Have you noticed this ball hung in front of Japanese brewery? This is called Sakabayashi. It is not only a decoration but also showing the sign that the brewery is ready to serve new season of Sake.
When the season has arrived, the breweries and Sake Cooperative organize the festival called Kurabiraki (Kura means storehouse and Biraki mean opening, so literally it means the opening of the storehouse). This festival means that, in the area where the breweries are located, they open the business to a public and offer the new season of Sake.
Before the ship has sailed, I would like to introduce this Sake festival, particularly to those who like Sake (Japanese rice wine). Even if you are not, it is also Okay, because this festival gives you an idea how Japanese breweries make Sake when you witness the storehouse.
When do they have this festival?
When the harvest of rice finishes in autumn, Japanese Sake breweries start preparing for a new batch and a season of Sake. If you are familiar with the production of wine and beer, you would probably imagine and understand the process, though the way of brewing is different.
The production of Sake starts from October and ends in March. From October to December, they will have the first Kurabiraki for tasting Sake which has been preserved through last year summer. The second Kurabiraki is usually held on between February to March, which is the time when they finish brewing, and you can taste the new season of Sake for the year. You might be able to taste Sake which is not yet in the market.
What can you do?
When you go to this event, you buy a book of tickets for tasting, in general. You exchange a ticket for one type of Sake. If you buy a book of 10 tickets, then you can taste 10 types of Sake! You can also enter and view the brewing warehouse which is not usually opened to the public and have a talk from master brewer directly. And indeed, you can taste the freshly squeezed Sake or specially prepared Sake for this occasion, too.
This event is of course for those who love Sake, but those who are not able to drink alcohol would enjoy it as well. For instance, if you go to Fushimi’s Sake Festival (Kyoto), you can try the Sake lees products and Kyoto specialized vegetable sold in this event. Near to breweries, Izakaya which sells the sake from brewery offers delicious foods and you can enjoy walking around the street that you can see the old styles of houses.
Find the festival events closer to your place to live
This website gives you the calendar and information where and when the festival will be held in. Of course, they show you the events not only Kurabiraki but also any Sake related events throughout Japan. See the details: http://nihonshucalendar.com/
Remind that many locals and tourists will be there for the festival, you must be ready to wait in the queue.