When we think of Narita, many of us conjure up an image of the big international airport that services Tokyo, and, in so doing, overlook the other attractions deserving of our attention. Narita is far more than just an airport — it is the site of an impressive Buddhist temple, Naritasan, which is a popular pilgrimage destination during New Years. It also has two very distinct sake breweries (about a 5-minute walk from each other) that are less than 30 minutes from the airport by car.
The first one is Nabedana Kouzaki Brewery. This is a rather large operation with a parking lot that can hold tour buses. The store at the brewery is well-lit and clean. It sells all sorts of souvenirs and snacks. In the back there is a separate room housing the brewery’s namazake, or unpasteurized sake. The first one that piqued our interest was sake made through the mizumoto method (a.k.a., bodaimoto), whereby rice is left to sit in water, causing lactic acid to form naturally. This sake had pronounced acidity. Another was sake made by the yamahai method, with a limited release of 600 bottles. It had pronounced licorice notes. How do we know? There is a tasting bar on site. The clerk offered a tasting of these two sakes, which we showed interest in, as well as two koshu, aged sakes, one that was junmai (no distilled alcohol added) and the other that was not, and a sweet nigorizake made from mochigome, sticky rice.
The two main brands of sake sold by Nabedana Kouzaki Brewery are Jinyu(仁勇) and Fudou (不動). This brewery has over 320 years of history, and at one point the company that owns the brewery also had three other production sites, including one as far away as Kobe. Due to shortages of rice during World War II, they ended up closing all of them except for the one in Kouzaki.
Recommendation level (out of five stars):
The staff and owner were friendly and knowledgeable. What made the experience special was being able to sample before we purchased. One of the clerks gave us tastings based on our interests but went further than that by offering us samples of some of their other fine brews. The experience was a big thumbs up. Although close to Narita Airport, the taxi fare might be a little high.
N.B. Supposedly there is a bus from Narita Airport that may prove significantly less expensive than the cab ride.
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