A Look Inside Ishikawa Brewery, One of Japan's Top Sake Operations

Ishakawa Brewery, located just 1.5 hours from central Tokyo, has produced some of the best-quality sake in Japan since its founding in 1863. Scroll down for a look behind the scenes.

A sugidama, or cedar ball, hangs above the brewery entrance. When the ball turns brown, customers know that the sake is ready for purchase.
The main production building, or hongura, is where the sake is prepared, fermented, and stored.
The sprawling brewery complex includes a sake production house, beer brewing facility, restaurant, bar, museum, shrines, and sacred trees. Pictured here are the rice and water god trees.
Brewery employees pray twice daily at this shrine to the water and rice gods.
Pumped from 150 meters below ground, the medium-hard natural mineral water is necessary for high-quality sake production.
At more than 700 years old, the sacred tree of Ishakawa Brewery embodies the ancient saying, "Under a large tree, good water gushes."
A cask shrine.
This beer cauldron was used to brew Ishikawa's very first batch of beer in 1887.
The brewing processes have been modernized in more recent years. The ground floor of the Hongura building is occupied by several tanks of fermenting rice.
The beer brewing facility is located at the other end of the estate.
A bottle of Shuzo Tamajiman Junmai Daiginjo, Ishikawa's highest quality sake.
Pouring sake until it overflows is a Japanese tradition. Here, a bowl is placed underneath the sake cup to catch the overflow, which becomes the second round.
Brewed only in the winter months, Ishakawa's blueberry beer pours a dark crimson.
Ishikawa's full sake selection includes seven main sake types in addition to seasonal offerings.

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