Breweries in Saga
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Welcome to Hama-cho: Bizen Hamashuku Brewery Street in Saga
- Welcome to Hama-cho, a quiet town with a laidback vibe and a history of sake brewing situated close to the city of Kashima in Saga Prefecture. During the Edo period the area was home to several wealthy samurai families, whose beautiful white-terraced period homes still line the main street of the town to this day. During the Meiji, Taisho and Showa periods the area then went on to become well known for its production of high-quality sake (Nihonshu), at its peak there were more than ten sake breweries in Hama-cho, although the majority of these have long since closed their doors. Due to its somewhat out-of-the-way location, and decline in sake brewing, Hama-cho is often overlooked as a travel destination for both domestic and international tourists alike, but a handful of dedicated and creative locals are now working hard to put the town firmly back on the map. In this article we will meet these people and discover the ways in which they are contributing to their community and the town of Hama-cho today. The main street through Hama-cho, also known as Brewery Street due to its long history with local Sake Breweries An Edo period farmhouse in Hama-cho A Soy Sauce Brewery set iside the house of a former Samurai family Nabeshima Brewery With a history of roughly one hundred years, Nabeshima Brewery is a family business currently in its third generation. While many of the towns other sake breweries that prospered in times-past, fell by the wayside for one reason or another, Nabeshima seems to have gone from strength to strength maintaining the towns image of the home of high-quality sake brewing, picking up a host of international awards along the way. The current owner of the business, Mr Iimori is gradually transforming the business into much more than just a brewery, with visions of how to not only attract visitors to the town but also keep them entertained and comfortable. Nabeshima Brewery is situated at the entrance of the town Hayato Hyuga, one of the brewers at Nabeshima Although we didn’t get to chat with Mr. Iimori himself, upon a recent visit to Nabeshima brewery we met with Hayato, one of his top brewers, who talked us through the process of brewing and introduced us to their range of drinks that currently numbers at over twenty different varieties. His passion for his job and for the town was glaringly obvious as he guided through the premises, showed us some of the drinks he is currently brewing and explained Nabeshima’s vision for the future. Hayato explains the various stages of the brewing process at Nabeshima Matatabi (Yua Candles) Located just minutes from the planned guesthouse mentioned above is what looks like an unassuming bar from the outside, but is actually a cove of creativity once you step foot inside. Matatabi doubles up as a café-bar and studio for candle maker and artist Yuki Ura. Yuki Ura outside her studio in Hama-cho Yuki has been hand crafting candles for years and she is now offering workshops teaching others how to do the same Yuki’s studio space in Hama-cho Iroha Two doors down from Matatabi, and run by a good friend of Yuki the candle maker, is Iroha.Iroha is a community space operated by Hide Kinoshita, it is essentially a free space that members of the community can use to gather, share ideas, put on events, exhibit work and listen to good music. Hide also sells drinks at his events, but he is quick to say that Iroha isn’t simply another bar – as mentioned above it’s a space for the community, and that’s where the focus of the place should remain. Hide Kinoshita at the door of Iroha community event space in Hama-cho The interior of Iroha feels a lot like the inside of a local’s living room, and that’s no great surprise as that’s exactly what this place is! Hide moved into this nearly-century-old former Geta shop (traditional Japanese footware) a few years ago, leaving behind his former life as a hair stylist in the neighboring prefecture of Fukuoka. He now works nearby to Hama-cho as an organic farmer, growing a wealth of vegetables. When evening falls, he heads back home and puts on events at Iroha, mostly on weekend nights. These events include DJ nights, live music and the “Hama-cho sake hashigo” - a bar crawl event taking place on every fourth Saturday of the month, allowing punters to sample a range of locally produced sakes. Other establishments involved in the bar crawl event are Matatabi (mentioned above) and Kurabito (mentioned below). Inside Iroha, a burning stove keeps the water boiling and patrons feeling nice and cozy to a soundtrack of live music as records spin Iroha doesn’t put events on according to a regular schedule, but if you’re in Hama-cho its well swinging by to see if Hide has anything planned during your stay, it’s a great way to meet other locals in a relaxed and comfortable setting. Events are set to increase from 2020. Hide says events at Iroha are set to increase during the year 2020, make sure you swing past when you’re in town, if you’re lucky you may catch a live show or even the local bar crawl event! Hamashuko Kurabito Our final stop in Hama-cho today is at Hamashuko Kurabito, or simply Kurabito, as the locals like to call it. Established in 2015, Kurabito is a café and art gallery run by ceramic artist Yasuhito Kawasaki. He makes sculptures in the morning alongside his wife who is also a potter, and then operates a café/bar in the afternoon into the evening. Yasuhito and his wife, artists and owners of Kurabito gallery and café Yasuhito hard at work on one of his sculptures A finished piece by Yasuhito on display inside the gallery ©NAVITIME JAPAN. Travel Info Check out our travel tips to make your trip better!
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Away from the fast-paced cities of mainland Japan, Kyushu's Saga prefecture offers quaint towns and cities known for their traditional crafts, particularly ceramics. Rich in kaolin (a type of clay), Saga became the homeland of Arita ware, a delicate, decorative porcelain that is now celebrated worldwide and can be discovered in the towns of Arita, Imari, and Karatsu.
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