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Standing the Test of Time: Traditions of Itami

As a Japan-addict favoring the lesser known allures over mainstream tourist spots, here I am to assure you that Itami is one of those off the beaten path destinations that has lots of surprises awaiting, for you making the extra effort to get to know it deeper.

Alright, let’s start digging in.


Itami Sake Brewery Street

When it comes to sake brewing, Hyogo Prefecture reigns supreme being the top producer in Japan. Itami City is known as the birthplace of clear sake called sumizake, which flavors were widely preferred compared to the conventional (back then) nigorizake–cloudy sake. Itami is said to have popularized mass production of seishu (refined sake) in Japan.

The cobblestone street leading from JR Itami Station to Hankyu Itami Station is known as “Sake Brewery Street,” and the two breweries in Itami can be visited if you walk along this street.

Walking down the street feels like flipping through the pages of its sake brewing history. Sake lovers will be delighted to find an array of museums, stores and breweries with a long history to impress. Drop by Itami City Museum of Art, History and Culture for an eye-opening tour to discover the oldest sake brewery structure in Japan and learn about the history of sake brewing in Itami.

Itami, the birth place of clear sake in Japan.


Access: 6-minute walk from JR Itami Station or 9-minute walk from Hankyu Itami Station

Address: 2-5-20 Miyanomae, Itami City

TEL: 072-773-1431

Business hours: 10:00-17:00

Closed: Monday (or the following day if it is a public holiday)


Itami Oimatsu Brewery

We stopped by the direct sales shop of the more than 3 century old Itami Oimatsu Brewing Company, maker of the famous sake Oimatsu, which stands alongside Konishi Brewery’s Shirayuki as Itami’s 2 most prominent brands of sake. In the Edo era, Oimatsu was selected as gomenshu, a prestigious title for sake reserved for the pleasure of the Shogunate. Among all the gomenshu, Oimatsu held the top position. Well water was used to make sake in Itami. Right next to the Itami Oimatsu Brewery, there is now groundwater, which anyone can take home with them.

Itami Oimatsu Brewery


Access: 5-minute walk from JR Itami Station or 3-minute walk from Hankyu Itami Station

Address: 3-1-8 Chuo, Itami City

TEL: 072-773-1431

Business hours: 9:30-19:00


Shirayuki Brewery Village Chojugura

Shirayuki Brewery Village Chojugura, founded in 1550 and now run by the 15th generation of the Konishi Sake Brewery, is another place worth a visit.

Shirayuki Brewery Village Chojugura


The renovated facility features a restaurant on the first floor and on the second, you can find exhibitions of sake brewing tools from yesteryears. Shirayuki aims to provide an environment based on the four themes “gaku yu shoku raku” (学遊食楽), namely “learn, play, savor and have fun” to welcome visitors. Konishi Sake Brewery products can be purchased at the adjacent store. The restaurant was renovated from a 250-year-old sake brewery and had a relaxed atmosphere.

I had fun transforming myself instantly into a “toji”–master brewer, by putting on a “happi” coat and posing with this 3D trick art.

Enjoy pizza baked with sake lees in the dough, over a glass of sparkling nigori-zake.

Awa Nigori performance


At the restaurant, I ordered the cloudy, less filtered nigori type of sake called Awa nigori and a pizza made with Shirayuki sake lees.

Awa nigori sake is sold at the store, but we heard that the restaurant pours it in a special way for aeration to bring out a slightly different fragrance and flavor. We saw it firsthand when our server poured the sake from an extremely high position without spilling a single drop.I don’t think I can do that at home! It was my first time trying a sake lees pizza, but it was delicious, accented with the famous vegetables from Nara known as Narazuke.


Access: 5-minute walk from JR or Hankyu Itami Station

Address: 3-4-15 Chuo, Itami City


Business hours: Museum 11:30~17:00, Restaurant 11:30~22:30, Shop 10:30~18:00

Closed: 2nd Tuesday of each month (currently, the restaurant is closed every Tuesday)

*Closed days and hours are subject to change.


Shubukan Naginata Experience

As a big fan of traditional cultures of Japan, I would recommend the Naginata experience at Shubukan for those looking for an immersive experience to touch the deep soul of Japan. Allow me to set the stage.

Shubukan, Itami City.


The dojo, called Shubukan, was originally established in 1786 by a sake brewing family in Itami.

The Shubukan is proud to be a place that welcomes everyone, including visitors from abroad who want to experience the deep culture of Japan.

Similar to kendo, the uniform worn is almost identical, but the weapon used is entirely different.


Here you can experience Tendoryu naginata-jutsu,

A traditional naginata is a pole-weapon with single-edged blade on the end.

For practice, you use a wooden pole.


Donned in a Keikogi (training wear), I took a bow alongside my teacher towards the altar where the Shinto deities are honored. Immediately I could sense the dignified air of the dojo. We practiced a few basic forms, which to me was incredibly challenging to master in the span of a short hour, but deep inside, I could feel that every simple movement seems to carry a deep meaning behind.

And to me that’s what’s so beautiful about traditional Japanese martial art. I hope the traditions will continue to thrive for generations to come.


Access: 15-minute walk from JR Itami Station or 5-minute walk from Hankyu Itami Station

Address: 3-2-11 Nishidai, Itami City


Business hours: 10:00-17:00

Closed: Sunday


Midori En Tea Ceremony Experience

The tea ceremony requires sitting in a formal kneeling position known as seiza, but this may be uncomfortable for many people. For me, too, being able to experience a full tea ceremony has always been interesting, but often left my legs feeling rather numb. However, for those not wishing to sit seiza style, you can participate in the tea ceremony from the comfort of a chair. Some tourists may also want to try wearing a kimono.

Tea ceremonies are a great introduction to the intricate cultures of Japan.


While most first time tourists may call it a day after putting on a fancy kimono, sipping a cup of warm matcha served with pretty wagashi and securing enough selfies, superficial experiences may leave seasoned travelers feeling the thirst for something deeper. After all, true sado is not something you can do on a mobile app over a tall Starbucks frappuccino.


The strictly defined gestures of the tea ceremony were difficult. However, these defined gestures make us think about others, such as the person making the tea or the person eating sweets next to me, leading to a deeper appreciation of the ancient tradition.


I have joined enough forms of tea ceremonies by now to discern a “touristy tea session” from something that’s genuinely deeper. In my own experience, Midori En should scratch that itch for those looking for an authentic cultural experience.

Midori En, Itami City.

Artfully inspecting the natsume–a tea container.


Access: 20-minute walk from JR Itami Station or 2-minute walk from Hankyu Itami Station

Address: 1-8-3 Nishidai, Itami City


Business hours: 10:00-18:00

Closed: Sunday


I was delighted to have discovered yet another hidden gem of Japan, and hope that the next time you decide to venture into the Kansai region, you would give it a chance to pop by Itami City, which is just a stone’s throw away from Osaka. Itami is a city brimming with rich cultural heritage that would not have existed to this day without generations of traditions that have withstood the test of time, which to me, says a lot about Japanese people’s dignity and perseverance given this proclaimed era of instant gratification.


Writer: Cheesie URL:

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