Thursday, November 17, 2011

Visiting Akita Breweries

Throughout our time in Akita we were told by locals that there had been more snow this winter than any since 1973!  All of prefectures on the Sea of Japan side of  Tohoku were being bombarded with continuous heavy snow.  The winter had been so severe that during our time there, even the usually steady JR trains had stopped running due to the wind and snow.  The best and most reliable means of transportation was by bus or automobile.

We were lucky to have brewers generously offer to drive us to their breweries.  It was an Akita brewery relay of sorts.  Saiya Shuzo's Saito-san picked us at our hotel in Akita city.  He drove us from there along a coastal road from which we were able to view the beautiful and dramatic Sea of Japan in its turbulent winter fury, to Yuri Honjo, where we visited his brewery.

He then dropped us off at Asamai Shuzo, makers of Ama No To brand sake.  There, after showing us his brewery, the famous toji treated us to his signature sake kasu dishes, and then we were off to Hinomaru Shuzo to see their kura and visit with the president, Sato-san.  All of this while the snow kept falling the entire day with no sign of letting up.

We left the following day via local train to Akita Konno, one of few koji makers in Japan. From there we were picked up by Ito-san from Akita Seishu Brewery.  We visited his brewery, and his parents historic home most of which was buried under the immense blanket of snow.  Ito-san then drove us the two hours from his brewery to our final destination Tsurunoyu Onsen.

It was snowing heavily and getting dark, but like so many of the brewers who had driven us from kura to kura,  Ito-san forged on effortlessly, zigzagging up the mountains, through blinding snow, on deep snow-covered roads with only a car-length of visibility in his headlights.  But, finally we made it to Tsurunoyu Onsen, the finish line of our Akita relay! 

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