There are countless of Sake brewery factories and museums in Kobe in the district of Nada because the spring water in this area is officially one of the 100 spring waters approved by the Japanese government for sake brewing. The one I visited is called Sakura Masamune.
There are countless sake that have “masamune” as the second half of their brand name, but the very first one is said to have been Sakura Masamune from Nada in Hyogo prefecture. Sakura Masamune is a very old, famous and prestigious brewer, and eons ago their founder visited a friend that was the head priest at a hermitage called Gensei-an. There, he looked up on a bookshelf and saw a book of scripture by the Rinzai sect Zen master Rinzai Masamune. In a moment of inspiration, he realized that the characters for “masamune” could also be read “seishu,” which is a homonym for the legal term for sake. And so, the first of hundreds of meigara bearing the term “masamune” was born.
I learnt a lot about Sake brewing from this 400 year old establishment. Sake is not just science but an art as well. While most things have been modernized, many traditions have been kept and the process is still rather labor intensive. I got to play around with the traditional equipment of sake making and you can hardly imagine how huge those barrel were! There are a string of ropes and knots tied at the entrance of the brewery area to show that you have entered into the realm of the spirits as the Japanese believe that Sake is the drink of the Gods and sake brewing used to be done in the temples.
After the factory tour, you could sample the different sake, shop for gifts or try out their sake ice-cream. There were many cute balls hanging around and I found out that it was a tradition brought down from the past. A ball of green would be hung up at the main door to tell others that your home is brewing sake. When the ball of leaves dries up completely and turns brown then the sake is ready.