Jr is a man of many interests, and among them are Japanese Whiskies. I, a pop culture geek, on the other hand, like to live out my movie fantasies. Those I see in movies I like to see in real life, and since we were in Japan, Lost in Translation played a part in our itinerary. So it only makes sense for us to make a short visit to the Suntory Yamazaki Distillery.
Now, though the tour was free, it’s best you schedule a tour when you want to visit the factory. And we tried to. Since only a local number was available, we asked our reception if he could arrange a tour for us. To our dismay, it was fully booked on all the days we were in Kyoto. So what do we do?
We go anyway.
Jr and I are stubborn people. We had a day set aside for the visit, and we thought we might as well go to the factory and try our luck, At worst, we can have our pictures taken outside. It was supposed to be a short train ride from Kyoto Station to Yamazaki station. Until, I realized we rode an limited express train to Osaka just as we passed by the station we were supposed to alight to. We alighted on the next stop in the middle of Japan nowhere and waited for the next train to Kyoto. We rode the train and missed our stop again.
Good thing Jr likes whiskies because Japan trains can get frustrating.
We rode another train in Kyoto station, this time making sure this train stops on every stop and finally, we alighted at Yamazaki station. From there, signs leading to the distillery were everywhere and all you had to do is follow the alley parallel to the train tracks, then cross the train tracks to Suntory’s gates.
We arrived at 2:45 pm and approached the front office and asked if there were available slots for tours. They asked if we had reservations (again, we had none) and were told we can get a slot at the 4 pm tour. Jackpot! Then the kind lady talked to somebody on the radio and told us we can join the 3 pm tour and handed us a couple of translation device. Double Jackpot!
Sometimes, bullheadedness pays off.
After fumbling with the device, we followed the Japanese guide through the factory grounds. They gave us an extensive tour of the distillery and a brief history as to why Japanese whiskies are the best in the world. It’s all about the water source, said the guide. Those found here in Yamazaki, and Suntory’s other factory, Hakushu, are the most optimum water in Japan for whisky making. They toured us around the distilling stations and the old barrels where they age the liquor. By the end of the tour, they brought us to a hall of wooden tables and chairs. We settled in and were served with biscuits and chocolates. Wait, what is the meaning of this?
Yes, apart from the free tour, the tasting was free as well. And it was bottomless! “For relaxing times, make it Suntory time.” indeed.
Just make sure you don’t get too drunk. Remember, you’re taking those confusing trains back to Kyoto.
Suntory Yamazaki Distillery
•JR Osaka Station to JR Yamazaki Station (about 25 minutes)
•Hankyu Umeda Station to Hankyu Oyamazaki Station (about 40 minutes)
•JR Kyoto Station to JR Yamazaki Station (about 15 minutes)
•Hankyu Kawaramachi Station to Hankyu Oyamazaki Station (about 25 minutes)
*The distillery is located about 10 minutes on foot from JR Yamazaki Station and Hankyu Oyamazaki Station.
It’s still best to call. And make sure to visit their website to be aware of factory closure for maintenance.