Enjoy A Sake Tour in Iwase, Which Flourished as a Port of Call for Kitamaebune Trade Ships. ~A Toyama Tour with Delicious Seasonal Food <Iwase Area Edition>~
Toyama Prefecture faces the Sea of Japan. Many port towns have developed since ancient times along the coast, but the fish you can catch, the scenery you can see, and the culture that has been cultivated are different in each region.
The best way to learn about each unique port town is to ask the locals. In this article, Satomi Shinagawa, the manager of a local sake shop, will show you around the Iwase area.
Toyama Bay, also known as a "natural fish tank," offers a wide variety of seafood that is in season from fall to winter. Why not go to a port town for seasonal delicacies and unique experiences?
Stroll Through the Historic Streets Lined with Shipping Wholesalers
From the early Edo period to the early Meiji period, Iwase flourished as a port of call for Kitamaebune trade ships that sailed the Sea of Japan. The houses of shipping wholesalers that were built around that time still remain today, allowing visitors to feel the atmosphere of those days.
In recent years, new shops have been opening one after another in Iwase, and it is attracting attention as a must-visit spot when sightseeing in Toyama. It takes about 20 minutes from Toyama Station by city train. You can also take a leisurely cruise on the Fugan Suijo Line, a sightseeing boat that connects Fugan Unga Kansui Park and the Iwase area, operating until November 23, 2021.
Encounter 100 Types of Sake at a Mecca for Sake
A building that stands out in the Iwase townscape is "Saseki,', where your guide, Satomi Shinagawa, is the store manager. It was opened in 2019 by the Masuda Sake Brewery, known for the famous Toyama sake, "Masuizumi.”
With a standing bar where you can sample about 100 types of Masuizumi for a fee, this is an irresistible spot for alcohol lovers. "Even if you search all over the country, there aren't many shops that offer such a wide variety of sake,'' says Ms. Shinagawa. As expected, sake lovers come from all over Japan.
Sake tasting starts at 200 yen. Please note that some are not available to the general public, while others are limited-edition sake only available here, and still others are rare vintages. If you are not sure which one to choose, ask the staff for a recommendation. Once you find the sake you like, you can purchase it at the nearby sake shop, Tajiri Saketen Main Store.
According to Ms. Shinagawa, a native of the city, Iwase has recently seen an increase in new establishments. “It’s exciting to see new developments happening in town. On the other hand, there are also spots where you can feel the history, and I am in the process of rediscovering the charm of this town where old and new meet," says Ms. Shinagawa.
Ms. Shinagawa introduces some more spots that will enrich your trip to Iwase.
An Accommodation Limited to One Group Per Day to Enjoy the Town
Ms. Shinagawa recommends “Tsuriya Higashi Iwase,” which blends into the Iwase townscape, as it’s just the kind of place she’d stay at when on a trip. The entire second floor is reserved for only one group per day, and the calm, Japanese atmosphere is the perfect setting to enjoy a relaxing time in Iwase. Enjoy dinner at a nearby restaurant.
The first floor is a premium grocery store. They offer carefully crafted seasonings and ingredients from Japan and abroad, including products from their in-house preserved fish brand, Tsuriya. There are also products that go well with alcohol, so you can pair them with sake or wine, or get them as souvenirs. There’s a space in one corner of the store where you can enjoy the food and drink you bought.
Authentic Czech-Style Craft Beer
After Saseki, many people head to "KOBO Brew Pub” for their next round of drinks. The brewpub opened in 2020 after renovating the former granary belonging to the Baba family, a family of Kitamaebune shipowners and shipping wholesalers who have been active since the late Edo period. At KOBO Brew Pub, you can enjoy the special craft beer made by Jiri Kotinek from the Czech Republic, also known as the home of beer, and Boris Priesol from Slovakia.
At the brewery in the center of the pub, you’ll find limited-edition beers that you can only taste here. The ten taps of craft beer are changed all the time, but Ms. Shinagawa recommends beer made with sake lees. Soft drinks and food are also available, so even those who don't drink can enjoy themselves.
Enjoy the Food of Toyama at a Hidden Restaurant
Iwase is home to a wide variety of restaurants, including French, Italian, Japanese, and sushi restaurants, that are sure to please even the most discerning of gourmets. Located in the storehouses of the Mori family, who made their fortune in the shipping business during the Edo period, “Cave Yunoki” has been introducing the charm of Toyama's food since before Iwase was known as a "gourmet town."
In order to allow more people to enjoy their food, the restaurant was transformed this year into a full open-kitchen style restaurant, no longer limited to only one group per day. Visitors can watch the thrilling spectacles of the fire being made and the food being cooked right in front of them.
Most of the ingredients, including fresh fish from Toyama, are purchased directly from fishermen and producers. Enjoy the delicacies of Toyama Bay through an original course meal that goes beyond the boundaries of French cuisine.
Born in Toyama City, Ms. Shinagawa has been working in the service industry since she was young. She became the store manager of Saseki, run by Masuda Sake Brewery which is known for the famous sake "Masuizumi,” when the store opened. She loves alcohol so much that she drinks it every night, and she enjoys all types of alcohol, not just Japanese sake. She also has an eye for good food, hot springs, and travel.
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