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Abandoned Japanese primary school now home to barrels of aging whisky

Barrels of aging whisky fill the arts and crafts room at the former Nanao Elementary School in Nagahama, Shiga Prefecture, on July 17, 2022. (Mainichi/Takahiro Hasegawa)

NAGAHAMA, Shiga -- Classroom games and the shouts of children have disappeared from an elementary school here, replaced by the profound quiet of barrel after barrel of aging whisky.

    Municipal Nanao Elementary School was closed in March 2018. The Nagahama Municipal Government decided in June 2021 to lend the former school to the local Nagahama Roman Beer Co., which turned the building into a whisky aging facility that July. Now, barrels ranging from 50 to 500 liters line the school's hallways, nurse's office, arts and crafts room and other areas.

    Aging periods vary in kinds of the liquor, and the longest-aged whisky here will be in-barrel for about 10 years, according to the distiller. Whisky is also blended and bottled at the site, which has been renamed Nagahama Azai Factory. It held a public open house on July 17, attracting whisky lovers and families.

    Takashi Kiyoi, the company's production manager, told the Mainichi Shimbun, "The taste differs depending on the environments in which it (the whisky) is aged. When shipping, we'd like to deliver our bottles with the story about how they were aged at Nanao Elementary School, which is nestled in nature."

    (Japanese original by Takahiro Hasegawa, Nagahama Local Bureau)

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