Hosted by our friends at the Satoyama Experience (the group behind the very popular Satoyama Cycling program in Hida Furukawa) up in the Hida region of Gifu is a brand new program designed to help you learn about not just the traditional Japanese rice-based alcohol known as sake, but also about the finer cultural and religious aspects surrounding its uses in traditional Japanese culture. Although it is now possible to create sakeall year round, it was traditionally made exclusively in the winter months. Hida, being up in the mountains, gets colder than much of Japan and stays colder for much longer, making it an ideal location for opening breweries and earning it a reputation as a home to delicious alcohol.
Under the guidance of a local expert, learn about the parts of sake with which you may not be as familiar—that is to say, everything outside of just drinking it. Its spiritual application, how to properly package and bind bottles, and even how to create the labels you stick on them. Encompassing not only alcohol but religious study and calligraphy as well, the Discover the Sake program helps you develop a more profound understanding of sake than ever before. As an added bonus, the program itself is hosted in the Kusakabe Folk Museum, which is a beautiful old building constructed in 1879, and the price for the Discover the Sake program includes admission to the museum, so you can feel free to explore the premises after you’ve completed your sake experience!
Using a traditional method of wrapping bottles in cloth called furoshiki, you can package bottles of sake up the same way that professionals do when preparing sake that is used for making offerings at shrines. You don’t need to limit furoshiki to just that, however, as these wrapping techniques can be applied to all sorts of situations, like tying bottles of wine together to make them easier to take to parties or picnics! After completing the wrapping process and attaching the labels with calligraphy you wrote yourself, you can even experience offering your sake at a (makeshift) Shinto shrine!
All information is conveyed (in English, of course) through a combination of videos, activities, and explanation directly from the host, providing the participants with a more thorough understanding of not just sake, but of Japanese culture as well.
However, no one can truly say they’ve “discovered” the sake of Hida Takayama until they’ve had a taste of it for themselves! From the garden variety sake you can find anywhere to the only partially distilled “nigori-zake,” or sweeter kinds of sake made with plum or yuzu lemon flavors that are popular with younger generations, there’s a wealth of diversity in the sake world and a wide variety of flavors to be experienced! If you do not or cannot drink sake for any reason, however, you will not be left out of the fun, as there are non-alcoholic drinks available as well. One great part about where Discover the Sake is held is that it is close to the old quarter of Takayama, and therefore close to all the sake breweries as well! After exploring the world of sake, we suggest you stop by a brewery and try taste-tasting different kinds for yourself.
Discover the Sake, which happens every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10:30am – 12:00pm and 1:30pm – 3:00pm, is an excellent way to learn more about the Hida region and requires no reservation! As long as you show up to the venue at least ten minutes in advance to its starting time (the Kusakabe Folk Museum is roughly 17 minutes from JR Takayama Station on foot, so plan accordingly!), you too can discover the sake of Hida Takayama!
The Discover the Sake program will continue until March 31st, 2015, and costs 1,000 yen per person (includes admission to the Kusakabe Folk Museum). For more information, visit their official website by clicking here or at the link below!
Discover the Sake: http://satoyama-experience.com/tour/sake-exp/
Kusakabe Folk Museum: http://travel.kankou-gifu.jp/en/see-and-do/70/