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My wish was finally granted on the 21st of June when I visited for the first time one of my favourite breweries, namely Hatukame in Okabe-cho, Shida Gun.
As I had plenty of time on that particular day, I cycled all the way from downtown Shizuoka, a cheaper and more netertaining way than riding the slow bus (if you are not as crazy as I, take the No 84 to Fujieda Station and get off at Okabe Kita Stop!).
Okabe is an old town along the old Tokaido parallel to Route 1. I would recommend to visit it as it is a place to explore for old traditional houses and even a local musuem.
The present owner, Mr. Noritsugu Hashimoto (54 and 19th generation) was waiting for me.
Mr. Hashimoto is, under his affable desmeanour, an enthusiastic and exacting brewer who is aleays willing to go into great details in his explanations.
When I asked about the origins of his Brewery, he came up with a genealogy tree (He offered me a copy!) dating back to 1636!
Actually, when He invited me to have a chat first inside his house, I entered a veritable museum full of lore!
HatsuKame Brewery used to be called Kame Masamune and resided in Naka Cho, Shizuoka City until they moved to their present site in in 1952.
Their present toji/master brewer is Mr. Shuuzo Takigami (73) from Noto Peninsula who has already been elected the best toji in Japan by his own peers in 1994, 1997 and 2004!
I cannot wait to come back and see him at work!
On our way to the Brewery, Mr. Hashimoto explained to me that the cedar ball at the entrance came from Miwa Shrine in Nara Prefecture as their own kura was under the protection of Miwa Shrine in Okabe, which is directly affiliated to that in Nara!
Their well has to be dug 50 metres deep to reach underground water from the Oigawa River bed. Even so the water still has temperature of 16 degrees Celsius, necessitating a lot of adjustments.
They use rice from Hyogo Prefecture (Toojicho. Only used by Hatsukame and Isojiman in Shizuoka Prefecture), Toyama Prefecture (Oyama Nishiki) and Shizuoka Prefecture (Homare Fuji).
As for the yeast/kobo they use No 9 and 14 and Shizuoka Kobo HD
The annual production is 10,000 bottles (1.8l), 30% of which is futsushu.
Actually the visit of the different rooms with both traditional and ultra-modern equipment proved longer than I thought, as Mr. Hashimoto was keen to show me all, including a room held at minus 5 degrees to store the « nama sake » and rooms where vats were made made of state-of the-art titanium.
Hatsukame justifiably pride themselves in brewing high-quality sake only, whatever its variety, and Mr. Hashimoto insisted he is not interested in producing volume for the sake of commercial gains. Even so a staff of 6 work in a comparatively small brewery.
He agreed as a matter of course with my revisiting them in November before I took my leave without forgetting to obtain a bottle for the Tokyo Geeks!
421-1121 Shizuoka Prefecture, Shida Gun, Okabe Cho, Okabe 744
Closed on Sundays
Purchases at Brewery possible