What? Tsuki no I, traditional Japanese sake brewery and shop
Where? 638 Isohama-cho, Oarai-machi, Higashiibaraki-gun, Ibaraki Prefecture 311-1301/茨城県東茨城郡大洗町磯浜町６３８ 〒311-1301
Founded over 150 years ago at the end of the Edo Period, Tsuki no I brews and sells traditional Japanese sake (rice wine) which is sold throughout Japan, and overseas in Hong Kong, Singapore and the US and has also received an award in France. The location was chosen for its source of high-quality fresh water, a key factor in sake brewing. The current brewery and shop buildings are around 80 years old. Outside the main entrance you can see a sugidama, a ball made of cedar sprigs traditionally hung outside of breweries - a fresh, green sugidama tells customers a newly brewed batch of sake is available while a dried, brown sugidama shows only normal sake is available. Alongside a variety of types of sake, Tsuki no I also sells umeshu (plum wine) and sake with packaging featuring characters from the anime Girls und Panzer which is set in Oarai.
How is Japanese sake made?
Sake is made using Japanese short-grain rice; the variety of rice used affects the flavour and scent of the sake. Tsuki no I uses rices from prefectures including Hyogo and Tokushima as well as locally-produced rice from Ibaraki and Oarai.
First, after the rice is harvested in Autumn, it is polished in a rice polishing machine. The flavour and scent of the finished sake depends on how much of the rice grain is removed during polishing - the more of the rice is removed the higher quality the sake. The polished rice is then washed and allowed to absorb water. Time in the water is measured and the rice weighed before and after to control the volume of water absorbed.
Next, the rice is steamed until dry and crumbly then cooled in a special rice cooling machine (this process used to be done by spreading the rice outside). The temperature to which the rice is cooled depends on the type of alcohol being made.
After cooling, the rice is fermented. This process takes around 20 days for a normal sake and a month for a high-quality sake. The kind of yeast used for the fermentation process affects the flavour of the sake. Finally, the fermented rice is then pressed through more than 90 filters in a pressing machine to produce sake!