Chichibu alcoholic beverages -Chichibu Local Sake-
Tucked away in the lush mountains and flowing rivers lies a peaceful little city steeped in tradition with an appreciation and dedication to creating sake, wine, whisky, and beer for the enjoyment of others.
Perhaps you’ll notice the air here is a little bit more enticing than other places or the water tastes a little bit more refreshing.
This is a place where nature joins together with tradition to create a truly unique environment.
Welcome to Chichibu!
It’s quite easy to get to Chichibu from Tokyo, just make sure to reserve a seat on the ‘Raview’ limited express train from Ikebukuro Station to Seibu-Chichibu Station.
This train runs approximately once every one hour so there are lots of options available. Once you catch your train just sit back and enjoy the changing scenery from cityscapes to mountainous countryside spotted with traditional Japanese buildings along this 80 min journey.
After arriving at the station make a quick stop off at Chichibu Shrine to pray for good fortune. This colourful shrine has a 2100 year long history. Within the shrine grounds you’ll find four sculptures on the main hall including a chained dragon, family of tigers, owl of wisdom, and three cheerful monkeys, as well as Japanese gardens.
Be sure to purchase a special water fortune before leaving the shrine. This fortune is uniquely designed so it can only be seen once it’s dipped in water.
This shrine is also associated with academic studies so if you are studying something new you can pick up an amulet to help you achieve your goals.
Our next stop is Bukou Brewery, just a 15 min walk from Seibu-Chichibu Station. This sake brewery is immersed in tradition with a history spanning 260 years starting when it first began operating in 1753. The building itself has been designated as a Registered Tangible Cultural Property as it is over 200 years old and is the oldest building in Chichibu.
At Bukou Brewery they use traditional methods to hand-brew the highest quality sake. Before visiting be sure to book a tour (limited spaces available) of the brewery so you can learn the process of brewing sake and experience everything up close. The tour starts in the shop surrounded by bottles of various flavours of sake each one carefully prepared. Some of the varieties are only available during certain seasons so there’s always something new to find.
After looking round the shop you’ll be able to go inside to the well where you can see the mineral-rich water from Mt. Bukou, the lifeblood of Bukou’s sake, flowing into the brewery. Then head over to the boiler room and rice-cleaning mill where you can see how they continue to prepare everything by hand. After you’ve learned all about sake and the brewing process head over to the tasting area. They have several types of sake available to try and the master can recommend the perfect one based on your tastes.
Bukou Brewery has won several awards including the gold prize and excellence prize for its sake. From the selection of finest hand brewed sake to the friendly master who will help you find the perfect bottle to complement your occasion (whether it’s a special meal or just an everyday event) this is one brewery you definitely need to visit while in Japan.
Let’s move on to a local winery where you can walk through the vineyards filled with only the highest quality grapes, and end it off with some sampling of your preferred wines. Usagida Winery uses 100% locally grown grapes to make all its wines and even won the 2020 Saitama new product grand prize for its red ‘Yuki’ wine.
This winery is located near “Fruit Road”, an area filled with many farms growing grapes, strawberries, and blueberries.
Just down the road from the winery they have a restaurant where you can also sample the wine or enjoy a glass with your meal.
Try out Chichibu’s specialty ‘Waraji Katsudon’ a breaded pork cutlet and pair it with a delicious glass of Usagida red wine.
While you’re in the area take a look at the Chichibu Furusato-kan (Hometown Hall) where you can try making some crafts, pick up locally made goods or dress up in rental kimonos before taking a stroll in the town.
The building dates back to the 1920s and is designated as a Registered Tangible Cultural Property.
Chichibu is also famous for its unique silk textile known as Chichibu Meisen which you can see many examples of while wandering through the town.
Chichibu Meisen became widely popular from the early 1900s and is available in many colours in three styles: plain, stripes, and patterns. In 2013 it was designated as a Traditional Craft of Japan.
If you are interested in learning more about this traditional Japanese silk textile and how it’s made or if you’d like to try your hand at it be sure to drop in at the Chichibu Meisen Museum.
Our next stop is a whisky lover’s paradise, Public Bar Te Airigh (the pronunciation is similar to ‘cherry’).
Here you can find over 700 different varieties of whisky from all over the world as well as many varieties of local Chichibu whisky including 50 types of Ichiro’s Malt and limited and rare bottles.
Te Airigh has also paired up with a pâtissier to create the perfect desserts to complement a glass of whisky.
These cakes are created with seasonal fruits or chocolate and whisky and reflect the changing seasons.
The pub owner speaks English and is more than happy to help you find the perfect whisky.
Highlander Inn Chichibu
Our final pub on this trip is the Highlander Inn Chichibu, where British pub meets traditional Japanese style.
Relax with a glass of Chichibu’s local whisky while enjoying a plate of fish and chips or shepherd’s pie.
The menu consists of a variety of dishes including some genuine Scottish cuisine.
Inside the pub is a traditional tatami (straw-mat) room as well as a small courtyard and a whisky cellar ‘kura bar’. The atmosphere of the pub changes with each room you set foot in and is guaranteed to add a bit of charm to your trip.
Before leaving Chichibu take a look round Matsuri no Yu, right next to Seibu-Chichibu Station, which was designed to resemble a hot spring filled with the atmosphere of a Japanese festival.
The building is separated into three sections: the hot spring, food court, and shops.The hot spring contains both indoor and outdoor baths as well as relaxation centre.
At the food court keeping with the local festival atmosphere, you can try many local delicacies such as soba and udon noodles, hormone (fried beef or pork offal), gelato, and miso potato in a bright and welcoming environment.
Over in the shops they sell many locally made products such as Chichibu Meisen silk textiles, face masks and cosmetics made using sake, colourful chocolates and fruit jellies wrapped in decorative patterns, and various types of alcohol.
If you’re searching for a traditionally packaged Japanese sake pick up a mini taruzake ‘cask sake’ or one of the beautifully designed bottles of alcohol.
Chichibu is surrounded by nature and offers visitors the chance to enjoy the wonders of nature throughout the year.
What better way could there be to celebrate the seasons than to watch the gifts of nature while enjoying the subtle differences in flavour of seasonal sake?
The area is filled with many shops and pubs where you can relax and get to know more about the exquisite taste of Japanese liquor. Take a tour and try to find the perfect flavours to suit you. Chichibu has so much to offer to create unforgettable memories.
Chichibu Kanpai Republic (available in Japanese only – contains many pictures)
An Introduction to Culture in Chichibu