Ippin Sake, Yoshikubo’s Most Popular Brew


2018.03.09

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

  • For 200 years the Yoshikubo family has brewed Ippin sake in Mito City, Ibaraki. Ibaraki, a large producer of rice, is famous for its sake production. The sake is made from fresh water filtered from one of the five local water sources and fermented with starchy Ibaraki rice. The brewery has had its fair share of obstacles that have attempted to hinder their progress. In 1945 a World War II air raid burned down the brewery in the same air raid that hit Kairakuen Garden, and the Big Fire of Shimoichi destroyed it again in 1987. Yoshikubo was able to overcome these disasters and continue to create their internationally award winning sake.

    Rice is an important part of the sake production process

    Rice is an important part of the sake production process

    Currently, the brewery is still family owned and headed by Fumi Yoshikubo, the matriarch and grandmother of the Yoshikubo family. At eighty years old, she is the eleventh generation handling the brewery.

    A look inside the Yoshikubo’s preserved brewing area

    A look inside the Yoshikubo’s preserved brewing area

    Visitors are welcome to tour the factory and witness the production firsthand. The brewery is relatively small and everything is made by hand, creating an intimate and humble atmosphere around the esteemed Ippin sake.

    A look inside the Yoshikubo’s preserved brewing area

    A look inside the Yoshikubo’s preserved brewing area

    The Yoshikubo Brewery is open for tours during the weekdays. Normally led by Hiroyuki Yoshikubo, the managing director, the tour takes the visitor on a whirlwind tour of both the factory and the history of sake itself. Yoshikubo has distinct knowledge of the history of sake in Ibaraki and its role with Yoshikubo Brewery. He clearly explains the process of fermentation and how their famous sake is born. Visitors can walk around and see the brewery up close with no limitations.

    A close look at the sake fermentation

    A close look at the sake fermentation

    Yoshikubo opens the vats and barrels to let visitors experience the process with sights and smells. The brewery refuses to give up their secret yeast recipe but allows the visitors to take a sniff of the dangerously high alcoholic concoction.

    A close look at the sake fermentation

    A close look at the sake fermentation

    The sake is freshly brewed every February. Lucky visitors can taste shinshu, or freshly brewed sake, straight out of the barrels. Every other month the visitors are welcome to taste Yoshikubo’s recommendation of the day. In spring, the brewery also sells a limited edition cherry blossom sake that pairs well with a walk in Kairakuen, Mito’s famous landscape garden.

    Ippin Sake

    Ippin Sake

    After so many years, Yoshikubo still brews the best quality sake they can. In 2014, the Ippin Junmai Daiginjo was awarded the Double Gold Award at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. Their most famous product, Ippin, can be found worldwide. Yoshikubo still brews new sake flavors that carry the same commonality of a dry taste and hints of yuzu citrus; tastes of Ibaraki.

    Behind the scenes - packaging of warm sake

    Behind the scenes - packaging of warm sake

    The brewery opens at 9am and is closed on Saturdays and Sundays. The tour requires a reservation in advance. Please contact 81-29-224-4111 to request an English guided tour. The tour and tasting are both free of charge. The brewery is about a six minute drive or 25 minute walk from Mito Station. From Tokyo, Mito Station can be accessed via the JR Joban Line. It costs about 4,000 yen one way.

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