Photos by Hiroshi Mizusaki courtesy Case-Real Architects
The Town of Yobuko, located at the tip of North-Western Kyushu, is named after the migratory path that whales swam. Beginning in the 1700s, Yobuko prospered as a whaling town, birthing the idiom, a single whale flourishes seven towns. Whales were a symbol of vitality, prosperity and hope. But times change. Fast-forward to today and the town’s population has fallen below 6000 due to a younger generation’s migration to larger cities.
Today, the town is no longer known for their whales but for their squid. But the spirit of whales lives on. One local restaurant operator known for serving fresh squid is investing in the town’s future by renovating one of the many vacant townhouses and establishing a brewery in hopes that the energy and prosperity that once was, would return. They’re calling it Whale Brewing.
Whale Brewery is located inside a renovated 80-year old townhouse that’s located along Yobuko Asaichi-dori, which is known for their “wet market” where fisherman set up stalls to sell squid and other fresh delicacies. “We decided to not only perform necessary architectural renovations but also incorporate the strong characteristics this building possesses into the new brewery,” says architect Koichi Futatsumata, who preserved the gorgeous ceiling and skeleton of the building while making repairs and reinforcements to the facade and roof. “The facade, including the atrium section, is glass, allowing the interior to have a ceiling while still showcasing the impressive wooden framework towards the street.”
Whale Brewery, which just opened at the end of November, emphasises local ingredients in their lineup of three craft beers: a pale ale, IPA and weizen. You can enjoy it inside at the counter while taking in the voluminous interior, sip it at the outdoor counter while taking in all the sounds of the local market, or even—thanks to Japan’s lax public drinking laws—carry it down to the pier and enjoy the sea breeze.
Related: Yobuko-kunchi is a 250-year old local festival dedicated to whales. It went extinct during WWII but was revived in 2022.