Back in December, I was invited up to Sendai to take part in a few tourism-related programmes the area has to offer. Now, even though I’m not much of a drinker, I enjoy tours of breweries and the like; there’s just so much to see and discover. Plus, the chance to speak with locals about the history and culture of the region is always exciting.
We spent part of an afternoon at Kanbai Shuzo in Osaki, a town about 30 minutes from Sendai. (For those who don’t know, Sendai is the capital of Miyagi Prefecture and is considered the gateway to the northeastern Tohoku region. It’s just a few hours north of Tokyo by Shinkansen.) Osaki is on the Osaki Koudo, a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System. The area is celebrated for its agricultural water management (important for growing high-quality sake rice) and the harmony with which diverse living things coexist with the area’s farming practices. (More on that here→https://osakikoudo.jp/english/)
Kanbai Shuzo, which grows its own sake rice, offers tours, tastings, and a label-making session. The tour is thorough, and as a small brewery, you have the chance to get right up-close to all of the equipment and different facilities. Our guide was a brewery worker who happily explained the various processes and reasons behind them to our group.
Sake tastings, complete with explanations, take place at the bar area of a small but spacious souvenir shop. You can create a label in the same area, using markers and washi paper. After finishing your work of art, you can affix it to a sake of your choice to take home as a souvenir.
Kanbai Shuzo was destroyed during the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. To see that it was rebuilt and has thrived since was wonderful. That was one of the best parts of visiting the Sendai area, in fact: speaking with our hosts about the earthquake, the aftermath, the efforts made to rebuild, and the support received from various people and organisations was a reminder that the world is full of good, kind, hard-working people, and that disaster doesn’t mean the end of a dream.
Japan’s borders remain closed, but with luck, that won’t last too much longer. Next time you travel to Japan, consider heading north of Tokyo. Sendai, Miyagi, the entire Tohoku region won’t disappoint. I promise.
Kanbai Shuzo Details
Address: 15 Sakaida, Furukawa Kashiwazaki, Osaki, Miyagi Prefecture 989-6216
Price: 1,760 yen–4,180 yen (This depends on the sake chosen for the label-making session.)
Access: Approx. 30min from JR Sendai Station. Take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen from Sendai Station to Furukawa Station. Transfer to the JR Rikuuto Line and travel to Nishi-Furukawa Station. Kanbai Shuzo Sake Brewery is a 10min walk from Nishi-Furukawa Station.
Label-making experience: https://www.tohoku-bishu-shoku-tourism.jp/tourinfo/1027/