Nagareyama, the birthplace of shiro-mirin (white mirin)The brewing of shiro-mirin began in the middle of the Edo period. Horikiri Monjirō started brewing what would become known as ‘Manjō mirin’ in 1766, while Akimoto Sanzaemon, the fifth generation head of the Akimoto family, started brewing what would become known as ‘Appare mirin’ in 1782. To this day, these are the two major brands of shiro-mirin in Nagareyama.
Before the creation of shiro-mirin, mirin was a dark beverage produced in the Kansai region. It was the rivalry between the Akimoto family and the Horikiri family, the two alcohol-brewing families in Nagareyama at the time, that gave birth to the pale, clear shiro-mirin.
As a sweet alcoholic beverage, it gained popularity among weak drinkers and women in Edo (modern-day Tokyo). Nagareyama flourished under the production of shiro-mirin and its transport to Edo via the Edogawa river. There were nine breweries in Nagareyama by the Tempo era (1830 – 1844), by which time Nagareyama’s shiro-mirin had become famous throughout the entire Kanto region.
Issa-Sōju Memorial Hall and Kikkoman Corporation (Nagareyama Honcho Open-air Museum Display)The area surrounding the Issa-Sōju Memorial Hall is the site of the original brewery run by the Akimoto family. It was well-known that Akimoto Sanzaemon, the creator of ‘Appare Mirin,’ was acquainted with and in support of Kobayashi Issa, a famous haiku poet in Japan at the time. Sanzaemon enjoyed writing haiku himself, and his pen name as a haiku poet was ‘Sōju.’
‘Manjō Mirin,’ the other of Nagareyama’s two major brands of shiro-mirin, has been produced in Nagareyama Honcho for more than 200 years. Kikkoman Corporation’s factory in Nagareyama is where Horikiri family’s brewing warehouse once stood. Historical items including the label designs that were used for mirin products in the past make up a small display on the outer wall of the factory for everyone in the city to enjoy.
Learning about the history of shiro-mirin at Nagareyama City MuseumWith its easy-to-understand displays, Nagareyama City Museum explains the history of how shiro-mirin originated in Nagareyama and how it is produced.
You can watch videos of how shiro-mirin is manufactured and see the large barrels and tools used in the process. You might also be surprised by the sheer number of different types of mirin products on display!
Mirin cuisine you won’t find anywhere else in the world!Nagareyama Honcho flourished under the mirin industry for over 200 years, so it isn’t surprising that many of its stores and restaurants offer a wide variety of mirin cuisine. This includes Japanese and Italian meals as well as Western and Japanese confectionery, all made using traditional shiro-mirin.
You won’t find these special treats anywhere else, so be sure to try them while you’re here!