Aichi Prefecture Day 1: Visiting Handa City and Himaka Island, where the Best Breweries and Seafood Industries Abound
My whimsical adventure in Universal Studios in Osaka last October was so delightful that I just couldn’t leave Japan alone. That is why just a couple of days later, I accepted an invitation offering to visit Aichi Prefecture – The Heart of Japan. Before I knew it, I found myself festively flying straight back to the Land of the Rising Sun.
I, along with other travel and food writers, arrived in Chubu Centrair International Airport via Singapore Airlines. The airport, which is located in Tokoname City in Aichi Prefecture, was our jump off point to the neighboring city of Handa.
Handa City, or Handa-shi, served as a trading port for cotton and processed food during the Tokugawa Period in Japan from 1603 to 1867. In the latter years in Japanese history, Handa became known for its brewing industry.
Part of our itinerary for the day was the famous Red Brick Building in Handa. Just like its name, Red Brick Building is a literal red bricked building, and is an old brewery factory that was constructed way back in 1887.
The Red Brick Building stands out like a sore thumb. Unlike its surroundings, which were chiefly Japanese, the Red Brick Building looked a lot like a huge European warehouse. Aside from that, the building had traces of bullet holes. It definitely gave the aura of the antique.
It was only after touring around when I understood why the Red Brick Building appears that way. The building is a monument in itself. It was declared as a National Tangible Cultural Property, and the bullet holes in its walls serve as reminders of the American air raids in 1945, during World War II. At present, The Red Brick Building also stands as a symbol for Handa’s current legacy of processing one of Japan’s most excellent brand of beer—the Kabuto beer.
“Kabuto” is a Japanese word that means “samurai helmet”. The Kabuto beer is a brand that is produced the best in Handa. The Red Brick Building, which stood before me, was the very factory that used to process the said beer. Although the building isn’t functional anymore and only stands as a symbolical figure in Handa, the Kabuto beer is still sold in several restaurants and pubs in Handa.
Our next stop for the day also showcased Handa City’s excellence in brewing. Our next stop, Kunizakari Sake no Bunkakan Museum, or the “Kunizakari Sake Culture Museum” in English, was, contrary to our previous stop, a big black building. The museum showed the importance of Sake or rice wine to Handa’s history and culture.
The curator inside the museum gave us a brief lecture on how Sake was manufactured in the old days. The museum displayed various types of Sake brewing tools as well.
Later in our tour inside the museum, we were given the chance to taste various types of Sake produced by the Nakano Sake Brewery, which is one of the veteran Sake brewers in town. Cheers! Or, as the Japanese say it, “kampai”!
After our trip to the two breweries, we headed south of Handa-shi, to the edge of Aichi Prefecture that overlooks Chita Bay and Mikawa Bay. Our next stop for the day was Himaka Island, one of the three small islands in Mikawa Bay, the other two being Shinojma and Sakushima. We got to Himaka Island via a short ferry ride from Katana Fishing Port.
Himaka Island, or Himakajima, as called by the locals, is located just off-shore of Minamichita in Aichi Prefecture. The island is best known for its fresh supply of seafood like octopus and blowfish, which are important ingredients for most Japanese cuisines.
We arrived in Himaka Island just in time for lunch. We headed straight to Hotel Himakaso, a famous hotel in the island.
When we got there, the chefs served us their best local produce, which included steamed octopus, tempura, and fried blowfish. Having a complete seafood meal with the sound of the Mikawa Bay’s waves splashing from afar was just exquisite. The freshness of our seafood lunch only became more apparent.
After our fresh seaside lunch, we visited a local seafood drying industry in the island. The business, which is managed by family members, specialized in octopus drying. We got to dry octopus ourselves! The family members were also kind enough to show us the process of how to properly clean freshly caught octopus, how to dress the octopus, and how to properly stretch out the octopus on a bamboo platform for drying.
We also toured around the island to see its main attractions. One of it is a tourist hot spot of a port that was filled with restaurants and souvenir shops. Since it’s my habit to buy souvenirs, I took my time selecting one for myself.
We eventually had to leave the island of Himaka, and its beautiful seaside waves. We rode a ferry to return to mainland Aichi Prefecture. Upon reaching Katana Port, we travelled to Minamichita Hot Spring Resort, where we stayed overnight.
The travel to the resort was two solid hours long, so it was nearly dinner time when we arrived. That is why after checking in, we immediately gathered in one of the function rooms for a full-course, Japanese meal.
We were provided sets of yukata in our rooms. A yukata is a Japanese garment that looks just like a kimono, although it is more casual and lighter. And, to complete our cultural experience, we wore the yukata that was provided to us while having dinner. I liked the minimalistic elegance of the resort’s restaurant. It had an atmosphere that was suitable for our light chitchats before going to bed.
After resting for a while, we headed to our respective rooms to retire for the day. My first day in Aichi Prefecture was a tiring but fun experience. In just a few hours, we were able to immerse ourselves in Aichi Prefecture’s local industries and history.
Satisfied with my day, I slept early for our itinerary the following day. Stay tuned for my Aichi Prefecture series 🙂