Hanaoka Sake Brewery in Kumamoto
It was about 10 days before Valentine’s Day, and I was glued to the TV set watching a segment on the limited sale of a special kind of chocolate. On Valentines Day in Japan, it’s customary for women to give men chocolate. It could be to a loved one, a close male friend, or even a coworker. This is a regular custom during Valentine’s Day. Mind you, this gifted chocolate (if for anyone but your sweetheart) is considered ‘giri-choco’. The word ‘choco’ is for ‘chocolate’, and the Japanese word ‘giri’ can mean ‘debt of gratitude’, ‘social obligation’, or ‘courtesy’. So you could call giri-choco, ‘obligatory chocolate’.
I normally don’t like to go to the special floor sales for Valentine’s chocolates. They are so crowded, it is too much trouble! But… this time was an exception! On the TV program I was watching, they showed a special chocolate which was created as a collaborative effort between a famous Japanese confectionery (Morozoff) and a famous sake brewer (Hananoka). They created a Nihonshu (sake) Bonbon!
The TV program explained that Nihonshu Bonbon would be sold exclusively at the Hanshin department store in Osaka. What attracted my interest further was the fact that the sake brewer was from my hometown in Kumamoto prefecture! Of course, I ran to get some boxes the next day. The taste was amazingly delicious. After taking a bite, the gentle flowery flavor of the sake Hananoka burst in my mouth, just as the name is translated as ‘the fragrance of flowers’ in English. So much by way of a long introduction of why I’m so interested in the Hananoka Shuzo sake brewery.
My Brewery Visit
I visited the brewery in Kumamoto the other day. It is located by a small clear river in the beautiful countryside, about 1 hour away by car from the city center. In their sake manufacturing process, this renowned brewery only uses natural spring water and rice produced from the local region. They have won many different awards from several international competitions. After payment of a fee at the brewery, I tasted three kinds of sake, and we bought 7 bottles of different kinds of sake including a bottle of special sparkling sake!
If you are interested in touring a sake brewery during your trip, please let us know as we can include this in your itinerary or arrange it for you by itself.