Monday, April 11, 2011

Visiting Urakasumi Brewery

When we heard about the earthquake on 3/11/11, our thoughts immediately went to Urakasumi Brewery.  We had just visited them in late January at their location in the Miyagi prefecture town of Shiogama near the coast of Sendai Bay.  Shiogama is famous for having  the largest number of sushi shops per square kilometer in Japan (not Tokyo!), and as the largest tuna port in the world is quite proud of its fresh fish.

We were relieved to learn after the earthquake and tsunami that that the president Mr.Saura, his family, and his kurabito (brewery workers)were all safe.  It was initially difficult for anyone to get in touch with them since there was no electricity and phone service was severely limited.  More recently we've heard that they have fully resumed operation and shipping sake...hooray!

On the day that we visited Matsushima, we stopped by the sushi restaurant Shirahata which was right around the corner from Urakasumi Brewery to have a quick sushi lunch.  It was early one afternoon on a weekday, and we were seated in front of sushi chef Shirahata.  The master was cheerful and talkative, and we were so impressed by both his entertaining and sushi making skills.   He loved to talk and laugh while his hand swiftly moved to slice and make sushi.  Before you know it, he finished making a couple of omakase plates.  We were short on time due to our appointment at the brewery, so we quickly enjoyed the sushi and his homemade pickles.  Lunch was perfect!  We sincerely hope that Mr. Shirahata and his staff are all safe. 

We then headed up the street to the Urakasumi Brewery.  The brewery was founded in 1724, and is still responsible for making sake for the Shiragama Shrine.   It occupies a beautiful, well-preserved building where we met with brewmaster Mr. Suzuki.. (Unfortunately Mr. Saura was not at the brewery at that time.  He came to visit our store in NYC a few weeks later.)  He showed us around the brewery and explained their unique approach to sake making.

They still use old fashioned bamboo baskets to wash rice and strain the water.  Workers were counting "one, two, three," swinging the basket right and left like pendulum to strain off the water from rice.

After the tour, we sampled several of their unpasteurized sake and then thanked Mr. Suzuki as we said farewell before returning to Sendai City.

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