This picture is a ‘sake‘, rice wine winery in Shiga prefecture. Most Japanese sake wineries have a ball-shaped object at their entrances like this.
Its name is ‘saka-bayashi‘ which literally means sake forest. It is also called ‘sugi-dama’, cedar leaf ball.
This ball is a sign to let customers know their sake has been newly brewed. It is exchanged every year they produce new one. Sake is usually produced around the end of a year with the use of new rice harvested in autumn. The new ball is made of fresh green cedar leaves. So customers can know how mature the sake is by seeing it. Looking at its color in the picture above, I guess this winery’s sake has well matured(: Certainly I took this photo in August. The rice wine here is named ‘hagi-no-tsuyu‘, one of my favorite sake.
Traditionally sake casks were often made of cedar wood. That’s why cedar leaves are used to make this nice informative sign.