Friday, November 23, 2007

11/9/07: Day 8 in Japan Part I - Tomita Shuzo (Shichi Hon Yari) Photo Essay

Today's journey took me about 2hours away from Osaka to Shiga Prefecture in the north. Shiga is notable for being home of the largest lake in Japan, Lake Biwa (琵琶湖). Located in the northeastern side of Lake Biwa in town of Ki No Moto (木の本) is Tomita Shuzo, maker of the Shichi Hon Yari label (七本槍) also known as "Seven Spears Men" in the States. Mr. Tomita greeted me at the the train station on a glorious autumn day, where the first thing that hit me was the organic bouquet of the country-side air.

This visit was made possible by last minute arrangement through Henry Sidel of Joto Saké in New York, meaning that the communication went from Osaka to Shiga via New York (note the store front of Tomita Shuzo featured on the main page of Joto Saké website). Mr. Tomita was gracious enough to host me in a very short notice, even though the Kura was busy getting ready for first day of brewing. Here is what I got to see:

Tomita Shuzo uses 3 types of rice. From left to right, Yamadanishiki, Ginfubuki, and Tamazakaé. Many of their sakés are made using Tamazakaé.

The rice washer, which is similar to the one used at Asahi Shuzo.

Mr. Tomita holds the Shikomi-Mizu (仕込み水), water used for brewing. This comes straight from the well on the premises.

Steamer and conveyer with the cooling mechanism.

Tanks at Tomita Shuzo. Tall ones have the capacity of 4,843L.

"KC wuz here." I signed my name underneath Miho-san's from Joto Saké

Tomita Shuzo uses old fashioned Funé. The interior is made of wood.

The bottling machine. Compare to the one used by Asahi Shuzo. This style is manual, and at the busiest, Tomita Shuzo bottles about 1,500 bottles.

As the bottling process indicate, many of their operations are conducted manually, even carrying steamed rice from the conveyer belt to the tanks and fetching water from the reserve tanks. The terms "boutique operation" and "artisinal saké truly applies to Tomita Shuzo. Walking around the brewery, I was absolutely awed and grateful that us New Yorkers have the luxury of enjoying very high-quality sakés from such a small operation...

Coming up in Part II: Tasting of rare sakés of Tomita Shuzo.

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