Awa Ikeda: A sake brewery haven by the Yoshino River (Tokushima)

Awa Ikeda monument in Tokushima

The small community of Awa Ikeda is renowned for its local sake varieties. The area hosts several breweries, which produce high quality spirits for both local and overseas consumption, and is a top destination to visit for anyone interested in the production or tasting of authentic Japanese sake.

A railway view from Awa Ikeda station

The journey to Awa Ikeda alone is worth the trip, with the local train taking you through gradually expanding rural fields and forest lines. If you look out the window, you may begin to notice the presence of herons and egrets, as well as largely unchanged traditional Japanese houses surrounded by small family farms that have supplied generations. Gradually, the houses become sparser, tucked away in hidden little valleys which occasionally peek out through the trees. At one point, the train climbs higher than expected into the misty hills, before descending into the near-total darkness of a mountain-pass tunnel. Suddenly, more familiar suburban housing can be seen along the trackside, as you arrive in Awa Ikeda itself.

 

Sake Brewing in Awa Ikeda

 Awa Ikeda, part of the greater Miyoshi City area, is known for its production of high-quality Japanese sake, with its local spirits sometimes referred to as Shikoku no Nada (a reference to Kobe’s famed Nada district, known for its famous sake.) There are a number of renowned breweries in Awa Ikea, including Housui Shuzo (芳水酒造), Miyoshigiku Shuzo (三芳菊酒造), and Imakomachi Shuzo (今小町酒造).

Miyoshigiku sake factory

Miyoshigiku Shuzo (三芳菊酒造)

The latter two breweries are a short walk diagonally across from Awa Ikea station, and are almost adjacent to one another. Imakomachi Shuzo in particular is surrounded by the powerful and sweet odour of fresh sake, which blends in well with the nearby snack bars and small local night clubs.

Imakomachi sake brewery

Imakomachi Shuzo (今小町酒造)

Housui Shuzo (芳水酒造)

Housui sake brewery

Housui Shuzo (芳水酒造)

Housui Shuzo, however, is a short train ride away from Awa Ikeda station, and is closer to the nearby Tsuji Station. It is an unassuming building nestled on top of a small hill, and while the outside may not reveal much, it houses a sophisticated sake brewing operation, where a variety of high quality spirits are produced with great care. The brewery produces over 30 different varieties of sake with a range of different flavours and alcohol percentages. While the sake is sold and enjoyed locally, it is also sent to Tokushima City (the prefectural capital), larger cities in the Kansai region such as Osaka, and some choice varieties are occasionally exported to the United States.

Sake factory of Housui Shuzo

The creation of sake is a complicated and delicate process, somewhere between a science and an art. Industrial machinery is combined with human perseverance and creativity in order to find the perfect balance between ingredients.

Housui sake procedure

Details on the mixture’s progress are meticulously kept in order to ensure a consistent level of quality across differing batches. The eventual end result is a premium local product unmissable for anyone with an interest in traditional Japanese sake, the brewing process, or drinking large amounts of sake for a very affordable price.

Housui Sake product

Sightseeing and Sake by the Yoshino River

Yoshino river

The Awa Ikeda area itself is centred around the scenic Yoshino River, which is a prime spot for sightseeing and recreational fishing for locals and visitors alike. The Yoshino River has a reputation as one of the three clearest and most beautiful in Japan, along with the Tone and Chikugo rivers. The water runs various shades of azure and emerald green, and is surrounded by birdsong and exuberant crows. The vivid vermilion-coloured bridge spanning the river, just down the road from Housui brewery and directly opposite the picturesque Kusu shrine, can be crossed by car, bike, or foot. It is difficult not to wait a little while crossing in order to admire the view.

Yoshino river in Tokushima

For those interested in veering off the beaten path and discovering lesser-known sightseeing locations in Japan, Awa Ikeda would be a great place to visit. The views of the Yoshino River are superb, and you can indulge in some of the best Japanese sake while watching the glistening water flow past.

 

How to get there:

– Awa Ikeda station is on the JR Dosan Line, approximately 38 minutes and 1920 yen from Tadotsu Station. The nearest major city to Tadotsu is Takamatsu, Kagawa.

– Housui Shuzo is only a few minutes away on the local train, with a ticket costing 220 yen from Awa Ikeda station. It’s recommended to get off at Tsuji Station, and walk to the brewery from there.

– All aforementioned locations are also easily accessible by car, although it may be advisable to find a parking spot at the bottom of the street when visiting Housui Shuzo as the road up to the brewery is quite narrow and steep.

 

Links:

Housui Shuzo website and access:

http://www.housui.com/

https://goo.gl/maps/TBL9T9oxJ252

 

Miyoshigiku Shuzo website and access:

http://www.macserver.if.tv/cgi/miyoshikiku2/modules/wordpress1/

https://goo.gl/maps/YvRwTTNmbSP2

 

Imakomachi Shuzo website and access:

http://www.niji.or.jp/komachi/

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Written by

Mick Murray

Mick Murray

A travel writer and wildlife enthusiast currently based in Shikoku, Japan. Having previously lived in New Zealand, I'm especially interested in exploring places with a focus on ecotourism and the natural environment. Highlights of my experience in Japan so far include being mobbed by rabbits on Ōkunoshima, sleeping in a beachside Mongolian yurt on the art island of Naoshima, and countless trips around the many natural wonders of Shikoku.

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