Miisan,” the serpent is said to dwell at the “Minokami Sugi” (Minokami Cedar) in front of the altar of the shrine.
As Miisan’s favorite food is eggs, there is a style of worship here of dining on eggs accompanied by sake as an offering. Thus sets combining eggs with sacred sake are available for purchase at the Imanishi Shuzo shop on the main road to the shrine. We recommend making this offering yourself to share in the power of Miisan.
- Imanishi Shuzou Brewery
- 10:00～17:00 Open daily except otherwise noticed ※Main store close every Sunday from May 15 to Sep 30
- Main store : 510 Miwa, Sakurai-shi, Nara / Sando store : 1224 Miwa, Sakurai-shi, Nara
- Tasting Sake experience : 500 Yen、Tour 3,000 Yen ※Reservation recommended ( Tour : 1 week before / Sake tasting : 1 day before )