Amazake-chaya Tea House in Hakone, Japan

The Amazake-chaya Tea House.

The town of Hakone has attracted visitors for centuries, serving as the entrance to Tokyo for those making their way from the cities of Kyoto or Nara. Naturally, Hakone had many inns and teahouses, which thrived by catering to travelers.

The Amazake-chaya Tea House is one such establishment, dating back more than 400 years. It has been damaged by fires and earthquakes several times over the course of its history, but each time the owners simply renovated and carried on. Most recently, the building was renovated in 2009 and restored to how it used to look in the Edo period (1603-1868), complete with a thatched roof.

The teahouse is named after its signature drink, amazake, which is a sweet, low-alcohol or non-alcoholic sake made from rice and kōji mold. This particular drink has existed in Japan for over 1,000 years. The teahouse’s recipe for amazake dates back to the Edo period, and the fermented kōji mold gives it sweetness instead of sugar. A cup of the teahouse’s amazake and a plate of pounded mochi are all that’s needed to give visitors a tasty glimpse into the past.