The Iwamura sake festival is held yearly by the Iwamura Jouzou (destillery) company in the end of February and beginning of March. Put on your VR goggles and step into this most festive occasion! It is advertised as an "event filled with smiles," and that is certainly true, as you can see. You only need to take care not to bring in any snacks (there was a sign to that effect, which is somewhat amusing), but otherwise you just pay a modest fee at the entrance, receive a sake cup and then you are free to walk around and fill up as much as you like. This is a good recipe for putting a smile on people's faces, indeed!
If you come by train there is quite a long walk up the hill from the station before you arrive at the distillery. Further up are the ruins of the Iwamura Castle, which was once the seat of a female lord, Otsuyanokata, the aunt of Oda Nobunaga, by many seen as the greatest hero in Japanese history. Otsuyanokata became the female lord - or Onna Joshu - of the castle when her husband, a man who had been very close to Nobunaga, passed away.
But this would prove to be the castle mistress's undoing. When the castle came under pressure from the warlord Shingen Takeda, another famous figure in Japanese medieval history, she married a commander of the invading force to save the castle. This infuriated Nobunaga. He stormed the castle and cruelly executed Otsukyonokato and her husband by hanging them upside down.
Onna Jushu - named after the unfortunate mistress of Iwamura castle - was one of the three brands of freshly produced sake we enjoyed this day, and you will likely be able to enjoy next year. The mood is festive, people warm and friendly, and very curious about the rare foreigner who turn up. The smell of good sake fills the whole place, as does the warmth of the smiles of the people of Iwamura, the old castle town.
INFORMATION: Location: Iwamura Sake Distillery (岩村醸造株式会社), in Iwamura, Ena city, Gifu Prefecture. In 2017, the event took place the following dates: February 5, 11, 12, 19, 26 and March 5.