Izumibashi Sake Brewery
IZUMIBASHI Sake Brewery
Izumibashi started brewing sake in Ebina, Kanagawa Prefecture near Tokyo in 1857, because it was a very productive rice growing area at that time, due to the underground flow of water from the Tanzawa Mountains.
First of all, Izumibashi is quite unique in that they produce rice by themselves in their own paddy fields, which is quite rare for sake brewers. They do this because Izumibashi is a member of local agricultural cooperative and they believe that sake is an agricultural by-product.
Based on this belief, they produce various kinds of sakamai (rice suitable for brewing sake) in their own paddy fields and focus on growing the rice from spring to autumn and brewing the sake from autumn to spring.
Second. Izumibashi is an environmentaly-conscious sake producer. They aim to produce safe sake to customers by reducing or eliminating the use of pesticide and other chemicals in their rice paddies. They said that the number of red dragonflies as well as other benign insects and plants will increase in the paddy fields. They will disappear when farmers spread pesticide. In fact, the red dragonfly has been adopted as the symbol of Izumibashi’s organic production.
Based on Kanagawa prefecture’s regulations, rice producers are allowed to use 14 kinds of agrichemicals. Instead of using these agrichemicals however, Izumibashi introduced a hot water sterilization method for their rice seeds. They have also reduced the usage of fertilizer to make rice plants lean and healthy enough to keep repel pests and disease.
Moreover, they keep the rice fields filled with water even in winter, with the help of the Kanagawa Prefecturae and Ebina City's governments. This help to make the soil of the rice fields rich and healthy and enhances the diversity of the eco system.
After visiting the paddies, the guide showed us around the brewery. He gave us a very good explanation of the sake makig process (rice polishing, washing and fermenting). We learned that while some processes have been mechanized, others are still carried out by hand.
They believe that traditional manual methods should be used for the process where special care is required such as sake extraction. We came to really appreciate how much and effort they are spending to make the top quality sake and protect the natural environment.
Sake brewers mill the rice’s outer surface to remove proteins, fats and minerals that cause undesirable flavors in the finished product. Thus, the more the rice grain has been shaved, the higher the quality of the sake will be.
The outer surface which contains fats, minerals and proteins are shaved off and used as livestock feed. Although some are used as rice flour for making bread. I couldn’t wondering however, if it isn’t a waste to polish the most nutritious parts of the rice?
Finally came to the highlight of the tour when we tasted four kinds of Izumibashi sake. The most impressive one was raw, organic sake which had the characteristic flavor. The guide said that some people get addicted to this sort of strong sake. Red dragonfly labels are quite charming!
Izumibashi also runs a restaurant where Japanese cuisine suitable for eating with sake are served. They served us four kinds of side dishes on the table. All of them were delicious and went quite well with sake. I could recognize the depths of Izumibashi’s dedication to every aspect of sake brewing.
Izumibashi Sake Brewery
Address: 5-5-1 Shimo-Imaizumi, Ebina-City, Kanagawa Prefecture.
20 min. walk from Ebina Station of JR, Odakyu and Sotetsu Railways.
Tour fee: JPY1,500