Visiting Sake breweries in Fukui Japan
I arrived to Fukui after a relaxing three-hour ride on the Shinkansen from Yokohama. The city of Fukui is the capital city of the Fukui Prefecture. The Fukui Prefecture is located north of Kyoto and faces the Sea of Japan. There are 35 breweries in the Fukui prefecture that
My destination was Ono, Japan. Like several other cities in Japan, Ono is referred to as “Little Kyoto”. A small town of approximately 37,000 people, Ono is 45 minutes from Fukui city by car, located inland and surrounded by mountains. Like most all cities, there is a characteristic or feature that provides distinction to the community. Many cities in Japan are rich with nature, culture, temples, etc. Ono’s claim to fame is water. The Japanese ministry of environment selected 100 water sources from all over the country. Ono is near the top of the list of certified water sources based on a global water resource evaluation of quality.
Like other sake breweries in Ono, Ichinatoni is located in the center of the city. The historic downtown of Ono was planned with the traditional grid system of streets layout. Ichinatoni is the oldest brewery in Ono, founded in 1620. The president and owner, Uno-san is soft-spoken and very passionate about not only his sake, but also the sake industry in general.
Manatsuru sake is quintessential of the Fuki region. The brewery has a charming storefront. Behind the storefront is the operations of brewing sake. It is a small brewery founded in 1751. Izumi-san is the owner and toji. He took the helm of the family business in 1997. Izumi-san’s first Ginjo-shu that he produced in 1998 received the highest rating among the competitive Fukui sake brewers. Since then, Manatsuru has continued to carve out a cult following.
Retired Japanese soccer star and current sake enthusiast and ambassador, Hidetoshi Nakata even paid a visit to the Manaturu shuzo. Among the high quality nihon sshu brewed at Manatsuru, there is a collection of koshu. Some aged over 20 years with smooth rich flavors of cedar, hints of brown sugar. The amber color and big nose had a sweetness to it. It was pleasantly surprising to discover the richness and smoothness with the finish. Izumi-san is a gentle person, and his kindness and generosity made the experience educational and fun.
Yoshida brewery is famous for their White Dragon product. Not to be confused the a more prominent Black Dragon product that is brewed by different brewery in Fukui, Kokuryu.
Yoshida brewery has an interesting story. The small brewery produces exceptional sake. They also grow their own rice. It is currently owned and operated by three generations of women.
Fukui is blessed with excellent water. The countryside of Fukui is mountainous and there are areas of the town where people can drink and fill up their water bottles from the river that runs through the center of town. Fukui is not extremely convenient, but it is a worthy destination for culture, food and excellent sake.