This museum on sake-making is run by the Gekkeikan Sake Company, Ltd., one of Japan's preeminent sake companies. Opened in 1982, it is housed in an old sake brewery that was built in 1909, and presents the history of sake in Japan and sake production in Fushimi in an easy-to-understand manner. In addition to its permanent exhibitions of some 400 sake production items, displayed to show each stage of the process, it also displays period materials dating back to Gekkeikan's founding, including different types of vessels. Traditional chants of sake makers are also played throughout the museum, recreating the atmosphere of the old brewery. Following your visit, you can taste Ginjoshu and other sakes in the lobby.
|Address||247 Minamihama-cho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto City 612-8660|
|Access||5 mins walk from Chushojima Station or 10 mins walk from Fushimi-Momoyama Station on the Keihan Main Line.
10 mins walk from Momoyama-Goryomae Station on the Kintetsu Kyoto Line
18 mins walk from Momoyama Station on the JR Nara Line
|Hours||9:30 – 16:30|
|Closed||*New Years holiday period (from December 28 to January 4), O-Bon festival (from August 13 to August 16)|
Wi-Fi is available / Free access to the internet
*KYOTO Wi-Fi is provided by the companies associated with Kyoto City.
To the website of KYOTO Wi-Fi (How to use the service, etc.)
The development of Fushimi as a sake production site began around four centuries ago, when Fushimi Port was developed as part of the construction work for Fushimi Castle. In one corner of this town, which was constantly busy with traffic to and from Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara, Gekkeikan was founded in 1637. As the founder was from Kasagi, in the south of what is now Kyoto Prefecture, the brewery was initially called Kasagiya, and his brew was labeled Tama no Izumi, or Jewel of the Fountain. Up until around the 1890s, the brewery was a small-scale affair, mainly selling locally. The Museum entrance is designed to incorporate elements of the pre-modern era, such as the exhibit recreating the payment counter, and visitors can immerse themselves in the atmosphere of an old Fushimi brewery.
There is a courtyard between the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum and the Meiji-period Uchigura brewery next door. Up until the 1930s, open wooden containers were used, and the courtyard was filled with rows of large containers drying in the sun.
The south side of the brewery, where the well is located, was where washing was done, and there was an analysis and inspection office to the east, while to the west was rest area for the chief brewers and other skilled workers.
Sake container (roughly equivalent to fermentation tanks)
Inside the white-walled Uchigura brewery, which lies beside the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum and dates back to 1906, is the Gekkeikan Sakekobo mini-brewery, which can produce sake year-round. Its annual production volume is 40 kiloliters, which is about the same as Kasagiya when it was founded back in 1637.
Inside this old-style sake brewery, visitors can see the fermentation of the moromi main mash from behind glass. (Processes such as steaming the rice and preparation work happen on an irregular basis and cannot be witnessed all the time.) Please contact the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum for reservations by the day before your visit.
The traditional tools and equipment that were actually used for brewing sake at Gekkeikan from around 1900 to 1960 are displayed to guide visitors through the brewing process. There is also a series of illustrations showing the brewing process during the Edo period, which lets you see how these tools were actually used. In 1985, 6,120 items in the Museum's collection were registered by Kyoto City as Tangible Cultural Assets. The Museum features around 400 of these on permanent exhibition.
Preparing the moromi
Gekkeikan's predecessor, Kasagiya, was founded as a sake brewery in Fushimi, Kyoto, in 1637. The name Kasagiya comes from the fact that the founder, Jiemon Okura, came from Kasagi in the south of Kyoto. Jiemon's father was involved in a wide range of businesses, including agriculture and commerce, and also owned a sake brewery, which is what led to the establishment of one in Fushimi. Fushimi had developed as a castle town, a riverside trading town, and a post town, and was constantly busy with people as a transportation hub, so Kasagiya sold its sake to travelers and locals under the brand-name of Tama no Izumi.
Unlike coastal Nada (Hyogo Prefecture), which developed considerably through shipping sake to Edo (now Tokyo), Fushimi is inland, and so the predecessor of Gekkeikan, Kasagiya, sold its sake to locals for many generations.
However, once the 20th century started, Fushimi sake started being shipped nationwide. Tsunekichi Okura, the 11th-generation head, registered the Gekkeikan (laurel wreath) trademark, symbolizing victory and glory in 1905, and in 1907 established a research office, bringing science and technology to the production of sake. While barreled sake production was at its peak, he pushed for bottling, and also tried other innovative approaches to brewing.
Utilizing the ever-expanding rail network, Gekkeikan tested out the market for bottled sake in Tokyo and other parts of the country. The company came up with a range of products, including small sake bottles that were sold complete with drinking cups that were sold at railway stations. The name Gekkeikan became known far and wide through sales of sake at stations and all the prizes it won at fairs.
Up until the 1800s, Kasagiya produced about 90,000 liters, so about 50,000 bottles' worth (1.8 L/bottle), but under the 11th head, Tsunekichi Okura, production increased a hundred-fold to 9 million liters.
11th-generation owner, Tsunekichi Okura
Gekkeikan (laurel wreath), symbolizing victory and glory (product label)
When barreled sake was still in its prime, sake shipped from brewers to retail shops would be blended with sake from other brands and poured into containers brought by the customers themselves. However, with the commercialization of bottled sake, products that Gekkeikan itself had bottled and labeled with its brand could now be provided direct to customers. The company came up with one new idea after the other, including the development of sake without preservatives and sake sold in small bottle with cups included (a forerunner of modern outdoor goods), the use of dark brown bottles to prevent degradation from ultraviolet light, and the exhibition at expos overseas of bottled sake in brown bottles designed in a Western style.
Vessels used to enjoy sake come in sets, which include a sake server, a Kan tokkuri for warming, and sake cups. To transport sake, sake barrels, containers, and large tokkuri are used. The names, shapes, and designs of these vessels has changed over time with the evolution of crafts and techniques to suit the ever-changing ways to enjoy sake.
Porcelain sake cup, tokkuri flask
Once it has been fermented and strained, sake is matured to give it a balanced, harmonious taste by storing it, and shipped in barrels or bottles. The barrels are wrapped with straw to protect them, and the wooden boxes used to transport the bottled sake display the trademarks and sake quality and are decorated with a wide range of designs, with paint imprinted using molds, or vermilion seals impressed using blocks. The Museum displays old sake coupons from Kasagiya, which are equivalent to modern gift certificates, and their blocks, along with other tools and equipment used in Edo period sake sales.
After visiting the galleries, visitors are welcome to taste the Gekkeikan Retro-Bottle Ginjoshu, Tama no Izumi Daiginjo, and Plum Wine in the lobby. You can compare the rich taste of Gekkeikan Retro-Bottle Ginjoshu with the dry, crisp taste of Tama no Izumi Daiginjo, both Ginjo sakes but very different. Our flavorful Plum Wine (a sweet fruit sake) is very popular as an aperitif or to drink with meals. These are also some of our most popular souvenirs, and visitors are welcome to purchase their own at the Museum Shop.
Gekkeikan Retro-Bottle Ginjoshu[Left], Tama no Izumi Daiginjo[Right]