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Sake Tasting in Tokyo with “Ichibei” the Great!

Yesterday, June 7th 2009, was a beautiful sunny day in a very remote part of Tokyo, far away from the ‘hustle & bustle’ of downtown Tokyo’s street  scenes, soaring skyscrapers, and sprawling metropolises.  Can you say Higashi-Murayama?  No….?  It took me awhile to roll that off my tongue, but after several glasses of sake I became better at it.  Now I can sign it with my fingers with one hand behind my back, even.
The master of the tour was “Ichibe-san” the tall, spry and curiously handsome Japanese man – Our Dear Leader – who took a group of us to a sake brewery called Toshimaya Shuzo(豊島屋酒造)
Before visiting the sake house we stopped by a local shrine, which in my opinion is a big plus because sake and shinto have a spiritual connection, and then we purified ourselves and offered up prayers.  I was immediately impressed by this and at the level of sanctimony our leader displayed at the alter; big and loud hand claps and full 90 degree bows from this big man was a sight to behold(186cm tall).  We marched to the alter.
Guardian of the shrine.  In Japanese it’s called a Komainu, half lion and half dog.  There’s also  white tassel around its neck which is called Shimenawa in Japanese.  It’s supposed to ward off evil spirits, or mark the boundaries to something sacred.

More tassels.
I was also impressed at the zukuri style architecture – forked beams at the top.
And then shortly after, on the way to the sake house, we stopped at a temple cemetery that had hundreds of beautifully adorned tombstones with elaborate  epitaphs inscribed upon them.
The temple was beautiful.  I especially enjoyed looking at the front gate with its reliefs and lines and wooden design.
What a beautiful day it was.  Such warm and inviting weather.  Such soul.  A lovely kimono matching the clear blue sky. 
Last but not least, the hallmark of any temple, the bell and the guardians of this temple, I bid thee farewell.  Thank you for your many blessings.
Finally, making it to the sake house we were greeted by throngs of sake lovers.  Ok.  Not exactly.
When I think about all the great sake produced here at Toshiyama, the main branch, here in Higashi-Murayama, a few names come to mind.  Sake’s like:
Nakadori Nama Genshu Junmai Muroka Juemon
"Rita" using water from an underground river source at the foot of Mount Fuji during Winter.
The first sips
Sake Expert at work here.
A great time to share with friends and loved ones.
Then there was the brown sake, or aged sake.  The little squeeze bottles you see in the lady’s hand is used to serve the sake from the 1.8 liter bottles.  What’s done is, a large amount of sake is poured into a sake cup sitting on ice.  You use the squeezer to extract the sake into your cup.  This is done to keep as much air out of the bottle as possible.
And then, I can’t leave out hot sake or in other words Atsukan.

50th Anniversary Junmai Nama-shu edition.  This was some fantastic sake they used for atsukan
Fellow drunkards!
At this extremely spicy Tora  ramen shop near the station cured me of my drunken ways that day.  Very spicy!  I returned home a sober man via the Seibu-Shinjuku line, intact
What a great time had.  I hope we all meet up again.


  1. Many good photos. Thank you for the post. Let's drink sake and have a nice time again.

  2. Thanks for the comment Ichibay, glad you stopped by. Yes, let's drink again.

  3. That looked like it was a lot of fun! How did you find out about it, is there a site or something listing tasting events?

  4. Hi Andrew, the guy Ichibay invited me to come along. He is the true expert on sake. Great guy. Just click on the above link.

  5. Looks like a really good time. "Local style"

    Nice pics!!

  6. Hi Chris!

    Thanks for the nice comment. It was definitely local style.


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