A Gallery For Tasting Saitama’s Sake
Koedo Kurari is the name of a small shopping area at the entrance of Kawagoe’s historical center in Japan. It is spreading over 3 old buildings of the Kagamiyama Brewery, founded in 1875, and is dedicated to Saitama Prefecture local gastronomy, offering regional sake tasting in particular.
Renowned among old Japanese architecture amateurs, Kawagoe is home to several ancient traditional warehouses built in the Kurazukuri style and workshops reminding of its thriving trading activity during the Edo period (1603 - 1868).
Sightseers roaming between the station and the historical city center can explore Koedo Kurari, a small shopping gallery located in the buildings of Kagamiyama, an old nihonshu (Japanese sake 🍶) brewery of the area.
3 old brewery buildings renovated into shops
Each of the pure white facade buildings is home to a specific shop themed on Saitama Prefecture’s gastronomy and craftsmanship, such as:
- Omiyage dokoro (おみやげ処), a souvenir shop in a warehouse built in the middle of the Meiji Era (1868 – 1912), selling local sweets, food and traditional goods. There is also a café;
- Makanai dokoro (まかない処), a very good Japanese restaurant located in a former brewery of the beginning of the Taisho Era (1912 - 1926);
- Kikizake dokoro (ききざけ処), a sake-specialized shop in an old workshop built in 1931 during the Showa Era (1926 - 1989).
Kawagoe’s Koedo Kurari is a good place to taste local specialties, and bring back omiyage travel souvenirs.
Nihonshu vending machines
Those who like Japanese spirits (note that alcohol consumption is allowed from 20 years old in Japan) should go to the 3rd building where the sake shop is. Inside, you’ll be impressed by its preserved traditional architecture and especially its 3 massive cedar tree pillars supporting its roof. The decoration is nonetheless simple and refined, consistent with the warehouse’s former activity.
In addition to being a beautiful wine and spirits shop with well-stocked aisles, Kikikaze dokoro stands out from other shops thanks to its space dedicated to regional sake tasting. The shop indeed lined up several nihonshu vending machines offering a selection of 35 local drinks to enjoy from a cup. As a matter of fact, Saitama Prefecture is one of the biggest sake producers in Japan.
The ordering system is quite simple:
- First change a ¥500 (~US$3.35) coin to get 4 tokens (the ¥500 coin is the only one usable, 1 token pays for 1 cup).
- At the vending machine wall, chose a sake considering the bottles displayed and their aromas described in Japanese and in English; you can also select it dry, sweet, light or strong.
- Insert the token in the machine, place the cup under the faucet and push the button corresponding to your sake choice.
Then, simply enjoy the drink that was just served by the machine.
Excessive drinking put your health at risk. Alcoholic beverages should be consumed in moderation.
Some nihonshu are better enjoyed warm and a water bath is available to heat the cup. An hourglass is used to time the heating:
- To reach the 40°C (ぬる燗 nurukan), allow 60 seconds; and,
- To reach a 50°C (熱燗 atsukan) temperature, allow 120 seconds (2 minutes).
Note that nihonshu is pairing well with fermented food typical of Japanese cuisine, such as miso paste or shoyu soy sauce, that are also sold there.