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“Visit Yamamoto Honke Sake Brewery”
Review of Yamamoto Honke

Yamamoto Honke
Ranked #86 of 556 Shopping in Kyoto
Attraction details
Reviewed May 22, 2014

Yamamoto Honke Sake Brewery has been in business since 1677 (according to the company's website http://www.kyotosake.com/.) The company's founder Mr. Genbee Yamamoto and subsequent descendents have continuously operated the family's sake brewery for over 300 years. The current director, Mr. Koji Yamamoto, represents the 11th generation to own this family business.

The company's founder selected Fushimi as the location for his brewery because of the quality of its water. The name Fushimi comes from 'fusu' and 'mizu', which means 'underground water'. This spring water comes from the surrounding mountains and is called Shiragikui, which means 'water of white chrysanthemum'. The Fushimi region currently ranks 2nd highest in Japan for sake production.

When you visit Fushimi, bring your water bottle to taste this refreshing spring water. It's available for free at a public water fountain, which is a few steps from the Yamamoto Honke Sake gift shop. (Water fountain: GPS 34.931207, 135.761863. Gift shop: GPS 34.931014, 135.761876).

I'd like to tell you about our private tour of Yamamoto Honke Sake brewery in April 2014. There were 6 people in our group. We arranged our tour by filling out a request form on the company's website. We received a quick reply from the director's wife, Ms. Reina Yamamoto. She has studied in the U.S. and her English is excellent.

Before our arrival to Japan, we exchanged several e-mails with Ms. Yamamoto regarding the date and time of our private tour. Her replies were always prompt. She was very gracious about going out of her way to accommodate us, including giving us her cell phone number for emergency contact. We requested our tour on a weekday evening.

Ms. Yamamoto initially planned to conduct our tour. However, the date we picked conflicted with her teaching schedule at a local university. Therefore, she arranged for another English-speaking person to take her place. This person turned out to be a young French fellow who joined the company about a year ago. He was very eager to do a good job. Indeed, he did an excellent job as our tour guide.

After getting lost a little bit, we showed up early for our appointment at the company's gift shop. The director met us with a warm welcome. A young-looking fellow, he spoke a little English, but exuded politeness and warm hospitality. He modestly claimed to have joined the family business for only about 6 years. However, he was very knowledgeable about the sake business.

Following the director, we walked a short distance from the gift shop to their brewery (which was much larger than we expected) . He introduced us to his French employee and let him take over the tour. The director accompanied us throughout our tour, but quietly stayed in the back.

Before beginning our tour, we were asked to put a cap on our hair and slip a disposable cover over our shoes. We assumed it was to maintain the sanitary standard of their brewery. Next, we each received a hand-drawn diagram (with English annotations) of the sake brewing process. As our tour guide explained each step of the sake brewery process, he allowed us plenty of opportunity to take photos and ask questions. He patiently answered our questions and sought help from the director regarding anything he was not sure of. We felt their genuine desire to share their knowledge and love of sake with us.

Although it was way past normal business hours, the director politely and patiently let us proceed through the brewery at our own pace. Our private tour lasted close to an hour and a half. At the end of the tour, we went back to the company's gift shop, where the director served us (free) samples of their sake products. We tasted 6 samples, starting with the regular sake and working our way to their most expensive sake.

We tasted the 7th sample when the observant director caught my glance at their elegant matcha (green tea) sake bottle. He offered to open a bottle for us to taste. All 4 women in our group loved it, especially after learning that many Japanese enjoy this sake over green tea ice cream. I wish I had bought more, since it is not available for sale in the U.S.

After our group selected our purchases, the director himself carefully wrapped our purchases to ensure their safe transport in our suitcases back to the U.S. As it was pretty dark by the time we left the gift shop, he walked us out, gave us directions to the train station, ran after us when we took a wrong turn, and put us back on the right road. We were grateful for everything he, his wife, and his employee did for us.

For your information, presently Yamamoto Honke Sake only sells 5 products in the U.S. They are 1. Honjyozo Devil's Killer, 2. Ginjyo Mizunoshirabe, 3. Jynmaidaiginjyo Matsunomidori, 4. Jyunmai Kaguyahime, and 5. Liquor Yuzu Omoi. Please visit the company's website to find out where you can buy their sake products in your area.

It's a good idea to be familiar with your country's duty-free alcohol allowance before you visit this brewery. We hesitated and purchased much less sake than we would like, since we weren't sure of the U.S. Customs restrictions on alcohol. I wish we had bought the Liquor Yuzu Omoi. Its lime flavor is subtle and flavorful. Its taste is mild, with a hint of sweetness. When we got back, we found out that its price in the U.S. is more than 5 times the price at the Yamomoto Honke gift shop.

What did we like most about our visit to this brewery? We really learned much from, and enjoyed our personal interactions with the director and our tour guide.

We want to point out that our private tour at Yamamoto brewery was free. Moreover, we tasted more types of sake at Yamamoto Honke than we did at Gekkeikan and Hatkusuru. Thus we felt more comfortable and confident in selecting our purchases at the Yamamoto gift shop.

During our visit to Fushimi in November 2013, we got lost while looking for another place and accidentally came across the Yamamoto Honke Sake gift shop. We walked in and quickly walked out, not impressed by what we saw. Their gift shop was very cramped and small. There was no English sign. We looked around the gift shop and saw no evidence of any brewery. Thank goodness we asked for a private tour of their brewery when we returned to Fushimi in April 2014.

Since the sake brewing process was from fall to spring, the brewery was not in operation during our private tour. It was a blessing in disguise, since our presence in their factory was not intrusive or disruptive for their employees. However, it would have been awesome to visit during their sake brewing period and smell the wonderful sake aroma in their factory.

Getting to this brewery is easy. It is about 20 minutes from Kyoto. Please note that the directions on the company's website are slightly outdated, which gave us some difficulty. Here are our directions:

- Take Keihan line to Fushimi-Momoyama station (one stop before Chushojima). Make sure to get on a local train which gets off at every station. Don't get on a rapid, express, or rapid express train.

- As you walk out of Fushimi-Momoyama station, you'll enter a covered shopping arcade called Otesuji. Walk through this Otesuji shopping arcade.

- At the 3rd street intersection with this arcade, look for Mizuho Bank, which should be on your right. Turn LEFT at Mizuho Bank.

(The company's website mentioned a bake shop called Chocoro Saint Marc Bakery, opposite from Mizuho Bank. This bake shop is no longer there. Another business is now at that location. So, just look of Mizuho Bank as your landmark.)

- At the end of the street, turn RIGHT. Then turn LEFT. Easy to remember: Left - Right - Left.

- The Yamamoto gift shop is next to Torisei restaurant. Both belong to Yamamoto Honke Sake company. (Gift shop: GPS 34.931014, 135.761876).

Among our many visits to Japan, this private tour at Yamamoto Honke Sake brewery was among our most memorial experiences. We highly recommend this private tour to you. It's well worth your time.

Hopefully when you visit, you will see many English signs at their gift shop to help you with your purchases.

Happy travels!

15  Thank hpn
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed March 29, 2018
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Reviewed May 20, 2017
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