Explore the rich history of Japan's national drink at Toshimaya Shuzo. This brewery is attached to Tokyo's oldest sake shop, established in 1596. Feel the living sake tradition with a personal introduction from the head brewer and a sake tasting paired with locally-grown vegetables you pick yourself.
There is no better way to experience a city than to immerse yourself in the local culture. This, however, is not an easy task in a foreign country, especially when the inclination is for something profoundly authentic. One way to grasp an area's culture and identity is by diving into the community and becoming friendly with the knowledgeable locals. Through the everyday lives of the people, we can discover the genuine culture. Many think of Tokyo as a metropolitan area centered around technology, but this describes only 30% of actual Tokyo, which stretches 1,620km from east to west. Mainly towards the west side of the capital is where one can find unchanged scenery representing traditional Japan. Higashi-murayama city is an example of such an area not far from central Tokyo. Farming has flourished in this local town for centuries, which is also home to one of well-recognized sake breweries in Tokyo.
Toshimaya Shuzo is the brewery of Tokyo's oldest sake shop, Toshimaya. It first began over 400 years ago in 1596 as a sake store and tavern by the Edo castle (now part of the Tokyo Imperial Palace), where people would gather around for a drink. As it paved the way for izakaya (Japanese pub) culture, the company has evolved over the past four centuries. In 2020, the izakaya business was revived in a location close to its birthplace. After Toshimaya began selling shirozake (white sake), it was made famous especially among women, attracting more women to drink in public when alcohol was predominantly reserved for men. Toshimaya Shuzo, established in 1935, continues to produce shirozake, as well as many kinds of sake by using water from a well that is 150-meters deep and originates from the sacred Mt. Fuji. Their multi-award-winning signature sake "Kinkon" is used as sacred sake at Tokyo's most famous shrines, such as Meiji-jingu and Kanda Myojin, owing to its long-standing relationship and dedication to these shrines. From fall to winter, when the brewery is in full mode, the current head will exclusively guide you through where the washing, steaming, fermenting, and pressing process takes place.
Here you can learn not only how this traditional drink is made, but also the deep history and culture behind it.
Given the brewery's long and deep-rooted history, it is no surprise to see their strong connection with fellow locals. Stepping into this tight-knit community provides an even more immersive experience. Before sitting down to taste the different sakes, visit a nearby resident, such as a private farmer. Here you can pick your own seasonal vegetables and fruits, many of which are unique to Japan, while discovering firsthand how they are grown, consumed, and about local life in general.
Using these harvested vegetables and simple ingredients, Toshimaya Shuzo will prepare a Japanese home-cooked dish such as a traditional Japanese hotpot or pickled vegetables. Indulge in these dishes and taste the different sake flavors while mingling with the locals for a truly authentic experience, only feasible for those who venture beyond the everyday local excursions.