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TOKYO SAKE PROJECT Tokyo Tokyo

A Sacred Ceremonial Sake Offered to a God Who Chose to Descend to Musashi Province

NOGUCHI SHUZOUTEN

When people think of a sake brewery, they often envision a place out in the countryside, surrounded by natural scenery. However, even Tokyo is home to its own breweries. I headed to nine different facilities including sake breweries, wholesaler shops and others in search of local Tokyo brews. Let's take a look at NOGUCHI SHUZOUTEN General Partnership brewery, the brewery that makes the sake "Kozuru."

The story begins back in the age of myth. The deity Okunitama-no-Okami descended to earth and started the Musashi Province in the modern Fuchu area. Okunitama-no-Okami is the same deity as the god Okuninushi-no-Mikoto who appears in Izumo myth. He is said to have taught the ways of food, shelter, and clothing to people and taught about medicine and the skills of magic. The place where this god was worshiped as a protector god of Musashi Province is Okunitama Shrine.

The legend goes that on the first time Okunitama-no-Okami descended to this land, he searched for a place to sleep overnight but could not find one. The Noguchi household, who had put down roots in this land, is said to have welcomed the deity with pleasant hospitality, and this is why they were allowed to serve as priests at Okunitama Shrine afterwards.

The Okunitama Shrine Worship Hall

"We were ordered to make sacred ceremonial sake by the shrine in 1860, in the final days of the Edo period," says Noguchi Shuzouten brewery president Eiichiro Noguchi. Ever since then, they have been contributing sacred ceremonial sake up to the present day. The brand name is "Kozuru." The name comes from the "ko" (provincial office) for Musashi Province that was placed here after The Taika Reform (in 645), and the sake that is as beautiful as the "zuru" (cranes). "Kozuru" is more than a sacred ceremonial sake. It has also come to be loved by people all across this area.

Protecting an Age-old Deep Flavor Tradition and Offering a Modern Sophisticated Style Sake

"In the time when the Tama River water was clear, it was supposedly carried by horse-drawn delivery wagon to this area, with its brewery, and used as shikomimizu (for sake making) water," says Noguchi. Even after those days, underground water sources in the area were still used as shikomimizu water for some time. However, as one spot on the major Koshu Kaido transportation route, the city of Fuchu was overtaken by an urbanizing wave and the environment devolved some thirty years ago. The sake quality threatened to decrease drastically. Eiichiro Noguchi's father and predecessor as company president decided to contract to a Nagano brewery that shared sake brewing familial ties. He communicated detailed sake quality plans to the brewery, and they actualized the exact flavors he wanted. The undiluted sake was brought in, and they adjusted the flavor by adding Fuchu water, and bottled it there.

In addition to futsu and honjozo grade sake, the "Kozuru" lineup also consists of "Kozuru Nakaya Kyubei" offered in the junmai and junmai-ginjo varieties and "Kozuru Tanrei" offered in the daiginjo type.

The futsu and honjozo sakes have a savory richness, with a sharpness well. Which is to say, they maintain an age-old flavor sensibility. In contrast to this, the 'Nakaya Kyubei' does maintain the basic traditional flavor foundation, but is also influenced by current trends and has a softer, smoother flow. The daiginjo grade 'Tanrei' has an even more sophisticated, modern ambiance." (Noguchi)

Opening the dining experience with a "Tanrei" toast, enjoying a slightly chilled "Nakaya Kyubei" in the first part of the meal, and finishing off in a relaxed way with a room temperature or lightly warmed honjozo... That would be a really fun dining beverage experience.

"Shuza Nakakyu Honten" with a "brewery cafe" add-on

This earthen walled brewery brimming with ambiance was originally used for sake brewing. And now it has been renovated and reopened as a cafe. A sake kasu latte made with "Kozuru" sake lees is perfect after visiting Okunitama Shrine. The sweetness and aroma of thick sake kasu soothes fatigue from strolling around the expansive shrine grounds.

A cafe renovated from a brewery
Sake kasu latte made with "Kozuru" sake lees

As the original building of this brewery turned cafe, the "Shuza Nakakyu Honten" shop sells sake made in its own brewery as well as a luxurious nationwide selection of local sakes. It also features a sake gathering in the 2nd floor cafe every month. With an all-you-can-drink session with about fifteen kinds of seasonal sake at a one-coin price of 500 yen, this is an amazing deal. As Noguchi puts it, "I want everyone to know about how wonderful sake is. I feel that spreading the word is part of our job as a brewery."

A Sacred Sake That Is Also Offered to the God of Brewing

The Matsuo Jinja shrine inside the Okunitama Shrine grounds

Inside the Okunitama Shrine, there is a smaller shrine called Matsuo Jinja that is dedicated to the brewing deity Oyamakui-no-Mikoto. It is a shrine that was ceremonially transferred 1800 from the Matsunoo Taisha Shrine in Kyoto by Musashi Province brewers. Inside, sake from Tokyo breweries including "Kozuru" are set as offerings, and the massive annual "Musashino-Kuni Sake Festival" gathers together sake from the entire country, and of course Tokyo as well, every autumn. Sake fans will definitely love this, and imbibing sake in a sacred place dedicated to worshiping the deity of brewing is a special and unique experience for every visitor.

Noguchi Shuzouten President Eiichiro Noguchi

Eiichiro Noguchi works hard to spread information about sake in all sorts of ways. And there is something in particular he has been giving a lot of thought to these past few years. "Brewing technology and equipment is advancing. I want to make sake with our own hands once again in this spot and put out Musashi area Tokyo sake into the world."

The deity Okunitama-no-Okami, who received such heartwarming hospitality when he descended to this area some 1900 years ago, would definitely be pleased.

(Author: Asako Nakatsumi)

Okunitama Shrine The Reitaisai (Grand Festival) is held every May. Because the light is extinguished on the portable shrine as it is transferred in the dark of night to the otabisho (shrine resting point), this is commonly referred to as Kurayami Matsuri (Darkness Festival).
https://www.ookunitamajinja.or.jp/
National Historic Site Musashi Kokufu Ato (Musashi Provincial Office Remains) and Provincial Governor's Building Area Some 430 years ago, Tokugawa Ieyasu's Fuchu Palace was established in the spot where the Musashi Provincial Governor's Building stood some 1300 years ago. Currently the area has been renovated as an open air public space with a scale model of the Provincial Governor's Building and virtual reality goggles that recreate virtually the historical scenery of the Provincial Governor's period and the Tokugawa Palace period (free for use at the site).
https://www.city.fuchu.tokyo.jp/bunka/bunka/maizo/kokusinotachi-ieyasugoten.html
NOGUCHI SHUZOUTEN GENERAL PARTNERSHIP COMPANY

A 6-minute walk from Fuchu Station on the Keio Line
4-2-1 Miyanishi-cho, Fuchu City, Tokyo 183-0022
TEL: 042-362-2117
No brewery tours. Store (open from 9:00 to 20:00) and brewery café (open from 10:30 to 17:00)
Closed on Sundays

Kozuru

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