A Few Factories You Must Visit During You Stay in Japan

Sep 28, 2017


Are you interested by doing something different ?

After visiting a lot of temples, sanctuaries, museums, and other places introduced in every guide book, you may be interested by something else.

I would like to propose you to visit a factory, it is an interesting way to do something else (and taste some Japanese products).

To discover how Japanese people are working, understand their working environment, their dedication for their company and the chain of production. Of course, in most companies the explanations are fully in Japanese or, if you are lucky, with explanatory documents in English (or other languages). But in this article, I will introduce to you some factories where you can have explanations or tours in English.

It is really an interesting experience to do abroad. I chose those where you can do easily your reservation by yourself. Generally, it is free or cheap, and if you are choosing a food company, you may be able to taste some samples. In most cases you can do the reservation by internet.

If you are staying near Tokyo (Kanto region)

  • The first company I would like to recommend you is the “Osawa Brewery”.

“Ozawa Shuzo”, founded in 1702, is located in Okutama, which abounds with natural beauty despite being located in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Sawanoi, the brand name was originally named after the location of Sawai area, which is known for its clear water. Ozawa Shuzo has a history dating back more than 300 years and has been loved by the locals as the brewery of Tokyo’s Okutama sake, and also the oldest sake brewery in the region of Tokyo.

It is not really far away from Tokyo and even if the tour is in Japanese there is a brochure in english available. At the start of each tour there is a talk on the different types of sake, how they are made, their different qualities and there is a tasting of the sake at the end of the tour. Visitors can also see the spring water pouring through 140-metre-deep holes dug into the Chichibu rock formation.

The tour required time is around 45 minutes.

Open hours are 11 :00 h, 13:00 h, 14:00 h and 15:00 h.

The reservation may be done online for 1 to 10 people. http://www.sawanoi-sake.com/en

From Shinjuku station by train to reach your destination, Sawai station, you need to stay around 1 hour and half in your train (Chuo line which becomes Ome line at Ome station but you do not need to change for another train, it stays the same).

 

  • The next I would like to propose to you is the “Suntory Hakushu Distillery”, if you are interested by the process of production of whisky, it is the place where you have to go !

The founder of Suntory, Shinjiro Torii, decided to begin whisky-making with a passionate desire to “create a perfect whisky that reflects the nature of Japan and the spirit of Japanese craftsmanship.”

In the quest to create a malt whisky completely different from Yamazaki Distillery (I will also propose you this destination near Kyoto below), the whisky makers kept searching for the best water for mashing. After looking all over the country, they came across “Hakushu,” one of the most famous water areas in Japan. In 1973, exactly half a century after the birth of the first Japanese malt whisky distillery, Suntory established its second malt whisky distillery “Hakushu.”

 

For more information about the four tours available you can visit this page and make your reservation: Suntory Hakushu Distillery

 

The access is fully explained in this page, please do consult it if you are interested: Suntory factory Hakushu Distillery access

 

 

 

  • Another good choice is the “Asahi Kanagawa Brewery”, if you are living in Japan since some time already you should know about this brand and its products. During this tour you will discover the beer primary ingredients exhibit, the process of production and enjoy a tasting cession.

From Shinjuku station it takes less than two hours to reach the brewery. You have to take the Odakyu line at destination to Shin matsuda station. From there the best way to go to factory is by taxi. The tours hours are from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Please reserve by phone to book tours with an English-speaking guide (+81-465-72-6270).

https://www.asahibeer.co.jp/brewery/language/english/

  • I would like also to recommend you the railway museum which is not a factory but it explains the industrial history of the development of the railway system while introducing the historical background of each period with displays of actual models. (http://www.railway-museum.jp/en/)

For more information about the admission fee and the access you can visit this page: http://www.railway-museum.jp/en/information.html

  • The last one, in Kanto region, I would like to propose to you is the Ishikawa brewery where you can learn about the sake brewing process and explore the nature-filled site that includes old traditional buildings. A tour is available in English and French (it is free and includes sake tasting). From Monday to Friday (except National Holidays) from 10AM to 4PM. You can make your reservation by email or by phone by following this link: http://tamajiman.co.jp/en/tour/

 

If you are staying near Kyoto (Kansai region)

If you are in this region, there is also a lot of opportunities to explore but I would like to propose two of them in particular because even if you don’t know any japanese you can still have informations and explanations in english (audio sets available in a few languages).

The founder of Suntory, Shinjiro Torii, decided to begin whisky-making with a passionate desire to “create a perfect whisky that reflects the nature of Japan and the spirit of Japanese craftsmanship.”

Yamazaki, in southwestern Kyoto at the foot of Mt.Tennozan.
With his unwavering preference for the high-quality water and natural environment vital in whisky-making, Shinjiro selected the land of Yamazaki from among several candidate sites.

The area around Yamazaki Distillery has long been famous for its exquisite natural water, which is even mentioned in the Man’yoshu, the ancient anthology of Japanese poetry. The “Rikyu no Mizu”(water of the imperial villa) selected by the Ministry of the Environment as one of Japan’s one hundred best natural mineral waters, continues to bubble forth today.
For the process water used at Yamazaki Distillery, this pure and high-quality groundwater, nurtured slowly over eons, is used.

Surrounded by abundant nature, the unique terrain, where the Katsura, Uji, and Kizu Rivers meet, is the ideal moist and humid environment for the aging of whisky: Yamazaki is indeed a whisky-making utopia.

In 2003, the Yamazaki 12 Years Old single malt whisky produced at Yamazaki Distillery became the first Japanese whisky to win the gold medal at the ISC (International Spirits Challenge)-a highly authoritative spirits competition in the world. Suntory has continued to win awards for its whiskies, earning global recognition for Japanese whisky.

If you are interested by my proposition, three different tours are available, two with a fee and one for the museum but free of any charge.

Audio guides are available in English, Chinese, and French. Please be aware that the number of audio guide units are limited, so they may not be able to comply with your request.

The access is quite easy from Osaka or Kyoto, for more explanations do visit this page please: http://www.suntory.com/factory/yamazaki/access/

 

  • Cup noodle museum (Osaka):

On August 25, 1958, Momofuku Ando invented the world’s first instant noodles, “Chicken Ramen,” after an entire year of research using common tools in a little shed he had built in his backyard in Ikeda-city, Osaka Prefecture.

Realizing the need to transcend cultural boundaries to popularize instant noodles worldwide, Momofuku gathered an array of wisdom and innovative ideas to invent CUP NOODLES, transforming “made in Japan” instant noodles into a global food.

Opened from 10:00 h to 16:00 h. From the Umeda station near Osaka station, it will take around 40 minutes to go to Ikeda station and the museum (Hankyu-Takarazuka Line). The museum is free of charge.

There is also a lot of other attractions and exhibitions like the “My Cup noodles factory” where you can create your own completely original Cup noodles package !

If you are interested and want to learn more information about the others exhibitions available, you can follow this link: https://www.cupnoodles-museum.jp/en/osaka_ikeda/

Visitors can borrow audio sets in English and Chinese. These give narrations of the Birth of Chicken Ramen exhibit and the CUPNOODLES Drama Theater. A deposit of 2,000 yen per audio set is required when borrowing. (This will be reimbursed when you return the audio set.) Please inquire in the Information counter.

 

Basile/France

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