Inaba Shuzo was founded in 1867 when they started brewing Minanogawa sake using high quality rice and carefully sourced pure spring water, which as all sake connoisseurs know, is the basis of delicious sake. Inaba Shuzo is now run by the 13th generation of brewers, one of whom is Nobuko Inaba, one of the few female brewers of sake in Japan. Minanogawa is the name of the river that flows through Mt. Tsukuba and is exalted in the Ogura Hyakunin Issyu, a classical anthology of one hundred poems by one hundred poets. Minanogawa sake has been served as the sacred sake at Tsukuba Shrine.
As you enter the building that has remained unchanged for the past 150 years, you will be greeted by the fresh and almost fruity aroma of sake. The shop interior is cellar dark except for spotlights on the sake bottles and their many awards, giving an overall sophisticated feel to the place.
Inaba Shuzo is a relatively small brewery that prides itself in producing sake completely by hand. Every step of the process, from the washing of rice to processing the koji (malt) to managing the moromi (fermented mixture) is done manually. The moromi is not squeezed -- rather, it is hung from a bag to drip, a slow process but one that is true to the traditional craft of brewing.
Right beside the shop is a cafe where you can enjoy fresh sake from the tanks, along with seasonal vegetable side dishes. Note that the cafe opens slightly later and closes slightly earlier than the retail shop .
Admission is free and sake tasting costs ¥540. For a 40-minute tour (in Japanese but with English support materials and guide), reservations are necessary. Visitors are discouraged from putting on perfume or cologne or eating natto before they visit to allow everyone to enjoy the delicate aroma of sake.