Ishikawa Brewery
Fussa: Attraction
 
Ishikawa Brewery: Fussa
Fussa / Attraction
Open 9am-4pm. Closed Sat, Sun, hol.
Free admission
Average visit time: 60 minutes
Please call ahead to arrange a tour

If you're in Tokyo and you feel the urge to take an English-language tour of a real-life sake brewery, Ishikawa Brewery in Fussa is the place to go. The picturesque brewery, in operation since 1863, is located in the mountains around fifty minutes west of Shinjuku by train, with several historical buildings and cultural artifacts on the grounds. The tour takes about an hour, after which you can check out the attached museum and retail shop or have a meal at the brewery's soba restaurant.

For the first part of the tour visitors basically just stand in front of various large tanks inside the storehouse (built in 1881) while the guide explains the sake-making process in detail. After that comes a tour of the grounds, including the site of one of Japan's earliest beer breweries, Nippon Beer, which started in 1887. The central attraction here is a gigantic bronze cauldron that was originally used to boil water for the beer.

Although Nippon Beer suspended operations at the end of the nineteenth century, Ishikawa resumed beer production in 1998 in more modern facilities, and today the brewery produces a small line of local craft beers called Tama no Megumi. Both beer and sake can be sampled in the onsite restaurants and can be purchased in the retail shop (Sake Cellar; 042-530-5792).

Other highlights on the grounds include the brewery gate (dating back to 1772), a pair of 400-year-old sacred zelkova trees, and the 150m-deep well that's the source for the medium-hard water used in the sake here. The water from the well is said to be good for healing various ailments, and this has earned the brewery grounds a reputation as a "power spot." All in all the setting here is quite idyllic, so it's worth trying to visit when the weather is good.

Upstairs from one of the restaurants is a tiny historical museum covering the history of sake brewing, with a bit of artwork thrown in for good measure. The museum is open until 9pm and admission is free. The guided tour (in English or French) is also free, and is available on weekdays until 4pm; but you need to call ahead to arrange a time.

Fussa City, Kumagawa 1.
15-minute walk, or taxi, from Hajima station, JR Ome line
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