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All regions in Japan claim to be famous for some indigenous industry, and tourists purchase the special local products to take home to friends and family. Takayama, a small ancient mountain town in Gifu Prefecture is famous for beef, wood working, special Spring and Fall Festivals, Sarubobos, and Sake Brewing.  In a late winter trip to the town, we wandered through wooden narrow streets and experienced fresh local sake.

Mountain water helped provide pure ingredients, and dozens of famous sake breweries still litter the old castle town’s downtown area occupying old wooden buildings with little to indicate a large brewing operation is taking place behind the walls.  After buying a few wooden sake cups at a touristy sake store, we wandered into a quiet street and approached an open door of what seemed like a brewery advertising tastings.

Inside we found a nice brewery owner and some other tourists trying sake in an open room, with industrial barrels and equipment in the back.  We pointed at three sake varieties to taste, not being able to read the type.  Angela and I have had a very difficult time finding sake we enjoy tasting, but soon found ourselves enjoying the best sake we have come across. Maybe it was the setting, but we quickly narrowed down our favorite and purchased a bottle to take home.  The owner gave us a pamphlet in English about enjoying sake for dummies.  Most of our best experiences with wine have come from visiting the actual wineries, perhaps we need to discover more sake breweries more local!  Problem is the natural water near Tokyo is not optimal for brewing…

But we did discover that breweries often hang a large grass ball outside their doorway, so we are now on the lookout.  This may be to signify they have started the brewing season, or is tied to the Shinto religion where sake is sacred, but we aren’t sure as both hypotheses were explained to us by local friends.

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