Taste with the Tōji project

Sake Mistress presents:

Taste with the Tōji ~ A Series of

Virtual Events

Next Session: Mon 23 November – Matsui Shuzo

with Jiemon Matsui & Jorge Navarrete

Taste with the Tōji is a series of online events; a project created during the Melbourne COVID lockdown (and will continue in some way beyond lockdown). This project was inspired by the will to continue to host Sake specific events despite having all my upcoming ‘on location’ events cancelled due to Coronavirus and the social distancing rules in place. I wanted to find a way to continue to bring people together through sake. These Taste with the Tōji events endeavour to unite Sake drinkers and enthusiasts of all levels, whilst at the same time, connecting the brewers with their wider audience/consumers.  IMG_1463

Taste with the Tōji events are currently free to attend as my main wish is to support the brewers and importers through this tough time, however, where possible, it is suggested attendees purchase a bottle of Sake (from the featured brewer) prior to each event they attend. In addition, (or in lieu of), a virtual tip jar has been requested by several attendees from the first event, held on 27th April, featuring Miho Imada. I have created a button here for any attendees of past or future events who might wish to leave a small contribution. I understand this is a tough time for many financially so tips are not essential, however those in a position to contribute can rest assured any funds will of course go back into the running of these events and the costs involved ~ and ultimately the breweries and brewers who are participating in the Taste with the Tōji series.

Below is a calendar of past and upcoming events, which will be updated throughout the duration of the project. Please note there may be limited availability for some of these events, however, if you would like more information on any of these events, please email me at sakemistress@gmail.com or via my contact page on this site.

Updates will be posted on a regular basis. Those in Australia who have already registered to attend some of the upcoming events can purchase Sake for the:

Moriki, Mukai, Kidoizumi, Mioya, Miyoshino, Akishika, Terada Honke and Chiyo events through Black Market Sake

and those attending the Imada, Gozenshu, Miyoshikiku, Hourai (Watanabe), Taiheizan (Kodama), Niida Honke, Yamada Shoten, and Kinmon events can purchase their Sake via Supersake.

Tamagawa (Kinoshita Brewery), Koikawa, Taka (Nagayama Honke), Izumibashi, Shinkame are available in Australia via Sakenet

Kaze no Mori (Yucho Shuzo) is available via SakeShop.

TWTT 1-26 Cal

Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 23:

Yuichi Hashiba – Izumibashi Shuzo

Izumibashi event banner

Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 22:

Takahiro Nagayama –

Nagayama Honke

Nagayama event banner

Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 21:

Kazuyoshi Sato – Koikawa Shuzo

Koikawa Banner Session 21of TWTT took place on Monday 2 November and took us to Koikawa Shuzo in Yamagata Prefecture. It was an honour to spend a couple of hours talking with brewery president, Kazuyoshi Sato. A great discussion and lots of Q&A dedicated to the fascinating world of Kameno o rice. This brewery has a wonderful connection to this rice variety which was the inspiration for the ‘phantom’ rice in Akira Oze’s ‘Natsuko no Sake’. Kameno o, it seems, is a little ‘phantom-like’ itself.
This session educated and entertained as we not only heard stories from the brewery and their philosophy and aspirations, but also gained some insight into Sato-san’s life outside of Sake brewing through his musical inspirations and achievements. We were even treated to a somewhat exclusive listen to a little Sake jingle he had recently recorded. A joyous way to finish a fun and educational session. Big thanks to Sato-san for his time, knowledge, passion and joy. An extended thank you to Rey Takahashi from Sakenet for translating for this session… and, as always, thank you to everyone who attended.I am absolutely delighted and honoured that this little project, that I started back in April, is still going strong in November ~ with more sessions to come. In the words of Sato-san: “Let’s enjoy Sake, hot or cold-o!” Koikawa Sake is available in Australia through Sakenet.

Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 20:

Yoshi (Chobei) Yamamoto –

Yucho Shuzo: Kaze no Mori

YS_banner Session 20 of TWTT took place on Monday 19 October ~ for this session, we headed to Nara and we were joined by the incredible Yoshi ‘Chobei’ Yamamoto from Yucho Shuzo. What an incredibly deep delve into some fascinating history and rich cultural elements relating to ‘Nara Sake’ and Bodaimoto ~ and the evolution of the brewing process, fermentation and rice polishing process. As well as a great discussion about table rice and sake rice. From the birth of Bodaimoto over 500 years ago to the birth of Kaze no Mori Sake in 1998, Chobei-san certainly covered some ground over a wonderfully insightful 3 and a bit hours! ‘Nara Sake’, produced since the Muromachi period (1336-1573), reached its height during the Sengoku period (1467-1615). This happened with the birth/creation of the technique called Bodaimoto at Bodaisan Shoryakuji Temple. Hence, Nara then became the birthplace of ‘refined’ Sake in Japan.
We have a lot to thank those Monks for! Chobei-san did a remarkable job of preparing a huge amount of information in the form of slides and an even more remarkable job at presenting this session in English! It was great to get an insight not only into the history of sake in Nara but also into this fascinating brewery and their philosophy. The philosophy behind ‘Takacho’ at Yucho Shuzo is about honouring tradition and passing down culture to future generations. Together with a respect for tradition, they are embracing their own evolution through modern technology and progressive thinking (and drinking). With their Kaze no Mori line, they are renewing conventions and creating new traditions, not to mention some incredibly delightful Sake! Sake made by a set of rules, which include: Unpasteurised Undiluted Unfiltered (after pressing) A truly great, educational and fun session with so much covered, so much learnt ~ yet still so much to learn! A HUGE thanks to Chobei-san for his time, energy, knowledge and passion! Thank you also to all who attended the Zoom Room and to those who joined via FB Live. Yucho Shuzo’s sake is available in Australia through Sake Shop.

Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 19:

Philip Harper – Kinoshita Brewery: Tamagawa

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Session 19 of took place on Monday 12 October and saw a most epic session, (some might say ‘Sake Marathon’), of Taste with the Tōji ~ every bit an absolute joy ~ with Philip Harper of Kinoshita Brewery, (Kyoto Prefecture). This session provided a wonderful opportunity to gain further insight into this fascinating brewery and its Tōji, who of course needed no introduction to the TWTT audience.
Philip was so incredibly generous with his time and knowledge/information ~ speaking in a candid manner on many topics, including brewing methods, spontaneous fermentation, temperatures, ageing and of course, serving it (sake) hot… (we’re taking beyond atsukan). Philip encouraged the audience to step outside the square ~ to play around with different serving temperatures and to NOT be afraid to crank up the heat when it comes to Tamagawa ~ i.e Ice Breaker at (a minimum) 70 degrees Celsius. I can’t say I’ve ever tried a Namazake at such a high temperature, but I will vouch for it being delicious at one after trying it last night ~ (as were the others I tried at the same or similar temp). The two hours allocated for the session flew by and, with so much more for Philip to say and the audience to hear, ask and learn, somehow morphed into a massive 5.5 hours (for the stayers anyway ~ of which Philip graciously was one). A MAMMOTH effort and a most insightful session for all who attended (be for the 2 or 5+ hours). A huge and heartfelt thank you to Philip Harper for an incredible TWTT session. Thank you to all who attended the Zoom Room and to those who tuned in to the session via FB Live.
Tamagawa sake is available in Australia through Sakenet.

Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 18:

A Special Event with

Rumiko Moriki & Akira Oze

Moriki_Oze_Banner What a joy and an absolute honour!  Session 18 of TWTT took place on Monday 5 October and was a most unique one. We were joined by two living legends, from two different fields, brought together by a Manga comic and their shared passion, inspiring a 30 year friendship that has continued to this day. The dynamic friendship and mutual respect between Rumiko Moriki and Mr. Akira Oze filled the Zoom room with a beautiful energy and it was a pleasure to listen to their individual stories and the story of their friendship ~ which began when Rumiko’s family brewery fell upon hard times some 30 years ago. It was during this time she obtained a copy of the Manga, Natsuko no Sake: The story of Natsuko Saeki, the daughter of a sake brewing family who is working for an advertising company in Tokyo. She returns to her family’s home in the countryside and finds her brother, Yasuo, searching for a “phantom” rice seed called Tatsu Nishiki, rumored to create a new form of sake. Shortly after he finds the seeds, he passes away suddenly. Natsuko quits her job and begins working at the sake brewery to honour and achieve Yasuo’s dream of making the best sake in Japan with Tatsu Nishiki rice. It was late one evening that Rumiko began reading Natsuko’s story. She was so enthralled in the story that she read the complete volume that night. She had been so touched and inspired by the story that as soon as she finished reading the book, she penned a letter to Mr. Akira Oze that same evening. Her letter was one of gratitude but also to tell Mr. Akira Oze of her own story, which included many parallels to Natsuko’s story, including sharing the same birthday! When Rumiko read that Natsuko’s birthday was the same as her own, she thought it must be some kind of fate; that she came upon this story, which resonated so deeply and gave her a strong sense of encouragement and inspiration. She posted her letter to Mr. Oze the following morning. Rumiko had not expected a reply from Mr. Oze, so when one came, she felt extremely humbled and delighted. After reading Rumiko’s letter, Mr. Oze himself was touched by her story – he exclaimed “Natsuko is a real living character!” He too was astonished and intrigued by the parallels of these two stories and wanted to meet Rumiko and help her in her own quest to make delicious sake, get her family’s brewery back on its feet and learn as much as she could from other brewers. Mr. Oze’s introductions to Rumiko proved invaluable and through these introductions, mentors came into Rumiko’s life who helped her not only achieve her goals but surpass them. Such a beautiful story, a delightful friendship, and an honour to spend over three hours with Rumiko and Mr. Oze last night. ( An unexpected treat that they both stayed on for some time after the 2 hour session finished ). Thank you so much to the ever amazing Rumiko Moriki and Akira Oze for such a wonderful opportunity and a most enjoyable event. Thank you also to my good friend Harald deRopp for a wonderful job with translation, and of course an extended thank you to all who attended.

Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 17:

Takashi Sasaki – Kinmon Akita Brewery

Kinmon Banner web Monday 28 September saw Session 17 of TWTT take place, as we headed to Akita Prefecture to visit Kinmon Akita Brewery. We were joined by the brewery’s President, Takashi Sasaki. Kinmon, in its current incarnation, was formed in 1973, however, the brewery dates back to 1936 when the original company, Akita Fuji Sake Brewery, was established. After an introduction from Sasaki-san, who also showed us some great footage of the brewery’s old ‘Fune’ press and some other brewery visuals, we learnt about the brewery’s strong focus on aged sake. The brewery lists their 3 principles as: UMAMI (of rice), maturing and blending ~ with a mission to expand the possibility of sake based on these three principles. They, of course, produce other styles of Sake too such as their X3 range, which, as was discussed, uses around three times the amount of Kōji (than ‘average’), with a couple from that range using Shiro Kōji (White Kōji) instead of the more common, (for Sake), Yellow Kōji. Kinmon also produce a range of Umeshu, all made using a base of Junmai Sake, some with a base of blended aged Sake.
An interesting and informative session and another brewery for many to add to their itinerary once travel opens up again. A huge thank you to Takashi Sasaki for his time, which went well over the scheduled 2 hours, and also to my Sake buddy in Sendai, Justin Velgus who translated for the event. Finally, thank you to all those who attended Session 17. It’s always great to see Sake lovers coming together from all over the world – united by our love/interest/curiosity for Sake. Kinmon sake is available in Australia through Supersake.

Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 16:

Tetsuya Sakai, Chiyo Shuzo

Chiyo Banner W Monday 21 September saw Session 16 of TWTT ‘travel’ to Nara to spend time with Tetsuya Sakai, Tōji and Kuramoto @ Chiyo Shuzo. What an honour to listen to this fascinating man speak to us about his life, his journey into Sake, his brewing methods, his philosophies, his hopes and so much more during this insightful and most enjoyable 2 hour session.
Still so much we could’ve asked and so much more to learn about this Nara-based brewery producing incredible Sake. No doubt Sakai-san will have many new visitors to his brewery once TWTT attendees are allowed to travel again. I’ve said before that one of the things I love most about this project is that every session is so different ~ each brewery has their own unique story. It is such an honour to get to hear these stories from the wonderful storytellers, be it the Tōji and/or the Kuramoto (in some cases the same person is both), who in addition to their brewery’s story, have their own unique story. It was an honour to get an insight into Sakai-san’s story last night and it’s always an honour to drink Chiyo Shuzo Sake. A heartfelt thank you to Sakai-san, to Yoram Ofer for yet another wonderful translation, and of course to all who attended for their support not only for this project and the breweries involved but for Sake in general.

Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 15:

Kazuhiko Yamada,

Yamada Shoten

Yamada banner w Session 15 of Taste with the Tōji took place on Monday 14 September and featured Yamada Shoten, who are located in the beautiful, mountainous Gifu Prefecture. We were joined by the brewery’s president (Kuramoto), Kazuhiko Yamada. Yamada Shoten was founded in 1868, and is located in Yaotsu, (in southern Gifu), a basin plain with an elevation of 120 meters, with low hills extending to the distant Kiso mountain range. After Yamada-san’s introduction, he gave us a wonderful virtual tour of inside the kura. With the knowledge that this brewery’s volume of production was quite small, at only 250 koku (45 kiloliters) a year, it was rather surprising (for many) to see how big in size this brewery is, structurally ~ one attendee even commented it’s like a ‘kura mansion’. The scale of the brewery made more sense once Yamada-san explained that at one time they were producing around 3000 koku (roughly 540 kiloliters), but decided to scale back production in order to focus on quality rather than quantity. It was also surprising to see that this, now small production, brewery has their own rice milling machine, which ultimately gives them more quality control from start to finish in producing their sake. Yamada-san explained that being able to monitor the rice during milling, allows them to plan their brewing based on the condition of the grains and bran. The kura tour was followed by a presentation and discussion based around a selection of their sake, including the Mukashi no Manma – which is currently the only sake from Yamada Shoten available in Australia. This is also the only bottle they produce in the rather rare size of 900ml ~ which I personally think is a great size. This bottle has a rather striking label with lovely sentiments as well as a cute little shoulder label depicting Yamada-san’s great grandparents. It’s no secret that COVID has had an impact on sake breweries and the industry in general, but on top of that, this year saw some devastating weather: heavy rain, high winds and floods causing havoc throughout various parts of Japan. On July 8th, the area of Yaotsu and surrounds were hit by heavy rain and high winds. Yamada Shoten was damaged as a result. The old kura lost part of its roof, and tiles were lost in around twenty spots, making the building unusable for a time. They are currently still working to restore the brewery to its former glory, despite the added difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, they are still able to begin brewing on schedule this coming season and we wish them all the best in their efforts of restoration and may they overcome the pitfalls and setbacks of 2020 and have a successful 2021! A huge thank you to Yamada-san for an enjoyable and insightful session – and another huge thank you to Jimmy Rion for being a most excellent translator for this session.

Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 14:

Masaru Terada,

Terada Honke

Terada Honke banner w On Monday 7 September, Session 14 of Taste with the Tōji took us to Chiba Prefecture for a delightful 2 hours with Masaru Terada, the 24th generation owner of Terada Honke. A few technical issues allowed us only a fleeting glimpse of inside the kura before the brewery’s wifi chose to not cooperate, however, in some ways this was a blessing in disguise as it gave us more quality & question time with Terada-san and his undivided dedication and attention. Something for which I’m sure many were grateful for as there is so much to learn from this brewery, with such a rich history, who have been brewing Sake for almost 350 years!
Terada-san’s wife, Satomi-san, also joined us after cooking up a storm, to present an array of dishes designed to pair with Terada Honke Sake ~ leaving us salivating and wishing we could teleport to Chiba to join them and savour the delicious looking food. Despite wifi issues preventing us from touring around the brewery, Terada-san was a man of his word, keeping his promise and treating attendees to a beautiful performance; singing a brewing song, with Satomi-san joining in and attendees clapping along ~ such a treat and such an honour! And a most delightful way to close a fabulous 2 hour session. I’m so grateful to Masaru Terada and Satomi-san for sharing their time and their joy with all who attended, and of course most grateful, as always, to Yoram Ofer for another wonderful translation. Big love and thanks to all who attended, forming what was the biggest ‘Zoom Room’ crowd yet for TWTT. Terada Honke Sake is available in Australia via Black Market Sake.

Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 13:

Yasuhiko and Maki Niida,

Niida Honke

Niida Honke Banner_w

Session 13 of Taste with the Tōji was held on Monday 24th August. This session took us to Niida Honke, located in Fukushima Prefecture. We were joined by current Kuramoto/Tōji, Yasuhiko Niida and his wife Maki Niida. Translating for this session was the fabulous Justin Potts.

Attendees were treated to a wonderful and very thorough presentation from Niida-san on the brewery’s history, philosophies, aspirations and progress.

Established in 1711, Niida-Honke are located in Tamuramachi, a countryside town in central-west Fukushima prefecture. Following on from the seventeen generations of brewers who dedicated their lives to brewing sake, current Tōji, Yasuhiko Niida, now the 18th successor at the brewery, is dedicated to producing the purest sake he can and is forever looking to improve the brewery’s sustainability.

Niida Honke are pioneers in the production and use of naturally grown rice, which they call Shizenmai – a term that translates as ‘natural rice’. They have been brewing with Shizenmai for over 50 years and in 2009 their rice was accredited with an organic farm products certification by Organic JAS. All rice utilised by the brewery is cultivated without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilises, instead they use methods such as hand weeding and employ the use of tadpole shrimp in the rice paddies. Pest control is policed by introducing frogs to the rice fields.

The water used by the brewery is provided by two sources on the company’s 600 plus acres of land. One is hard well water, Takenouchi no Idomizu, (used for the Shizenshu brand), from a well situated near the brewery’s own rice fields, the other is soft spring water, Mizunuki no Wakimizu, (used for the Odayaka brand), sourced from a mountain on the brewery’s land and collected from an underground spring.

Niida Honke is a brewery with so much history, carrying on the family’s rich traditions, adapting and progressing along the way, working towards a future where they are fully self-sustainable. Beautiful people, with a beautiful philosophy, making beautiful Sake (and some other fabulous products) ~ whilst bringing people together and creating a wonderful community in their part of the world. A big thank you to Yasuhiko and Maki Niida, and also to Justin Potts for a most inspiring session. Niida Honke Sake can be purchased in Australia online via Supersake.

Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 12:

Shin and Eiko Kodama,

Kodama Jozo (Taiheizan)

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Session 12 of Taste with the Tōji was held on Monday 10th August. This session took us to Kodama Jozo, producers of Taiheizan Sake, located in Akita Prefecture. We were joined by the brewery’s 5th generation owner, Shinichiro Kodama and his wife Eiko Kodama.

A fun and educational session learning about the history and progression of Kodama Jozo ~ from soy sauce and miso to the production of Sake ~ as well as their Akita Kimoto method.
The Kodama Brewery was founded in 1879 in picturesque Katagami City, Akita Prefecture, northwest of Japan. Originally, the Kodama family started their business by making soy sauce and miso for local consumers. In 1913, Tomokichi Kodama, the second generation of the family business began making Sake by the name “TAIHEIZAN” (太平山). This brand name comes from the towering mountain in Akita City, Mt. Taihei (“Great Peaceful Mountain”), which for centuries has been the area’s spiritual symbol. The Kodama Brewery developed a modern, modified version of the traditional Kimoto starter method, known as the “Akita Kimoto Method” to create a strong moto (starter ferment). For the Akita Kimoto method, a hand-operated electric propelled pole is used to stir and pulverise steamed rice and koji in a vat. This creates a sticky, paste-like anaerobic environment, enabling acceleration of anaerobic bacteria, namely lactic-acid bacteria, to grow naturally without being infected by wild/other bacteria in the air. The resulting moto is clean and resistant to the cold Akita climate for long fermentations. History, humour, some great food pairing suggestions, a NASA collaboration, Brazilian inspired cocktails, a lantern festival, a very impressive pulverising power-tool-super-mixer ~ and even an Australian element via toy koalas! Again, thank you to Eiko-san and Shin-san for sharing their time, warmth and knowledge with us all. Taiheizan Sake can be purchased in Australia via Supersake.

Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 11:

‘The Origin of Ginjo Sake’

with Miho Imada & Andrew Russell,

Imada Shuzo

Imada Shuzo_Origin of Ginjo

Session 11 of Taste with the Tōji was held on Monday 3 August. This session took us to back to Imada Shuzo, ~ where the Taste with the Tōji began with session 1 back in April ~ producers of Fukucho Sake, located in lovely Akitsu, in Hiroshima Prefecture.

It was an honur to be able to re-visit this amazing brewery and catch up again with the awesome duo – Miho Imada and Andrew Russell. In April, the session focused on the two limited releases from Imada Shuzo ~ Henpei & Genkei. This time, the focus was on ‘The Origin of Ginjo Sake’.

Attendees got to ‘geek out about Ginjo’ thanks to Andy’s wonderful presentation & history lesson, delving into ‘The Origin of Ginjo Sake’, the story of Miura Senzaburo and looking a little at the history of the Akitsu region and of course, Hattanso rice, before tasting some delicious Fukucho Sake. In addition to Andy’s presentation, Imada-san presented us with a truly special virtual and visual treat as we got to view some cherished and incredibly important documents, hand written by Senzaburo himself. A magnificent piece of Sake history preserved by the Imada family.

I’m certain everyone who attended understood just how special this was and were most grateful to Imada-san for sharing this precious part of Sake history with us.

This was such a unique and informative session. In fact, each session is so wonderfully different from every other session, which makes this project even more exciting and enjoyable. I must thank Miho Imada and Andrew Russell and all of the other brewers and kurabito, and translators, who have so generously given their time, knowledge and support for this project.

I must also extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone who attended this session and/or previous sessions, for their continued support for this project. It means a lot, not only to me but to all the brewers and brewery staff involved. It’s a tough time for many and the love for and interest in Sake and support for the industry from all attendees means more to them now than ever before.

Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 10:

Hiroaki Oku & Kotaro Oku,

Akishika Shuzo

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Session 10 of Taste with the Tōji was held on Monday 27th July. This session saw us catch up with the crew from Akishika Shuzo who are located in Osaka Prefecture. The Zoom location this time was a little different to previous events… as we were invited into the home of Hiroaki and Mariko Oku.

It was a privilege for all involved to be welcomed (albeit virtually) into Oku-san’s living room and get an insight into the heart and soul of this brewery via a wonderful presentation from their second son Kotaro-san (who is in charge of rice cultivation at Akishika) and through the wonderful kurabito who all got a chance to introduce themselves, hold up a favourite Sake and tell us why they love working at Akishika…. and we can see why they do…

Not only are they getting the opportunity to produce incredible Sake alongside Owner/Tōji Hiroaki Oku, but Oku-san’s passion and dedication, along with his heartfelt philosophy and dedicated methods of organic rice farming/cultivation are so awe inspiring and worthy of all the praise and all the respect, not only from his team, but also from his consumers.

This session was so incredibly informative as well as being a whole lot of fun ~ a most enjoyable event, particularly for those of us in Melbourne who are currently in lockdown and can’t go out for a drink/sake with friends… but for a couple of hours I felt like I was drinking in a room full of 50 (+) people.

And a huge and heartfelt thank you to the Oku family, Akishika team and to Yoram Ofer, once again, for his support and translation.

Akishika Sake can be ordered online in Australia via Black Market Sake.

You can also watch a beautiful short video, featuring Oku-san, that Black Market Sake recently produced, (in addition to the one on the Akishika page of their website), here. This gorgeous video will give you a small window of insight into Oku-san’s philosophy on all-natural / organic rice cultivation.

Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 9:

Teruaki Hashimoto, Miyoshino Jozo

Hashimoto_Teruaki

Session 9 of Taste with the Tōji was held on Monday 20th July. This session took us to Miyoshino Jozo, producers of Hanatomoe Sake, located in beautiful Nara Prefecture. We were joined by the brewery’s Owner/Tōji, Teruaki Hashimoto, who Zoomed in from the brewery office and gave us a wonderful presentation and an insight into his brewing philosophy at Miyoshino Jozo. We were again most fortunate to have Yoram Ofer join us as translator for this event.

Hashimoto-san focuses on yeast which he believes is the best representation of the local environment. He uses only naturally occurring yeast in the Yamahai and Bodaimoto versions of Hanatomoe Sake. He explained his reason being that he does not want to dilute the character of these Sake by adding cultivated yeast ~ thus creating Sake that is truly interesting and unique. I must add, also incredibly delicious. I was already a big fan of Hanatomoe Sake but after listening to Hashimoto-san talk about his methods, philosophies and vision, there is now so much more to love and respect about this Sake.

Hashimoto-san was incredibly generous with his time and knowledge and after the ‘little over 2 hour session’ he gave the ‘stayers’ another 90 minutes of his time as he made his way through the array of small dishes he had prepared to show us some food pairing suggestions during the session.

Miyoshino Jozo’s Hanatomoe Sake can be ordered online in Australia via Black Market Sake.

Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 8:

Miho Fujita & Toshi Yokomichi, Miyoshikiku Shuzo

Mioya_event_banner

Session 8 of Taste with the Tōji was held on Monday 29th June. This session took us to Mioya Shuzo, producers of YUHO Sake, located in Ishikawa Prefecture. We were joined by the brewery’s President: Miho Fujita, who Zoomed in from the brewery and Tōji: Toshi Yokomichi, who Zoomed in from Osaka.

We started the virtual brewery tour a little earlier than initially planned, this, I was told, was to try and beat the bears that roam the area after dark.

After the brewery tour Fujita-san gave a wonderful presentation filled with history, fun facts, insightful stories, (including her own remarkable story), and some great food pairing suggestions. Fujita-san confessed she knew nothing about Sake when she quit her successful and secure position in marketing at Mattel, (makers of Hot Wheels), to head home and help run the family brewery after her uncle passed away in 2003.

Prior to Fujita-san joining the brewery, Mioya Shuzo were only producing Futsushu (table Sake). Fujita-san not only became Company President, she also became a Sake Brewer with a vision of creating a new line of full-bodied, high quality Sake. Thus the YUHO range of Sake was born. She works alongside their Tōji, Toshi Yokomichi, who joined the kura in 2006.  Such an inspiring story and some incredible Sake!

The YUHO range of Sake takes its name from the Japanese phonetics for ‘UFO’. Apparently, the area in which the brewery is located, has had the most number of UFO sightings in Japan!

The translator for this session was the one and only Yoram Ofer, to whom I am incredibly grateful to for his help and support for this session and this project.

Mioya Shuzo’s YUHO Sake can be ordered online in Australia via Black Market Sake.

Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 7:

Kitaba Hiroji & Darryl Cody Brailsford, Watanabe Shuzo

Watanabe_event_banner Session 7 of Taste with the Tōji was held on Monday 22nd June. This session took us to Watanabe Shuzo, producers of HOURAI Sake, located in Gifu Prefecture, Japan. We were joined by the brewery’s Tōji: Kitaba Hiroji, brewer: Darryl Cody Brailsford and sales/marketing and all-rounder: Akane Kimoto. A beautifully humble team. Attendees enjoyed a brewery tour and a session filled with great discussion, including an insight into their, now somewhat famous in Japan, ‘laughing fermentation’. Watanabe-san, Kitaba-san and the brewery team actually ‘entertain’ their Sake while it ferments with the joyful laughter of Japanese comedians and their audience. They believe that if they can keep their Moromi (mash) happy while it ferments, then this will ultimately have the same ‘happy’ effect on consumers when they drink Sake from Watanabe Shuzo. The fermentation area is basically filled with the sound of this recorded laughter playing 365 days a year (and I assume 366 on a leap year). Happy tanks making happy Sake! Very grateful to Cody-san, Kitaba-san and Kimoto-san for their generous time spent with everyone who attended and for sharing their stories, knowledge, laughter an d passion for Sake! HOURAI Sake can be purchased in Australia online via Supersake.

Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 6:

Ryoichiro Mamiya, Miyoshikiku Shuzo

Miyoshikiku TWTT

Session 6 of Taste with the Tōji was held on Sunday 14th June. This session took us to Miyoshikiku Shuzo, located in Tokushima, Japan. We were joined by the brewery’s Tōji, the punk rocker of Sake brewing, Ryoichiro Mamiya and his youngest daughter, Koharu. It was a real family affair with Mamiya-san’s wife, Kazuko, joining us briefly and their other two daughters, Ayane and Orie also logged in to say hello ~ we also got to meet the family cat.

Attendees were treated to a most entertaining session full of music (a most eclectic selection at that), lots of laughter, a virtual brewery tour, (they were actually still brewing), and of course, SAKE! We even got a look inside Mamiya-san’s most impressive ‘Music Room’, (in addition to his incredible sound room inside the brewery!).

Miyoshikiku are producing some super fun and funky Sake and Mamiya-san certainly does things his own way and we love him and his Sake all the more for that. Big love and thanks to the Mamiya family and everyone who attended this unique, fun and educational session. A special thank you also to the awesome ‘Sake Advocate’, Julian Houseman, for translating for this session. You can check out Julian’s post on Miyoshikiku from a few years ago here.

This session was living proof that Punks Not Dead and Nihonshu is (most definitely) Not Dead!  ~ Kanpai to that!

Miyoshikiku Sake is available in Australia through Supersake.

Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 5:

Kuniko & Takahito Mukai, Mukai Shuzo

Mukai TWTT

Session 5 of Taste with the Tōji was held on Monday 1st June. This session took us to Mukai Shuzo, located in the picturesque fishing town of Ine, on the Northern tip of Kyoto, Japan. (The area is also home to the beautiful Ine no Funaya Houses). We were joined by the brewery’s Tōji, Kuniko Mukai and her brother Takahito Mukai, who is the brewery’s President. I had the pleasure of meeting Kuniko Mukai last year, during her visit to Australia, at an event hosted by Black Market Sake at Tamura Sake Bar. I had also planned a visit to this brewery in April (this year), however, the visit (and trip to Japan) were put on hold due to COVID-19 and travel restrictions. After hearing Kuniko’s story and seeing the inside (and outside) of this unique brewery, I am sure I am not alone in wanting to visit Kuniko-san and her brother and share a Sake on the raft! I think she may have a convoy on her hands when restrictions are lifted!

Mukai Shuzo are the producers of some of the most unique Sake in Japan, including the Ine Mankai, a Sake made with an ancient strain of red rice, (the grain itself is actually a dark purple – hence its name ‘Murasaki’). The Sake itself is a vibrant reddish colour. Attendees of this Zoom event were treated to a wonderful intro-presentation, informative Q&A session, and a virtual brewery tour from Kuniko-san, whilst we sipped on some delicious Mukai Sake. We heard some wonderful stories from Kuniko-san, her character is as vibrant as the Ine Mankai and her laughter is infectious. The dynamic sister-brother duo also gave us in-depth information about each of their Sake, along with serving temperature suggestions and food pairing recommendations ~ the most unexpected and intriguing being the Masurao Junmai Yamahai Genshu poured over a cup of vanilla ice cream. If anyone else had suggested this pairing, I would have dismissed it – but when the brewer herself recommends it, I’m definitely curious. As I am sure many others now are.

Mukai Shuzo’s Sake can be ordered online in Australia via Black Market Sake. I’m off to buy some vanilla ice cream!

Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 4:

Maiko & Soichiro Tsuji, Tsuji Honten (Gozenshu)

Gozenshu TWTT

Session 4 of Taste with the Tōji was held on Monday 25th May. This session took us to Tsuji Honten (producers of Gozenshu Sake) in beautiful Okayama, Japan. We were joined by the brewery’s Tōji: Maiko Tsuji and her brother Soichiro Tsuji, who is the brewery’s President. I had the pleasure of meeting Maiko Tsuji last year during her visit to Australia, working along side her at Sake Matsuri in Melbourne. I had also planned a visit to this brewery in April (this year), however, the visit (and trip to Japan) were put on hold due to COVID-19 and travel restrictions. After this event, I have an even stronger desire to visit this fascinating brewery.

Tsuji Honten are pioneers of the ‘Gozenshu’ Bodaimoto starter method. They are also well known for their use of Omachi rice, which was founded in 1859 in Okayama. During this session, we delved into these two topics ~ the ancient starter method and the oldest existing pure strain of Sake rice. Soichiro informed us that the plan for Gozenshu, moving forward, is to only brew with Omachi rice. A bold move, but it makes sense – and there were no complaints from the many Omachi fans in attendance, myself included!

Attendees of this Zoom event were treated to a wonderful intro-presentation, informative Q&A session, and a virtual brewery tour from Maiko-san, whilst we sipped on some delicious Gozenshu Sake. I, along with a number of Australian attendees, enjoyed the 1859 Prototype Nama (a relatively new product) and the Akihikari Nama (one they will not be releasing again). Both were delicious and I look forward to more new releases under the Gozenshu label.

 You can read more about Tsuji Honten/Gozenshu on their website here.

Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 3:

Hayato Shoji, Kidoizumi Shuzo

Kidoizumi Taste with the Toji

Session 3 of Taste with the Tōji was held on Sunday 17th May. This session took us to Kidoizumi Shuzo in Chiba, Japan, where we were joined by the brewery’s Tōji/Owner: Hayato Shoji and the exceptional Mr. Justin Potts. I had the pleasure of visiting this picturesque brewery in person in early 2019. You can read a little more about that visit and the brewery here. Kidoizumi Shuzo have been brewing Sake since 1879 and were one of the first breweries in Japan to offer Koshu (aged Sake) commercially in the 1960’s. They have a collection of aged products at Kidoizumi ~ with the oldest being from 1967. Kidoizumi are renowned for their Hot-Yamahai method which is used for every Sake they make. This method involves creating the Yamahai starter in very warm conditions. They have been using and mastering this method since 1956 and are the only brewery in Japan doing so.

Attendees of this Zoom event were treated to a wonderful intro-presentation as well as a virtual brewery tour from Justin and Shoji-san, whilst we sipped on some delicious Kidoizumi Sake. A wonderful way for those in Australia and Japan to spend part of their Sunday afternoon. It was also wonderful to see viewers joining in from other parts of the world including Switzerland, Hong Kong and the USA. You can read a little more about Kidoizumi Shuzo here, as well as get a little further insight into the Hayato Shoji’s story in this little Q&A piece by my Sake pal Signor Sake here. For those in Australia, you can purchase Kidoizumi Sake here through Black Market Sake.

Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 2:

Rumiko Moriki, Moriki Shuzo

Moriki Taste with the Toji

The second session in this series was held on Monday 11th May and featured Moriki Shuzo from Mie prefecture. We were fortunate to have Rumiko Moriki and her husband Hideki Moriki join us and give us an insight into their lives, their brewery and the Sake they produce. Rumiko shared some really beautiful and inspirational stories, including a heartwarming story about how the manga, Natsuko no Sake, offered her inspiration and encouragement as she took the reins when her when her father became ill and the brewery fell on very hard times. You can read a little more about this beautiful story here ~ a lovely post by Christian at Signor Sake.

Rumiko’s dedication and hard work are truly admirable and her passion is infectious. Her wonderful story touched so many of us.  We were also fortunate enough to be treated to a virtual tour of the brewery and get a little further insight as to how much work goes into making their fine hand-crafted Sake.

For those in Australia, you can purchase Moriki Sake through Black Market Sake.

Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 1:

Miho Imada, Imada Shuzo

Imada

The first session in this series was held on Monday 27th April and featured Imada Shuzo from Hiroshima. We were fortunate to have Imada Shuzo’s Tōji and President, Miho Imada, and Kurabito, Andrew Russell, join us for an insightful virtual event and tasting – which featured Imada-san’s Henpei and Genkei sake. A big thanks to Miho and Andrew, who were incredibly generous with their time and knowledge – and also a big thank you to all those who purchased the Sake and attended this event. We had around 33 participants and most were able to get their hands on some Imada Sake for the event, which came together very quickly and the response was overwhelming, proving that the Sake momentum is still well and truly alive during this uncertain time!

For those curious about the Sake we tasted on the evening, you can read more about them here. Also, anyone in Australia wishing to purchase the Henpei and/or Genkei can enquire through Supersake in Perth, who are Australia’s only importer of Imada Fukucho Sake.

Thank you to Blossom Kitty for her blog post about the event which you can read here.

You can read more about Miho Imada via many sources, here is just one article ~  and be sure to check out Andrew Russell’s Sake blog Origin Sake.

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Turning Virtual in the Age of COVID-19

The current world events of late have been devastating to so many, both on a personal and professional level. With the current social distancing measures in place, the options for those in the hospitality industry are certainly few and limiting. Obviously, at this point in time, it is not possible to hold public tastings, masterclasses and pairing dinners at any of Melbourne’s delightful venues ~ however, the industry has in some way become more inter-connected and with the use of current technology, despite certain limitations, we are still able to collaborate, connect and share our passion for Sake with others. I’m thrilled to be able to host an upcoming series of online events titled ‘Taste with the Tōji’ via Zoom ~ giving Sake enthusiasts an opportunity to connect with like minded people and raise a glass alongside, (virtually), the brewers behind the brew. Each session will feature a different Sake brewery and Tōji (and/or Kurabito) and give participants the chance to partake in a group tasting and have their questions answered by the brewers themselves. My hope in doing these online events is to unite Sake drinkers and enthusiasts of all levels, whilst at the same time, connecting the brewers with their wider audience/consumers. One positive to this virtual platform is the ability to be able to connect with a broader audience, not limited by distance/location ~ perhaps a little by time zones, but where there’s a will there’s a way perhaps. The first in this series will feature the fabulous Miho Imada the Tōji from Imada Shuzo in Hiroshima and Kurabito, Andrew Russell. The Sake tasting component for this event will feature the recent Henpei and Genkei ~ more can be read about these Sake here. ~ KANPAI!
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