Name in Japanese: 藤居本家
Pronunciation: Fujii Honke
Fujii Honke is a long-established sake brewer and seller located in Aisho, Echi-gun, Shiga Prefecture. Aside from it’s delicious sake, the brewery is particularly notable for its massive architecture and the fact that it produces the sake used in rituals by the Imperial Court and Shintō shrines nationwide. It has enjoyed this signal honour since 1945. The brewery’s brand, Asahi, alludes to the vigour and vitality of the rising sun.
The brewery was founded in 1831 during the Edo period. The main house was built around 1916, and the brewery, storage room, laboratory, and chimney were built around 1923. The buildings are of a size and elegance not seen at any other brewery and as such they’re registered as Tangible Cultural Properties. The huge central pillars of the shop and storehouse are trunks of 700-year old keyaki, the Japanese elm tree. They were gathered from all around Japan over several decades. The storehouse with traditionally made earthen walls and high ceiling is ideal for brewing and ageing sake. It maintains the perfect temperature and humidity without air conditioning or other artificial controls, even in summer.
The water used at Fujii Honke comes from the aquifer fed by the snowmelt of the Suzuka mountains which takes about one hundred years of filtering before it emerges in springs as clear, soft water. The brewery uses only rice cultivated using the Shiga Environmentally Friendly Method, devised to protect the water resources of the region.
Fujii Honke’s sake brewing can be described as an old-fashioned handmade style. For example, the brewery makes sake with the Kimoto method, the most traditional way of creating the starter mash taking double the time, effort and risk. The master brewer is from the Noto guild, and the brewers use wooden trays to prepare the kōji rice. They also make sake with a more modern flavour and fragrance using Wataribune sake rice, a traditional Shiga variety that’s enjoying a revival.
Behind the shop is a beautifully maintained garden, and two Japanese houses. These are the old homes of Ōmi merchants that were ‘rescued’ from destruction, brought here, and lovingly reconstructed for posterity.
The sake-themed TV series Liquid was filmed in part at Fujii Honke. On the fascinating tour of her brewery, Fujii Kanako relates how stoic the actors were as they waited for their scenes in the freezing cold of the midwinter brewery.
You can enjoy a tasting and purchase sake amid the keyaki splendour of the magnificently built shop. Asahi sake is available at sake shops, restaurants, and bars around Ōmi.
place 793 Nagano, Aisho-cho, Echi-gun, Shiga prefecture
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