KOBE, Japan -- After brewing high-quality sake for more than 260 years, the family-owned Kobe Shu-Shin-Kan brewery is redefining the sake experience to attract an international market.


"Sadly, sake consumption in Japan is declining," said Masakazu Minatomoto, general manager of Fukuju Sake.

The brewery was devastated by the great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995. But the Yasufuku family rebuilt it with an eye to attracting a new clientele.

There is a lodge-like but impeccable restaurant that serves traditional kaiseki dishes paired with different flavors of sake. Guests can wander a courtyard with flowering trees or catch a concert or rakugo (humorous play) in the great hall. There are free brewery tours and tastings of its signature Fukuju Sake (except in December) and an expansive gift shop.

"We want people to associate sake with gathering and dining with friends, listening to a concert or enjoying a play," said Minatomoto. "We are also creating sakes with a range of sweetness and alcohol content to attract every kind of customer. And we're educating the public about what makes a truly great sake."

And the business is ready for the next "big one." The new brewery and individual sake fermentation tanks have base isolation technology that reduces the risk of earthquake shaking and energy from toppling them. There is no doubt the brewery intends to stand for the next 260 years.

Photos: Fukuju Sake Brewery