Taste with the Tōji project
Sake Mistress presents:
Taste with the Tōji
Next Session: Monday 9 August
Seto Shuzo ~ with Takanobu Mori
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.
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 email@example.com or via my contact page on this site.
Updates will be posted on a regular basis. Those in Australia who have already registered for future events or attended previous ones can purchase Sake from:
Moriki, Mukai, Kidoizumi, Mioya, Miyoshino, Akishika, Terada Honke and Chiyo Shuzo, Heiwa Shuzo (umeshu and yuzushu available only) Miyako-Bijin 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, Benten Musume (Ohta Shuzo), Chikusen (Tajime Shuzo), Suiryu (Kubo Honke), Hakuinmasamune (Takashima Shuzo), Juji Asahi (Asahi Shuzo) are available in Australia via Sakenet
Kaze no Mori (Yucho Shuzo) , Yamamoto, Daruma Masamune (Shiraki Shuzo) is available via SakeShop.
Marumoto Shuzo, Yonezawa Shuzo
are available via Sakelier
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 52:
Another delightful TWTT session was held last night. This one was session number 52 in the TWTT series ~ where we headed to Ibaraki Prefecture to chat with the delightful Chisa Aoki from Aoki Shuzo.
Aoki Shuzo was established in Koga City, (NOT the Ninja one!) 1831.
They are currently the only sake brewery in Koga City, Ishikawa.
This small, family run brewery is best known for their Gokeiji label, which is brewed using rice grown locally (in ibaraki) ~ including Hatachi Nishiki and Fukumaru varieties. The name Gokeiji, itself, translates as ‘greatest celebration’, quite fitting as last night felt very much like a joyful celebration and an exciting look at the future of Aoki Shuzo though Chisa-san and her brother, Yoshinobu-san, who will succeed their father, Shigenobu-san, in running the brewery.
It was wonderful to be able to say hello to both her brother, and her father, towards the end of the session… oh yeah, and not forgetting Yamoto-chan, (the Kura cat!). The song ‘Family Affair’ had already started in my head when a few people aptly typed it in the chat. Clearly, this is a family who love sake… and we at TWTT love that!
In terms of size/production, Aoki Shuzo are relatively small, producing around 300 koku per year…. however, despite this, they have a surprisingly large range/line-up of sake.
It was interesting to hear, that prior to working at the brewery, Chisa-san was pursuing a career in nursing, (a story we have heard before in the TWTT series with Shintani-san), however, despite enjoying her work, one day, in a discussion with her boss about the future, her boss had encouraged her to do something that only she can do… For Chisa-san, this resonated with her and a light suddenly went on! In that moment, she realised just how important the family brewery was, and what a unique opportunity she had to follow in her father’s footsteps. The shoes fit her perfectly and she’s never looked back.
Her father, in his brief chat with us, mentioned how excited he was to have his daughter, and his son, as his successors – leading the way forward for their family brewery. He believes that exciting things are to come for Aoki Shuzo!
A huge thank you to Chisa-san for sharing her time, enthusiasm, passion and knowledge with us all. An extension of that huge thank you must go out to Harald deRopp for a wonderfully enthusiastic interpretation – he’s clearly a big fan of this brewery and was delighted to be able to introduce Aoki Shuzo to a new audience last night. Thanks Harald!
Thank you also to Shigenobu-san, Yoshinobu-san, (and Yamoto-chan), and of course, to everyone who attended this session.
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 51:
Asahi Shuzo | Juji Asahi
Monday 19 July saw a truly delightful session, the 51st session in the TWTT series.
A long session, and a long nijikai (or ‘after party’), that still left us with so much yet to cover. Pretty sure session No. 2 for this brewery will be happening sometime!
The brewery I speak of is Asahi Shuzo, producers of Juji Asahi, located in Shimane Prefecture, and last night we had the absolute pleasure and honour of chatting to the lovely Eriko Terada.
This was always going to be a fun session and last night saw a few things done a little differently in a most delightful fashion. A few firsts for TWTT and I’m most grateful for some of the wonderful ideas thought up by Eriko-san and Justin for this session. As mentioned during the session, Justin visited the brewery late last week and together, they nutted out some fun ideas for this session for the TWTT audience to enjoy! I just wish I could’ve been there to join them… but these online events continue to be a great way for many of us to stay connected to, and within, the sake community.
It was also great to see a handful of other brewers from previous sessions attend the event last night.
The session started on the streets, a TWTT first, as we got a virtual tour of the area surrounding the brewery…. a said 5 minute walk from Izumo station. Remarkably easy to get to for a brewery of this nature, and one creating exceptional handcrafted sake. I think members of the Japanese audience were ready to jump on a train to Izumo station after enjoying this session ~ and most of us outside of Japan, who are yet to visit Shimane, have certainly added it to their ‘wishlist’ itinerary.
Eriko-san then walked us to the brewery, which is located in a shōtengai (shopping mall) that is dotted with some fine looking eateries and an array of shops, including a local sake store. On entering the brewery’s charming tasting room and shop area, we were given a quick look inside their ‘secret cellar’ which sports a sturdy door made from the wood of an old kioke barrel.
Back in the tasting room, Eriko-san’s husband Kouichi-san was there waiting to say hello and to introduce a couple of bottles from their line-up, including a sake they make for Izumo Taisha (Izumo Shrine). すごい!
After a quick Kanpai! with this dynamic duo we headed on a virtual tour of the brewery itself. Of course, like many breweries at this time of the year, not much was happening inside the kura, but it is always fascinating to see the inside these wonderful buildings that have such an impressive history ~ this particular one being around 100 years old.
Back in the tasting room, the conversation flowed freely as sake flowed amongst a group of keen participants. So many things covered, yet so many things not covered ~ with the official session hitting a little over 3.5 hours…. the nijikai, almost just as long! With Eriko-san outstaying me by a mile! Kudos! So generous with her time and a wonderful storyteller and communicator.
Eriko-san, in another TWTT first, took us on a little trip outside the brewery to check in with a couple of local eating establishments. Unfortunately, (or fortunately considering the current goings on), both places were a little too busy for us to engage with either but it certainly made for an intriguing element and those venues are now on many people’s list as ‘must visits’. A little later, her fish, and some attractive side dishes, from one of the venues arrived and it all looked very delicious.
Asahi Shuzo is a small brewery with a big heart, a big heart shared by Eriko-san, who is essentially the guiding force at the brewery. She wears many hats and it’s important to point out that she is involved in every aspect of the brewery ~ her and her husband basically share the role we know as Tōji, and everything they make is thoughtfully crafted together.
Listening to Eriko-san talk about sake was an absolute delight. She’s a bright light full of beautiful sentiments and statements that certainly resonated with many. Speaking about the element of time and the nature of a place in relation to making kimoto… how the process of making sake, for her, involves engaging in all 5 senses…. relating sake to people and the various encounters you have with one person (or one sake). Various encounters, leaving various impressions…. Eriko-san certainly left a lasting impression on us all and we look forward to Juji Asahi Round 2 sometime in the future.
A huge thank you ( or *39! ) to Eriko Terada for sharing her time (a lot of it!), passion, sentiments, philosophy, experience, knowledge and sense of joy with us all. An extension of that huge thank you goes out to Justin Potts for a whole lot more than just a remarkable interpretation. Always more than a co-host and always going above and beyond and always delivering the goods.
*for anyone who missed the event, 39 is now our new way of saying thank you… or san kyū , thanks to Eriko-san
A big thank you (39!) to everyone who attended this event and kudos to those who stayed on after I left! A marathon effort!
For those in Australia who are yet to try Juji Asahi – you can order their sake online from Sakenet.
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 50:
Monday 12 July, 2021, saw TWTT hit its 50th session milestone as we headed to Miyagi Prefecture – for the first time in this series – to spend time with Yohei Sato, (8th generation), from Hagino Shuzo.
In another first ~ it was the first full session interpretation/translation by my sake pal Harald deRopp, who did a wonderful job!
Prior to the session, Harald and I thought it would be kind of fun to encourage everyone attending to wear a pair of glasses, in any shape, form or function. The reason for this being that Hagino Shuzo, under their label Hagi no Tsuru, produce a sake called ‘Megane Senyou’, (for glasses only)… glasses, as in the kind you wear, not drink from.
It’s fairly well known that 1st October is Nihonshu no Hi (or more commonly known outside of Japan as World Sake Day)… however, 1st October is also ‘Glasses Day’ in Japan. Inspired by this date and by the fact that all the brewers at Hagino Shuzo wear glasses, the brewery released ‘Megane Senyou’ in 2015, complete with a paper pair of glasses with every bottle, to be sure to cater for those who didn’t already have their own pair! The label continues to be popular to this day and it was wonderful to not only see some people were able to access that particular sake for last night’s session, but to see so many people, (in addition to those who require them), don a pair of glasses… in the spirit of the session!
Hagino Shuzo was founded in 1840 at the end of the Edo period. Their flagship brand is Hagi no Tsuru – the name is derived from the old name of the area: Hagino Village.
The brewery was newly constructed in 2012, after suffering damage due to the effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake a year earlier.
Sato-san had put together a comprehensive and informative 59 page powerpoint presentation for this session, covering everything from local landscape, local rice (and others), to the construction of the new brewery. As well as their shift from Yamahai to Kimoto… to their process and their product line up… and lots more.
In addition to their ‘Hagi no Tsuru’ label, the ‘Hiwata’ label was introduced after Yohei Sato joined the brewery. We learned too, that 98% of the sake produced at Hagino Shuzo is Junmai.
Another enjoyable and insightful session of TWTT. A huge thank you to Yohei Sato for sharing his time, knowledge, passion and humour with us. An extension of that thank you must go out to Harald for his translation/interpretation for this session – it was clear to me from the get-go how much Harald loves this brewery so it was wonderful to have him on board for this one!
Thank you also to everyone who attended TWTT’s 50th session!
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 49:
Takashima Shuzo | Hakuinmasamune
Monday 5th July saw the 49th session of Taste with the Tōji ~ and the first time featuring a brewery from Shizuoka Prefecture.
Takashima Shuzo was founded in Namazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, in 1804. For last night’s session we were joined by Kazutaka Takashima, the current Kuramoto and Tōji at Takashima Shuzo.
Takashima-san was most generous with his time, chatting with us about philosophy, food and everything in between, for a good 3 (not the ‘set’ 2) hours. It’s becoming harder and harder to tie these sessions down to just a 2 hour period – there is always so much more to learn, to ask, to listen to.
Part of Takashima’s philosophy is focused on the importance of truly local sake being the ultimate ‘communication’ tool. He also touched on the difference between sake that is made to be enjoyed warm and sake that is enjoyable when served warm ~ with his aim being to create the latter – sake that is enjoyable at any, or every, temperature.
Food was a big feature in this session. The relationship between food and sake is something very close to Takashima’s heart. We were even treated to a live demonstration of the best way to grate fresh wasabi! Seems most of us were doing it wrong!
From simple pairings like toasted nori to some more complex dishes and flavours, Takashima’s presentation and discussion around food was not only inspiring, but left most of us incredibly hungry.
Fascinating to listen to, Takashima-san also discussed his method of heating sake: Mushikan ~ which is literally a ‘steaming’ technique. He had us braced for a live demonstration, however, the Wifi took precedence over powering his sake steamer, which then lended itself to an extra hour of conversation that included an explanation in lieu of a demonstration. I foresee a number of DIY sake steamer projects happening amongst the TWTT audience in the near future.
A truly enjoyable session and as mentioned, Takshima-san was incredibly generous in sharing his time, along with his knowledge, values, philosophy and passion, with us all. A huge thank you to Kazutaka Takashima and of course to Justin Potts for a wonderful and thoughtful interpretation of a truly unique session. Respect!
It’s such an honour to be able to feature some truly amazing breweries for TWTT and it is also an honour to be able to work alongside some truly remarkable and inspirational folks along the way!
A shoutout to all the members of the TWTT translation team!
Thank you also to everyone who attended this session.
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 48:
Kubo Honke | Suiryu
Monday 28 June saw another wonderfully insightful and enjoyable session of TWTT. This was Session #48 in the Taste with the Tōji series and saw us head to Nara Prefecture to spend a delightful 2 hours, (then another 2 for those that stayed on), with Junpei Kubo from Kubo Honke.
The brewery was established in 1702 in Uda City, Nara Prefecture.
Junpei Kubo is the 11th generation Kuramoto, and together with the current Tōji, Kato-san, has been striving to develop the best Kimoto sake they possibly can. Kato-san is considered a master of the kimoto method and his Suiryu and Kimoto no Dobu sake has a respected following throughout Japan.
Kubo Honke’s kimoto is more delicate than most kimoto out there and it is the brewery’s wish to create sake that marries perfectly with, and doesn’t overpower, the food enjoyed alongside it. Kubo-san and Kato-san run a small, tight ship at the brewery, which produces roughly 500 koku per year.
Kubo-san came into this session well prepared and was a delight to listen to. We got to hear about Kubo-san’s life in the banking industry, which included a stint in London, before coming back to his hometown and eventually leaving the banking world and taking over at the brewery.
The key phrase for last night’s session was ‘perfect fermentation’. Referred to as ‘Kanzen Hakkō’ in Japanese, this ‘perfect fermentation’ is both a philosophy and methodology, and the discussion around this was most insightful. The roots of such were traced back to Uehara-san, a name that has been brought up in a number of past TWTT sessions and a name synonymous with this philosophy and has certainly inspired many of today’s brewers.
Last night we opted to show a pre-recorded brewery tour instead of a live tour due to an unstable WiFi connection inside the kura. Kubo-san talked us through the brewing process at Kubo Honke from rice washing and steaming to koji making and the kimoto starter method.
Listening to Kubo-san was really quite fascinating and there was definitely no short answer for anything, with Kubo-san sharing in-depth and thought-out answers and information, interpreted so thoughtfully and beautifully by Justin Potts. This explains why, after the 2.5 hour session, a group of around 30 people continued to hang out with Kubo-san asking questions and engaging in conversation for yet another 2 hours.
We also had the pleasure of listening to Kubo-san perform 3 pieces of music on the cello.
Whilst I have not actually met Kubo-san in person, after a couple of extensive Zoom meetings in the lead up to last night’s event, which included a lot of laughter, as well as a lot of back and forth on the email, I feel like he’s now an old friend! I am incredibly grateful to him for sharing his time, knowledge, energy, experience and humour with us all.
That gratitude extends to Justin Potts for a marathon effort and most wonderful translation/interpretation last night. Justin’s respect for Kubo-san and this brewery was evident from the moment a Kubo Honke TWTT session was discussed and their rapport was delightful to witness both during the session and in the meetings leading up to last night.
Thank you also to everyone who attended this session.
I must also thank the guys at Sakenet
for bringing Kubo Honke’s sake to Australian shores.
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 47:
Miho Fujita, Rumiko Moriki
and Kuniko Mukai
MIOYA | MORIKI | MUKAI
Monday 21 June saw an absolutely fabulous and most enjoyable session of TWTT! I am still kind of at a loss for words as there is really nothing I can say to explain how truly incredible and inspirational I think these women are.
It was an absolute joy to spend over 2 hours hearing from three powerhouse women, Miho Fujita, Rumiko Moriki and Kuniko Mukai, who, along with the delightful Akemi Wegmüller, filled the Zoom room with a most wonderful and infectious energy.
These 3 women featured individually last year, early on in the TWTT series: (Moriki Shuzo, Session #2 | Mukai Shuzo, Session #5 | Mioya Shuzo, Session #8), so it was great to catch up with them and find out what has been happening since we last spoke and to hear their thoughts on the past year and a half and the resulting impacts ~ both good and bad.
This was only the second panel style session in the TWTT series, which now has 47 sessions under its belt, and one never quite knows what to expect with these types of events – but one thing that was a certainty, was that it was going to be a lot of fun – and that, it was!
Despite discussing some more serious issues about the state of the world and the industry, it was such an inspiration to hear how all three women have turned so many negatives into positives – and with that have been humbled by the lessons they have each learnt during this difficult time. These women have embraced change, no matter what form that has come in, and it was encouraging to hear their stories, thoughts, hopes and vision for moving forward.
From new products, to new mindsets, collaborations and cooking companions – that sake kasu shoyu looked incredible! This session may just have planted the seed (or seeds) for a number of future sessions and projects and I think we all agree that Kuniko-san needs her own cooking show! Or perhaps the Rumiko & Kuniko Music Show? Those who stuck around until the end were treated to a joyous impromptu performance! Perhaps, next time, we can hear Miho-san play the piano.
After 47 sessions of TWTT, there is definitely a strong sense of community within this group and it’s so wonderful to see that spirit has also resonated with these three women. I just hope they truly realise how wonderful we think they are!
A HUGE and heartfelt thank you to Miho Fujita, Rumiko Moriki and Kuniko Mukai for lighting up our screens and sharing their time, wisdom, recipes, music, joy and hope with us all. A huge extension of that huge thank you to Akemi Wegmüller for an incredible and dynamic translation/interpretation for this session and for adding to the infectious sense of joy that filled the Zoom room.
Thank you also to everyone who attended this session.
I must also thank Black Market Sake
for bringing sake from all three of these remarkable ladies to the shores of Australia.
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 46:
Noriyoshi & Matsumi Nagai
Nagai Shuzo | Mizubasho
Monday 14 June saw TWTT head to Gunma Prefecture for the very first time and spend a joyous couple of hours (and a bit) with Matsumi and Noriyoshi Nagai from Nagai Shuzo.
Nagai Shuzo was established in 1886 in Kawaba Village, a small, mountainous town in Northern Gunma. An area abundant with nature, which includes Oze National Park, Mt. Hotaka and Mt. Tanigawa, and of course known for its pristine water. The name ‘Kawaba’ basically translates to ‘place where the river is’. The water, of course, was the inspiration of the brewery’s founder, Shoji Nagai, who purchased land at the base of Mt. Hotaka, with access to clean, soft, mineral-rich spring water, which he saw as ideal for brewing sake.
Noriyoshi Nagai is the 6th generation Kuramoto and CEO and a pioneer in the world of naturally sparkling sake. Last night we heard a little of what was a long, determined journey that endured 5 years, a research trip to Champagne, and around 700 failures to perfect a technique: The outcome – Mizubasho PURE Sparkling Sake.
Matsumi told us that many people thought her husband, or rather, his quest, was a little mad, however, it’s amazing what determination, dedication and passion can achieve. In 2008, Noriyoshi Nagai accomplished his mission, producing the first clear sake in Japan to be naturally sparkling. Of course, as many of you know, the 2 TWTT hours go very quickly, so we really only scratched the surface of the topics: secondary bottle fermentation, authentic Champagne method and carbonated pressure…. all topics for another session I’m thinking!
After each session, there is always so much more we could discuss, so many questions still to ask and answer. We did, however, cover a lot of ground in the 2.5 hours, touching on Yukihotaka rice, (which grows in the fields right in front of the brewery), as well as the Mizubasho flower, (also known as Skunk Cabbage, but Mizubasho has a much nicer ring to it!). Mizubasho is of course the name they chose for their most well known range of sake and represents the nature that surrounds the area.
We also got to hear about their Mizubasho Artist Series and some of their collaborations with not only local artists but conservation work with the local community ~ all with a link to the Mizubasho flower, and, ultimately, with nature.
Sadly, the number of Mizubasho flowers in the area has steadily declined over recent years, (since 2007), due to the local deer discovering and devouring them, devastating the once flourishing area in Oze National Park. Working with the local community, the brewery introduced the Mizubasho re-planting project – the project aims to plant 20,000 Mizubasho, (they take 3 years to grow), by 2030.
Nagai Shuzo is certainly a brewery full of passionate projects. It was a joy to learn more about some of these projects/stories last night. A huge thank you to Matsumi Nagai and Noriyoshi Nagai for sharing their time, passion, vision, experience and philosophy with us all. A big thank you to Charles Stewart for the initial introduction and to Maki Tanaka and Harald deRopp for their wonderful help with translation/interpretation of some of the explanations and Q&A after being thrown into the deep end by me at such short notice.
Thank you also to everyone who attended the Zoom room for this event.
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 45:
Sanyouhai Shuzo | Banshu Ikkon
Monday 7th June saw yet another informative and enjoyable session of TWTT when we headed to Hyogo Prefecture, for session #45, to spend time with Yuichi Tsubosaka from Sanyouhai Shuzo, producers of Banshu Ikkon sake.
Yuichi-san is the 7th generation Kuramoto, and also happens to be the Tōji, at Sanyouhai Shuzo. The brewery was founded in 1837 in Shisō city in Hyōgo Prefecture.
Yuichi came to the brewery 12 years ago after working in a different field, followed by a brief stint working for a sake wholesaler. He then worked under the previous Tōji, who was part of the Tajima Tōji Guild, for 6 years before taking over the role at the brewery.
Sadly, in 2018, a fire broke out in the brewery, burning most of the then 182 year old brewery to the ground. Yuichi’s determination was more of a force than any fire, and they managed to resume work at the brewery within a couple of days after the devastating fire. Fortunately the main brewing building, housing the kōji room, a number of brewing tanks, pressing facilities and a storage area, was spared severe damage from the fire. The sake that had been stored inside this building was examined and had fortunately avoided any smoke taint, so bottling was able to be resumed.
Yuichi was certainly well prepared for this online session, presenting a 25 page powerpoint presentation, then switching over to his iPad to take us on a virtual tour of the new brewery building, housing a very new-age style kōji room. Stainless steel galore from the walls to the futa trays ~ you could check your reflection in almost every nook and cranny of that room!
The new building’s facilities have not yet been used for sake making but it was interesting to see they had a small tank of cider bubbling away, (apparently the area is also quite well known for their apples). The cider being a little side project and a way to ‘test’ or ‘try out’ this new environment.
It was also interesting to learn a little more about the mine in which they do all the ageing of their sake. Once a copper mine, around 800 years ago, then later used for mining silver and tin. The mine officially closed for business in 1987. Currently, the old mine site has around 8,000 isshobin of sake stored inside it! The oldest being from 22 years ago.
A huge thank you to Yuichi Tsubosaka for sharing his time, passion, knowledge and stories with us. An extension of that thank you must go out to Christopher Hughes for a great translation/interpretation for this session.
Thank you also to everyone who attended this session of TWTT.
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 44:
Shiraki Shuzo | Daruma Masamune
Monday 31 May saw TWTT head to Shiraki Shuzo in Gifu Prefecture for session #44 in this series.
Joining us for this session was the delightful Shigeri Shiraki (7th generation Kuramoto of the brewery).
Shiraki Shuzo are possibly most well known, today, for their Daruma Masamune brand of Koshu, (aged sake), but they also produce another label, (sake other than Koshu), under the name of Uszumi Zakura.
Last night, however, our focus was on their Koshu.
Shiraki Shuzo have been brewing sake since 1835, however, they did not start focusing on Koshu until 1971.
It was, in fact, Shigeri-san’s father, Yoshiji Shiraki, who decided to take the brewery in a new direction and started to focus on Koshu.
His idea was sparked when he discovered 5 ‘forgotten bottles’ of sake in the brewery. When he opened these bottles, he was impressed with not only the golden colour, but the wonderful taste. He then did a little ‘research’ into Koshu, Shigeri-san told us, and discovered that Koshu was once common enough until the end of the Edo period (around 1850), but had not been around much after the war due to the heavy liquor tax that was introduced back then.
Yoshiji-san decided he wanted to see this style of sake revived in the current market, he also wanted his brewery to make a unique product in order to survive in a market that had become more competitive in the wake of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics ~ and thus began his quest for a Koshu revival!
Many thought he was a little ‘out of his mind’ when he announced that this was the direction he wanted to take the brewery. However, Yoshiji-san stuck to his beliefs and thus began a new legacy for the brewery.
The Koshu they produce is made from Nihonbare rice, (a table rice), milled to 70%. Their aim is to maximise the amount of umami from rice.
Shigeri-san, one of three daughters, did not expect she would one day be Kuramoto of the brewery, she thought it would perhaps be her older sister who would follow in their fathers footsteps. What is clear though, is that she is where she was meant to be ~ her passion for what she is doing, and for sake, certainly shines through.
Her sisters are not involved in the brewery, however, the Tōji just happens to be her husband. Hitoshi-san took on the Shiraki name when he married into the family.
It was an absolute joy to spend time with Shigeri-san, who also took us on a virtual tour of the kura last night, which included an introduction to her 1 year old Labrador, Ken-chan, as well as a look inside their storage containers, boasting an impressive collection of aged/ageing sake.
A huge thank you to Shigeri Shiraki for sharing her time, energy, knowledge, history and passion with us all. An extension of that thank you must go out to Maki Tanaka for yet another wonderful translation/interpretation.
Thank you also to everyone who attended this session.
Daruma Masamune, of course, was named after the Daruma doll ~ who, no matter how many times it may fall over, will get back up and ‘rise again’.
May Shiraki Shuzo, and all sake breweries, rise above the hardships of this current situation and flourish in the future.
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 43:
Monday 24 May saw yet another wonderful session of TWTT when we headed to Takehara in Hiroshima Prefecture, for session #43, to chat with 5th generation owner of Fujii Shuzo, Yoshifumi Fujii.
Fujii Shuzo was established in 1863, in the picturesque town of Takehara, situated along the Seto Inland Sea ~ which was around the same time that Senzaburo Miura developed the ginjo style of sake in the neighboring town of Akitsu, where Imada Shuzo (TWTT Sessions 1&11 is located). Fujii-san commented that walking through the streets of Takehara feels a little like you are stepping back in time.
In 1907, Fujii Shuzo put Hiroshima Prefecture’s new style ginjo sake on the map when they won Japan’s first national sake competition with their “Ryusei Zenshichi” sake.
Takehara is also blessed with high-quality water, optimal for brewing sake.
Fujī Shuzo is an all junmai brewery ~ using only rice, koji, water and yeast to brew their finely crafted sake. Fujii Shuzo have a strong focus on producing sake to be enjoyed alongside meals: Shoku-zen-shu. We learnt last night that they also focus on brewing sake using the kimoto method.
Fujii-san believes in maintaining a good balance between keeping true to traditions, as well as progressing with the times. The brewery is currently run by both Yoshifumi Fujii and his son, Noriyuki Fujii ~ who will continue the Fujii family and brewery legacy moving forward.
It was truly delightful to spend a little over two hours with Fujii-san last night ~ a huge thank you to him for sharing his time, passion, knowledge and stories with us. An extension of that thank you must go out to Maki Tanaka for a truly wonderful job at translating/interpreting for this session!
Thank you to everyone who attended this session.
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 42:
Maiko & Soichiro Tsuji
revisiting Tsuji Honten | Gozenshu
Monday 17 May saw another insightful and enjoyable session of TWTT. It was great to re-visit the Tsuji siblings, Maiko & Soichiro Tsuji, at Tsuji Honten – Gozenshu in Okayama Prefecture and see what has been happening since they last featured on TWTT 12 months ago.
Pioneers of brewing with Omachi rice and the Bodaimoto method, it was great to get a little more insight into both topics and to see how they have progressed in their quest to become an all Omachi, all Bodaimoto brewery ~ it seems they are well on their way to achieving that goal in the not too distant future.
Last night we delved a little deeper into the Gozenshu Bodaimoto method, which was ‘revived’ by the brewery in 1984, and how it differs from the original Bodaimoto from around 600 years ago. The key factor being the use of Koji, (and secondly the timing involved), to create their Soyashi water.
The ‘all Omachi’ aspect was thought, by many, a bold move when first discussed during the session last year ~ but the in-depth discussion, last night, around Omachi rice and the grading system, their Tokujo Omachi Project and their innovative Trilogy series certainly shone a light as to why this move is perhaps not as limiting as some first thought and allowed for a better understanding about the path they’ve chosen. Their path, indeed, sounds like an exciting one ~ especially for the many Omachi fans among the TWTT community (and beyond)!
We look forward to seeing where Gozenshu are at with their progress come May 2022 and hope that the next brewing season is a bigger and better one for all breweries.
A huge thank you to Maiko and Soichiro Tsuji for once again giving us their time, and sharing their passion, knowledge, progress and vision with us all. An extension of that thank you going out to Justin Potts for his translation/interpretation and for his ongoing support for this project and for all he does for the sake industry.
Thank you, as always, to everyone who attended this session. Let’s keep supporting these wonderful breweries!
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 41:
Monday 10 May saw TWTT head to Awaji Shima, in Hyogo Prefecture, to spend a couple of hours chatting with Kunihiro Yamauchi from Miyako-Bijin. Two hours was a treat, but of course, it’s never long enough! There is always so much more to ask, hear, learn.
Miyako-Bijin was established as a company in 1945, when 10 smaller breweries merged together to consolidate their brewing skills. Originally called Awaji Shuzo after the island’s name, it changed to Miyako-Bijin in 1959/1960. After the Sake boom of the 70’s and early 80’s Miyako Bijin struggled with sales and over the following years cut back on volume-based production and focused solely on small batch quality-driven products. Much of the brewery machinery was sold off and they moved back to handmade, small-tank production.
During Yamauchi-san’s presentation, we got a glimpse at the brewery’s Koji room, made up of five chambers! A Koji room like no other ~ giving us an insight into Yamauchi-san’s incredible dedication to the craft of making Koji. When talking about the process, Yamauchi-san explained that the timing of these stages, (in his koji making), is not something that is set by the clock. They work koji according to how the koji feels, not what the clock says. A more labour intensive method, but indeed a labour of love. Under his Happi coat, Yamauchi-san was proudly sporting a T-shirt that read ‘NO KOJI, NO LIFE’.
Miyako-Bijin’s unique methods of producing koji ~ the heart and soul of their brews ~ certainly result in some deliciously unique sake. Rich, layered and full-flavoured.
Koji was certainly the focus of the slide presentation but it was also great to see images of their Tenbin Shibori (Haneki Shibori) press. Still in use, but only used for a small percentage of their overall production. This prompted a curious discussion in the chat as to just how many breweries still have one of these in use ~ it’s thought somewhere between 3 and 7….
After the presentation, Yamauchi-san impressed us all with his thoughtful set up and wonderful spread as he talked about 4 of the sake in the Miyako-Bijin range and teased us with some delicious looking pairings.
Miyako-Bijin are certainly one of the many breweries that have felt the impact from COVID, seeing production decrease due to associated challenges. I’d like to think, in some way, we can all try to support these breweries who work so hard to produce incredible sake. Yamauchi-san’s passion is a force and his skill, knowledge and dedication is undeniable. It’s also clear to see how well respected he is within the brewing world and it was great to have several brewers from other breweries join the session last night. It was such a joy and an honour to listen to Yamauchi-san speak and to see his infectious smile light up our screens. I hope you will all continue to seek out and enjoy his wonderful sake.
A huge thank you to Yamauchi-san for sharing his time, passion, knowledge and pairing suggestions! An extension of that huge thank you going out to Yoram Ofer for another wonderful translation / interpretation.
As always, thank you to everyone who attended this session.
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 40:
– TWTT 1 Year Anniversary –
with Rumiko Moriki, Andrew Russell, Cody Brailsford & Jorge Navarrete
Tuesday 27 April saw Session #40 of TWTT, which was also the 1 Year Anniversary of the TWTT Project.
It was an honour to have a wonderful panel of four fabulous humans, (who also happen to be sake brewers), join us for this very special session. An insightful and inspirational discussion with Rumiko Moriki (Moriki Shuzo: Session 2), Andrew Russell (Imada Shuzo: Sessions 1 & 12), Darryl Cody Brailsford (Watanabe Shuzo – Hourai: Session 7), and Jorge Navarrete (Matsui Shuzo: Session 24).
As per usual… we went a little overtime. Two hours initially sounds like a long time but they fly by way too fast. Still so much more we could’ve talked about but great to hear some positive stories coming out of the past year and to hear about new and future plans, projects and products.
These four, along with all the brewers and guests that have been involved thus far, have allowed this project to happen and encouraged an incredible community that has come together through a love for/interest in sake! A huge thank you to Rumiko, Andy, Cody and Jorge for sharing their time, thoughts, ventures and knowledge with us.
This was a fabulous celebration of a fabulous beverage and a night of sake and surprises.
Kanpai to all the people working tirelessly to produce the brew that binds the TWTT community together.
Kanpai to everyone who has been a part of TWTT thus far ~ ALL of you… and a heartfelt thank you to the Australian crew responsible for the surprise! I was certainly surprised to see Kirsten and Shaun, (two TWTT regular Zoom room attendees), appear behind me instead of in the Zoom room! Albeit with an incredible cake and some even more incredible sake.
Needless to say I was most overwhelmed and very humbled by the gesture, generosity and kindness. It has been such a privilege to be on this wonderful sake journey with an incredible group of sake lovers from all over the globe.
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 39:
Monday 26 April saw TWTT visit Yamaguchi Prefecture to chat with Fumiko Shintani from Shintani Shuzo ~ a small brewery that is not too well known outside of Japan, producing sake with very limited availability outside of Yamaguchi Prefecture.
Shintani Shuzo is located in the Tokuji area of Yamaguchi city, where they have been brewing sake for around 100 years.
The brewery is currently run by husband and wife team, Yoshinao and Fumiko Shintani. Prior to her life as a brewer, Fumiko was working as a nurse ~ little did she know, she’d end up being Toji of the brewery some day. In fact, around the time she was welcomed into the Shintani family, she was told she wouldn’t need to be involved in the brewery at all, so ‘not to worry’. Her husband, Yoshinao, determined to continue his family’s legacy and keep the brewery alive, went to Tokyo to study brewing science.
However, not long after her husband, Yoshinao, took over from his grandfather, the Tōji and all other brewery staff, (who were getting on in years), announced their retirement. Neither Yoshinao or Fumiko had any experience in brewing or even working in a brewery.
After losing the Tōji and brewery staff, and with the brewery on the brink of closure, Fumiko, who was left with no other choice, ended up leaving her career as a nurse to help the family brewery survive.
Now, the two of them, (JUST the two of them), are working all year round at the brewery, making sake for the Yamaguchi locals, (and others in Japan if they can snap up a bottle fast enough!).
The brewery produces around only 80 koku per year ~ with each batch selling out super quickly after release!
Last night, we got to spend a wonderful 3 hours hearing Fumiko’s story ~ which included hardships, determination, family, dedication and recent successes.
Fumiko’s spirit, strength and passion resonated with the audience and she no doubt has a whole group of new supporters after sharing her story so candidly with us all last night. These kinds of stories are the heart and soul of this project and the true essence of sake.
In fact, we hardly even had a chance to touch much about the sake itself as there was so much else to talk about – proving there is far more to sake, and sake making, than what is in the actual bottle. However, this perhaps means there is definitely an opportunity for a follow up session with Shintani-san.
A huge thank you to Fumiko Shintani for sharing her time, passion, life lessons, strength, knowledge and hope with us all. An extension of that thank you goes out to Jim Rion for a remarkable job interpreting not only the words, but the raw emotion, for this session. A great job indeed!
As always, thank you to everyone who attended this session.
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 38:
Keinosuke Hirose & Kyoko Hasegawa
Hirose Shoten (Shiragiku)
Tuesday 20th April saw another truly delightful session of TWTT as we headed to Ibaraki Prefecture to be joined by two team members from Hirose Shoten, makers of Shiragiku sake. Joining us for session #38 of TWTT was 8th generation Kuramoto; Keinosuke Hirose and one incredibly vibrant Kurabito; Kyoko Hasegawa.
Hirose Shoten was founded in 1805 in Takahama, which overlooks Mt. Tsukuba to the west, on the banks of the Koise River. Takahama is blessed with a colder climate suitable for sake brewing and high-quality water. Hirose Shoten’s sake has been loved by the local people for over 200 years. In fact, 95% of the sake they produce is for the local market within Ibaraki Prefecture ~ leaving only 5% for elsewhere in Japan. As of yet, nothing they produce is exported overseas.
A few Japan based TWTT attendees were fortunate enough to get their hands on some Shiragiku sake for the session ~ and big thank you to Kyoko-san for helping to get the sake to some of the attendees so quickly and efficiently.
Many watching, including myself, knew very little about this brewery but by the end of the session, had not only added Hirose Shoten to a future travel itinerary, but felt like they’d acquired two new friends in Hirose-san and Kyoko-san.
Attendees were treated to a brewery tour, with Hirose-san behind the camera, and Kyoko-san leading us through the kura and cleverly using full colour A4 photographs to show us what each section of the kura looks like during brewing season, (as brewing has already completed for this season).
Kyoko-san spoke to our sake-loving hearts when describing the joy that working in the brewery brings her, and Hirose-san’s parting words and ‘philosophy’ reiterated the warmth, energy and sense of ‘family’ amongst the team at the brewery. He believes that a happy team will produce another happy ‘living’ thing (in sake). Kyoko-san’s smile radiated throughout the session and her joyous energy was certainly infectious, and I am sure leaving many of us with not only a smile on our own faces, but a strong desire to try the sake she plays a role in making!
A huge thank you to Hirose-san and Kyoko-san for sharing their time, warmth, energy, passion and knowledge with us all. An extension of that thanks going to Maki Tanaka for doing a wonderful job interpreting for this session.
As always, thank you to everyone who attended this session.
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 37:
Sakai Shuzo (Gokyo)
It was a joy to head back to Yamaguchi Prefecture, (for the first time in season 2021), this time to visit Sakai Shuzo, (producers of Gokyo). So great to be joined at the helm once again by Jim Rion; the Yamaguchi Sake Guy – that’s the title I have given him anyway! Anyone that knows Jim, knows that he is a huge fan of this brewery, so there was no better person to help guide us through this session!
Established in 1871, Sakai Shuzo is located in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture. It is one of 24 sake breweries currently brewing in Yamaguchi Prefecture. The town of Iwakuni is most well known for the Kintai Bridge which was built 1673. This historic wooden bridge consists of five wooden arches crossing the Nishiki River and is an incredibly popular spot for tourists, especially around Spring and Autumn.
The relatively young team at Sakai Shuzo are committed to producing quality sake; working closely with local farmers and brewing using local ingredients.
Joining us for this session was Tōji; Fumihiko Nakama, who has spent his whole brewing career, (30 years) at Sakai Shuzo, and it was wonderful to hear about the trust and respect between Tōji and Kuramoto, and that Nakama-san pretty much has free rein when it comes to brewing, which has seen some wonderful experimental brews, a plethora of awards, and the brewery continue to gain an incredibly loyal following in Japan. Joining us alongside Nakama-san was Charlie-san, aka: Tanuki-san (well, more like a panda due to the absence of Tanuki masks), certainly adding a fun element to the session.
Nakama-san prepared an in-depth and extensive slide presentation, giving us an insight into the brewery and the brewing, followed by a discussion about a selection of their range. A candid Q&A session saw the clock move into overtime, and even after ‘officially’ ending the session, Nakama-san stuck around with the stayers, which included a cooking demonstration of a favourite local dish! Lots of fun. I called it a night after just under 4 hours, however, Nakama-san stayed on with those who were still logged in – a testament to his character and generosity.
A huge thank you to Nakama-san for sharing his time, knowledge, spirit, humour and passion with us. An extension of that thank you going out to Charlie-san/Tanuki-san for not only going the distance, but for adding an extra fun element to the session! And of course, a further extension of that huge thank you going out to Jim Rion, without whom, this session would not have been possible, (and even if it was, it would not have been as much fun!).
Thank you, as always, to everyone who attended the session.
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 36:
Kanako Takagi & Natsuki Kakizawa
Monday 5 April saw another wonderful session of TWTT. This was session number 36 in the Taste with the Toji project and it was a pleasure to get to spend 2 and a half hours with two wonderful and inspiring women – Kanako Takagi and Natsuki Kakizawa from Heiwa Shuzo.
Heiwa Shuzo was founded in 1928 and is located just outside Kainan City in Wakayama. The site where the brewery is located was a temple for over 500 years before the brewery was established. It wasn’t until 1957 when Sake production commenced full-time. The brewery is located in a valley surrounded by mountains, blessed with high precipitation, resulting in a boundless supply of good quality soft spring water, perfect for brewing Sake.
It was a treat to get not only a virtual tour of the sake brewery, but also of their beer operation. Heiwa Shuzo are one of the growing number of breweries producing a range of craft beverages in addition to producing sake. I so want to try their Sansho Golden Ale!
The most well known of their range is of course their KID label sake. The name KID comes from “Kishu climate” (former name of Wakayama Prefecture) and also represents youthful innocence and freedom. Kind of fitting in the fact that Kakizawa-san and Takagi-san are part of a young, enthusiastic and passionate team at Heiwa Shuzo where the average age is 31!
Some of that youthful exuberance and energy shone through these two amazing women last night and was a delight to experience.
One of the brewery’s mottos is: ‘Sake is a living thing, and people are a bridge’.
I think the bridge’s foundations got even stronger last night! A huge thank you to Kanako Takagi and Natsuki Kakizawa for sharing their time, stories, knowledge, passion and energy with us all last night. An extension of that thank you goes out to the lovely Maki Tanaka for a fabulous job at translating/interpreting for this session.
As always, thank you to everyone who attended this session.
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 35:
Tosa Shuzo (Keigetsu)
Session #35 was held on Monday 29 March and saw us head to Kochi Prefecture for the first time in this series. This is a part of Japan I have long wanted to visit, but even after many trips to Japan, am still yet to do so. This session certainly fuelled my desire to visit this great sake loving region of Japan.
Joining us for not only the 2 hour session, but another 1.5 hours after the ‘official’ session ended, was the wonderfully vibrant and charismatic Muneki Matsumoto.
Established in 1877, Tosa Shuzo, who are the producers of Keigetsu Sake, are located in the Tosa District of Kochi Prefecture, where they are surrounded by nature and the picturesque shores of Lake Sameura. The name Keigetsu was inspired by the famous poet, Omachi Keigetsu, who was apparently very fond of sake.
During this lively session, Matsumoto-san was full of fun facts and stories, including the story of their JOHN Sparkling Sake. The sake was named after one of Matsumoto-san’s friends… kind of one of those promises made during some drunken banter with a mate ~ but this one ended up being kept!
Matsumoto-san Zoomed in from his house for this session but treated us all to some great videos not only of the brewery and the process of making sake but some stunning, and most impressive, aerial shots of Kochi’s rice paddies.
Warm, welcoming and witty, Matsumoto-san impressively presented this entire session in English and certainly made himself many new fans and friends amongst the TWTT audience. Looks like I’m not the only one that has Kochi pinned near the top of my list of places to visit!
A huge thank you to Matusmoto-san for sharing his time, stories, humour, hopes, passion and knowledge ~ and also a big thank you to him for making some wonderful tasting packs accessible for the Japanese members of the TWTT audience.
An extension of that thank you goes out to Charles Thomas Stewart for helping to make this session happen and getting Kochi on the TWTT map.
As always, thank you to all who attended this session.
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 34:
Monday 22 February saw yet another most enjoyable session of TWTT as we headed to Akita Prefecture to be joined by Tomofumi Yamamoto.
This session was incredibly chilled and relaxed, just like Yamamoto-san himself. Other than an 8 minute video presentation, the rest of the 2.5 hour session was spent simply chatting with Yamamoto-san from his house. Wearing his baseball inspired Yamamoto hoodie and cap, sipping sake from his unbreakable Dean and Deluca glass (that wasn’t actually glass), and every so often cutting off a thin piece of his home cured leg of ham, Yamamoto-san made us feel as though we were catching up with an old friend.
With a background in music management, Yamamoto-san had never imagined he’d one day take over the family sake brewery, which he did so after the sad passing of his cousin. Perhaps growing up without the pressures and expectations that other ‘future brewers’ often have bestowed upon them, allowed Yamamoto-san to approach this role in a far more relaxed and what many would say, modern, or contemporary, way. Either way, he marches to the beat of his own drum, whilst very much embracing ‘local’ ~ this, and his progressive thinking certainly seems to be working well for him and his brewery. He leads a young team of brewers, constantly rotating his core staff around different roles, to not only give them the opportunity to learn each stage/role well, but to keep them interested and enthusiastic about their job and brewing sake.
Yamamoto-san certainly has a loyal following and through his Yamamoto range, he is creating a style of sake that he enjoys to drink, with low aroma, minimal sweetness and good acidity, or as he says: “sake you don’t tire of easily and can keep drinking”.
In addition, he is also part of the Akita Next 5 group of brewers; a now 10 year long collaboration with 4 other Akita brewers. Yamamoto-san has certainly created a bit of a buzz in the sake world and shone a sake spotlight on Akita Prefecture.
A huge thank you to Yamamoto-san, who did the entire session in English, for sharing his time, humour, knowledge and stories with us.
As always, thank you to everyone who attended the Zoom room or viewed the session a FB live. I love how different each of these sessions are and it’s so great having such a wonderful sake community along for this TWTT journey!
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 33:
Fumiaki Matsuura & Hannah Kirshner
On Monday 15 February, TWTT had the absolute honour of heading to Ishikawa Prefecture and hearing from two delightful humans, Fumiaki Matsuura and Hannah Kirshner, who joined us from Matsuura Shuzo.
This session shone a spotlight not only on this wonderful little brewery tucked away in the mountain-side, Onsen town of Yamanaka, but also on a beautiful new book by Hannah called Water, Wood & Wild Things.
It was such a joy to hear from these two craftspeople doing incredible things that entwine so beautifully with each other through something that has connected us all: Sake.
Matsuura-san represents the 14th generation at this small, well respected brewery that was established in 1772. As one of the attendees pointed out last night, next year will mark their 250 year anniversary.
Hannah, currently working her second season as Kurabito at Matsuura Shuzo, is the first foreigner and, I believe, the first woman, to work/be employed as a Kurabito in this almost 250 year old brewery.
Matsuura Shuzo produce sake under the label ‘Shishi no Sato’ ~ the name meaning ‘village of the lions’. The brewery are producing around 50 kilolitres of sake per year, which is really not a lot. Hence, their sake is currently not exported. What is produced is sought after and snapped up by the locals, with some also heading to a few Tokyo venues/retailers.
It was a joy to witness the wonderful dynamic and mutual respect between Matsuura-san and Hannah. Both parties coming across as incredibly humble and full of praise for each others dedication and achievements ~ as were we, the audience, as we learnt a little more about the brewery and the book.
It’s evident that the town of Yamanaka has had a tremendous impact on Hannah. What was also evident through discussion last night, was that there is a strong sense of community in the town and a fine array of incredible artisans, farmers, craftspeople and producers who all support and encourage each other in some way. Hannah’s book spotlights a handful of these remarkable people and after last night’s session, I think Yamanaka had best prepare for an influx of TWTT sake lovers heading their way once travel opens up again. It was great to see the stunning work of Takehito Nakajima in the form of two exquisitely crafted wooden guinomi that Hannah and Matsuura-san were drinking from.
Takehito Nakajima will feature in an upcoming session of Meet the Artisan, a sister project of Taste with the Tōji, next month, (April 15).
A huge thank you to Matsuura-san and Hannah for sharing their stories, time, knowledge, passion and sense of joy with us. An extension of that big thank you going out to Justin Potts for his help, support and time last night. And, as always, thank you so very much to everyone who attended this session of Taste with the Tōji.
If I may just share this beautiful quote from Matsuura-san, that features in Water Wood & Wild Things:
“Sake is like a flower. You can enjoy it as a bud, in full bloom, and even as it begins to drop its petals. Each phase has its own beauty: each one blooms at a different time.”
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 32:
Atsushi Nakano & Keith Norum Masumi | Miyasaka
Last night saw the 32nd session of Taste with the Tōji take place when we headed to Nagano Prefecture to chat with Keith Norum and Nakano Atsushi from Masumi (Miyasaka Brewing Co.)
Last night’s attendees were amongst the first people to get to view Masumi’s new, and incredibly in depth, brewery tour video, which certainly generated many “wows” from the audience. The presentation also sparked curiosity and many questions which Keith answered with such insight and eloquence.
Then it was time to sit back and join Keith and Nakano-san, who were Zooming in from Keith’s living room, for a few virtual drinks, hear their stories, some more Q&A, and a whole lot of fun!
Lots of discussion about yeast, in particular; yeast #7, which of course was discovered at Masumi in 1946. Conversations touching on their 2 labels, (Masumi and Miyasaka), their 2 breweries, (Fujimi and Suwa), and their 3 Tōji, along with touching on the production volume as well as blending, (not to mention the size of their blending tanks), certainly gave us a good idea of the scale of Miyasaka Brewing Co.
Great to hear about some of their newer seasonal and flagship products, which we unfortunately don’t get here in Australia yet. I am super keen to try their Spring Snow. In contrast to their name; Masumi, which means transparency or truth ~this is a cloudy, usu-nigori which is also a junmai ginjo nama genshu. With a fair bit of fermentation still going on inside the bottle, this product is currently not exported at all ~ and in Japan, bottles of this product come with a warning in the form of a neck label telling you to take great caution when opening. We got a live demonstration of why when Keith and Nakano-san ‘popped’ the cap on one of these!
Of course, my favourite part about doing this project is getting to hear people’s stories ~ both related to, and outside of, their sake life. Always fascinating to hear where the interest in sake began, especially if that path wasn’t clearly laid out at an early age. So great to have Keith and Nakano-san share some of their stories with us last night ~ including Nakano-san’s love for Cuba, (he has visited the country 6 times), his passion for playing the Cuban Conga drum, and his love for Cuban salsa! The Taste with the Tōji band is growing stronger! I think a group performance should be on the cards soon!
Great to also hear a little about Nakano-san’s sake journey. Interesting to hear about how his interest shifted from wine to sake whilst he was at Agricultural University. His first job in a brewery was with Miyasaka Brewing Co. when he was 27, and 25 years later, he is still with them today.
Keith was truly the perfect host and Nakano-san’s laughter was infectious. A huge thank you to them both for sharing their time, passion, knowledge, humour, spirit and even more time after the, not 2… but 3 hour ‘official’ session ended. In fact, Keith and Nakano-san even outstayed me! Like I said; a wonderful host!
Thank you also to everyone who attended via the Zoom room or watched on FB Live. I’m incredibly grateful for your continued support for this project, these breweries and for SAKE!
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 31:
A return to Miyoshikiku with Ryoichiro Mamiya and family
Monday 22 February saw TWTT return to Tokushima to visit Ryoichiro Mamiya-san and family for Session #33, which adopted the name: ‘Miyoshikiku‘s Second Coming’ (a little labelling pun).
This wonderful family graced us with a super fun session back in June 2020, (TWTT Session #6), and it was a delight to revisit them ~ this time, from his wife, Kuzuko’s bar, Ajidokoro Mai Mai. The bar is set in a very new and modern looking complex, a little over a stone’s throw away from the brewery. They are open Tues-Sat.
It came as no surprise, (at least to those who attended Session 6 last year), when Mamiya-san pulled out a selection of vinyl records throughout the session, talking about some of his (and his sake’s) musical influences ~ even spinning a few tracks on his adorable portable 7” player. From Lou Reed to Van Halen… even good old Rat Cat got a second outing.
Miyoshikiku’s unique and very cool labels were once again a talking point – not only for their imagery but also for the (sake) names. Mamiya-san certainly goes against the grain and we love that. Last night we got a little insight to some of his 55 recent sake creations. From black rice sake to green rice sake and a 3 year old kijoshu ~ Mamiya-san’s sake portfolio is as diverse and funky as his record collection and surely has something for everyone.
Mamiya-san also continues to produce a more old school Honjozo sake, (with a far more traditional label), that was/is popular with the Tokushima locals, that the brewery were making before he took over. Again, I’ll say, Miyoshikiku surely has something for everyone!
We also got to see some super tasty looking dishes prepared by Kazuko, and discuss some suggested sake (and music) pairings.
This session even saw a giveaway, (as Mamiya-san showed us some of his very cool Miyoshikiku T-Shirt designs), with a competition for attendees and two lucky winners of some funky Miyoshikiku threads.
You just never know what you’re going to get with a Miyoshikiku session, but fun is always guaranteed!
When it comes to making sake, Mamiya-san is fearless, creative and damn good at what he does ~ and we thank him for that.
A big thank you to Ryoichiro Mamiya, Kazuko Mamiya, Koharu Mamiya and Ayane Mamiya for sharing their time, knowledge, passion and fun. An extension of that big thank you to Julian Houseman for a wonderful job at interpreting for this session.
As always, thank you to everyone who attended. Let’s keep supporting these wonderful brewers throughout these difficult times and beyond!
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 30:
Hirotaka Tajime with Keiji Takahashi
~ Tajime Shuzo – CHIKUSEN ~
Monday 15 February saw yet another wonderful session of TWTT as we headed to Hyogo Prefecture for Session #30 in this series.
What an absolute joy it was to be joined by Hirotaka Tajime for not just 2, but 3 hours! A truly inspiring and enjoyable session, learning about not only the brewery’s philosophy but Tajime-san’s own personal philosophy – which I think resonated so well with the attendees, especially with everything that is going on in the world right now. A humbling reminder to enjoy and embrace the simple joys in life.
A wonderful slide presentation with some really gorgeous images and a strong thread/focus told us the story of the Storks who, not only grace the label of Chikusen’s Kounotori label, but also, (after they become extinct for a time and were then re-introduced from Russia), the rice fields and surrounding area of Asago, in the Northern part of Hyogo Prefecture, where Tajime Shuzo is located.
We were also fortunate enough to have a virtual tour of the brewery, and honoured to have the Tōji, Takahashi-san join us for the tour and answer some questions.
Tajime’s respect for nature and his environment, with a focus on, and commitment to, local regeneration and conservation is both admirable and inspiring. In recent times the brewery shifted to only using local rice for their Sake production. They also produce an incredible Umeshu using two types of local Ume. Chikusen are quite the masters of ageing Sake, (and Umeshu), or more precisely, knowing how long to age each Sake ~ they age some of their Sake in tanks and others in bottles, and it was interesting to see their labour intensive method of making their Junmai Umeshu: ageing it in 4ltr jars for 10 years. A virtual visit to their tasting room saw a variety of tap Sake, including a Nama version of their Umeshu… yes please!
A delightful session and insight, and my heartfelt thanks to Tajime-san for sharing his time, knowledge and passion (and beautiful philosophy) with us all. Thank you also to Takahashi-san for giving us his time during the virtual tour. Of course, an extension of that heartfelt thank you must go out to the lovely
Maki Tanaka. After attending many sessions during this series, this was Maki’s first time on board the TWTT Translation Team and I’d like to thank her for a wonderful job.
As always, thank you to all those who attended. Your continued interest and support for this project, and of course for SAKE!, is greatly appreciated.
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 29:
Yasutaka Daimon & Marcus Consolini
with Kohei Daimon
~ Daimon Shuzo ~
Monday 1 February saw the second session of TWTT for Season 2021 ~ This was the 29th session in the Taste with the Toji series and it was a joy to pay a visit to the folks at Daimon Brewery in Osaka, (founded in 1826).
The session began with Marcus Consolini, CEO, greeting us in the garden courtyard of the brewery ~ even with the poor light of a Winter’s evening you could still get an idea of just how beautiful this space is; full of character and charm, which also oozes from the brewery building. We were fortunate enough to see the inside of the brewery via a virtual tour led by Marcus, with Kohei Daimon on camera. An impressive koshu wall certainly sparked curiosity amongst attendees and we will now wait eagerly to hear when some of these bottled beauties of Daimon brewing history will be released.
It’s always lovely to see inside a brewery during the brewing period, and despite many of us not being able to travel to Japan to do this in person, these virtual tours are the next best thing and it was a delight to see inside a couple of smaller tanks and see the moto bubbling away happily. All we need now is technology to create a sensory option in terms of aromatics for these Zoom sessions! Nothing quite like the smell inside a brewery during brewing season!
A really enjoyable virtual tour and a most unique one in this TWTT series thanks to the live acoustic guitar soundtrack being played at the brewery by TWTT friend and translation team member, Julian Houseman ~ who was a regular performer at Daimon Brewery’s ‘Jazz Nights’ with his band ‘Hot Sauce’! In addition to housing an onsite restaurant, the brewery boasts a beautiful gallery space for people to enjoy live music sessions and festivals, however, these events are currently on hold, and the restaurant temporarily closed, due to the current situation.
Joining the session after the tour was the one and only Yasutaka Daimon, oozing just as much character and charm as the brewery itself. It was certainly a real privilege to have Daimon-san join us for this session and impart some of his Sake wisdom, delivered with such a genuine warmth, to a most appreciative audience.
A brewery for the people. Daimon Brewery’s sense of fun and love of people, blends beautifully with their dedication, passion and tradition: all which create a wonderful energy which certainly resonated last night!
A huge thank you to Daimon-san, Marcus, Kohei, (and Julian for the tunes), for a very enjoyable session of TWTT. As always, thank you to everyone who attended, I am incredibly grateful for the continued interest and support for this project and of course, the wonderful and passionate sake community that is forever growing and evolving with it.
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 28:
Kazunari Matsushita & Nigel Hay
with Shunya Sakaguchi
~ Yonezawa Shuzo ~
TWTT returned last on Monday 18 January after a short break over the Christmas and New Year period ~ and it was such a joy to see everyone’s faces light up my screen again, and a joy to feature Yonezawa Shuzo to kick off season 2021.
This was the first time TWTT has featured a brewery from Nagano… a Prefecture that boasts around 80 sake breweries!
Yonezawa Brewery is located in Nakagawa Village in Nagano Prefecture, where they have been brewing sake with only locally-sourced rice and water from the Southern Alps of Japan since 1907. The picturesque Nakagawa Village is skirted by the Tenryu River, with clear views of the Central and Southern Alps of Japan. It is also home to the ”Iinuma Rice Terrace”, which now occupies ground that was once abandoned farmland. Yonezawa revived the fortunes of these fertile terraces through dedicated cultivation of Miyama-nishiki sake rice for their brewing. The majority of the rice used to produce their sake is harvested in Nakagawa Village.
It was too dark outside during the session to be able to get a glimpse of the picturesque views that surround the kura but we were lucky enough to get a virtual tour inside the brewery thanks to Matsushita-san and Nigel Hay, who joined us for this 28th session of TWTT.
Attendees managed a quick glimpse of the fune press before Wifi started playing up and we headed back to the tasting room to learn that Yonezawa Shuzo is the only brewery in Nagano Prefecture that presses ALL their sake using a fune press. Impressive (pun not intended). They actually possess both an old wooden fune and a slightly more modern metal fune.
We were also fortunate enough to be joined, for a short while, by the Tōji, Sakaguchi-san, who answered several questions before heading back inside the brewery to tend the koji.
A thoroughly enjoyable session and a great way to kick off Season 2021 of TWTT.
Huge heartfelt thank you to Matsushita-san, Sakaguchi-san and Nigel for sharing their time, knowledge, passion and joy with us all! Thank you also to Thomas Ng at Sakelier
for bringing Yonezawa sake to Australia and getting it out to some of the Australian attendees in time for this session.
And, as always, thank you to everyone from the TWTT community who attended.
Taste with the Tōji ~ Season 2020
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 27:
Shotaro Ohta – Ohta Shuzo
Monday 14 December saw the final TWTT session for 2020 as we spent 3 hours, (the scheduled 2 just wasn’t enough), with Shotaro Ohta from Ohta Shuzo in Tottori Prefecture.
This was a perfect way to end what has been a delightful and insightful series of online sessions that started way back in April this year when I decided that a lockdown during a global pandemic should not stop my desire or ability to promote sake, share it with new and old friends, and keep learning about this wonderful beverage. 8 months on and I couldn’t be more grateful for everything this project has been and has given me, and many others.
Ohta Shuzo, producers of Bentenmusume, is tucked away in the small town of Wakasa, the town in which all the rice used by this brewery is grown, (by the brewery and other local farmers) ~ this tiny, family operated brewery has a massive heart, a modest philosophy and a humble story. During brewing season, members of the community, residing in Wakasa town, pitch in to help brew ~ and at Ohta Shuzo everything is done, meticulously, by hand.
Rice was the hot topic of the evening and it’s evident that it is also the absolute star of Bentenmusume Sake. Using low aroma yeasts and kōji-kin that won’t produce a lot of sweetness, these guys are all about letting the rice shine. Ohta Shuzo use 5 different varieties of rice for brewing; with no blending of rice types, or even origin (i.e. farms), for any part of the brew (per single batch).
You’ll even find the name of the farmer who grew the rice on the back label alongside the rice type and ingredients. Respect.
Attendees were treated to a live virtual tour of the Kura, with a fabulously fleeting, yet extremely excitable appearance by his gorgeous little son, followed by a delightful ‘surprise’ appearance by Tōji, Nakajima-san, who offered some delightful demonstrations throughout the tour and suggested the secret to his youthful appearance was drinking good Sake! No arguments there.
Like every TWTT session, this was yet another wonderful insight into another brewery who are dedicated, determined and delivering some incredible Sake ~ and, as always, the time flew; with so much covered, yet still so much we could’ve talked about and learned. I guess there’s always 2021 for some follow-up sessions to some of these amazing breweries to delve even deeper into a number of fascinating topics.
I’m so incredibly grateful to the very humble Ohta-san for agreeing to do this session on short notice and also for sharing his time, passion and knowledge with us all for this very special session. A massive thank you also to Justin Potts for yet another wonderful translation and for going above and beyond as co-host for this session. I’m so delighted that Justin got to spend some time with Ohta-san and family at the brewery last week.
Thank you also to Taka and Rey from Sakenet Australia
, who not only put on a fun dinner event for some of the Sydney TWTT members who Zoomed in for this session, but also for bringing Bentenmusume Sake to Australia and for instigating a wonderful initiative to help this brewery. You can read more about that here: https://sakenet.square.site/support-sake-maker…
~ and I do encourage fellow Australian Sake enthusiasts to get behind this project.
Last but not least, and as always, a HUGE heartfelt thank you to everyone who attended this session and/or any other session of TWTT this year. Let’s all keep supporting these incredible people behind this incredible brew that is Nihonshu!
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 26:
– Shinkame Shuzo
What a very special session of Taste with the Tōji on Monday 7 December, when we got to spend a couple of hours with Takao Ogawahara of Shinkame Shuzo in Saitama Prefecture.
Shinkame Shuzo is known to many who are lovers of junmai Sake and despite their popularity amongst these folk, as well as being a brewery that has had a large and significant impact on the Sake industry as a whole, these types of events are a rarity for this incredible brewery and it was an absolute honour to be able to host this TWTT online event with Shinkame Shuzo.
This was Session number 26 in the TWTT series and the name Shinkame has often come up in previous sessions, most memorably, Session #2 Moriki Shuzo with Rumiko & Hideki Moriki, and of course, Session #18 with Rumiko-san and Akira Oze, where the impact and influence of this pioneering brewery was strongly conveyed. That said, it was a wonderful additional honour to have both Rumiko Moriki and Akira Oze in attendance ~ as well as being involved in discussions during this session.
Again, a session full of deep discussion, touching on topics that certainly need a lot more than 2 hours to cover properly…. and we did go a little over time, for which I apologise as Takao Ogawahara-san and crew, currently in the midst of brewing season, are not only dedicated to the process and craft of their brewing, but also to 3am rises!
It is clear that the late Yoshimasa Ogawahara-San’s legacy is being carried on with great respect, passion and dedication through Takao-san and his team at Shinkame Shuzo.
If you’ve not already tried Sake from this amazing brewery, I implore you to do so. A favourite of mine for quite some time, and after last night, even more so!
A HUGE thank you going out to Takao Ogawahara for his time and sharing all things Shinkame with us all last night. A huge extension of that huge thank you going out to the one and only Mr. Justin Potts.. not only for an incredible translation and being a truly wonderful co-host, but for going above and beyond in the lead up to this event (and the next), and for everything he does for this industry and beverage that we all love so very much… not to mention for his ongoing and much appreciated support and friendship.
Thanks again to Rumiko-san and Oze-san for their contribution to this session, to Masahiro Takahashi
Rey Takahashi from Sakenet for their assistance, attendance and for bringing Shinkame Sake to Australia, and of course a big thank you to everyone who attended.
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 25:
– Matsumoto Shuzo
Session 25 of TWTT took place on Monday 30 November and was an absolute joy and yet another wonderfully enjoyable and educational session of Taste with the Tōji.
For this session, we headed to Okayama Prefecture and it was an honour to be joined by President and Brewing Manager, Niichiro Marumoto, along with 3 other members of Marumoto Shuzo; Toda-san, Endo-san and Arai-san, as we delved deep, VERY deep, into the topic of rice… (in a passionate, technical and super nerdy way, about rice!) From growing it to brewing with it ~ and everything in between! In fact, so deep did we delve, that we almost ran out of time for anything else, including the tasting/Sake line-up and general Q&A. Fortunately, Marumoto-san was incredibly generous with his time and gave participants an extra hour – turning the scheduled 2 hour session into a little over 3 hours.
This man and this brewery are truly fascinating and already, by popular demand, there is a second session with Marumoto-san in the pipeworks for TWTT in season 2021!
Thanks to Marumoto-san’s generous extra hour in the Zoom room, we were lucky enough to also hear a little about some of his creations ~ from his ぱふぱふ (PAFU PAFU) kōji dispersing machine to his self-composed techno beats!
Marumoto-san is definitely a man, and mind, of many talents. I’m still thinking of hitting him up to create a TWTT intro theme! So much covered in this session, yet still so much more to learn… as is always the case with SAKE! Hence why we love it so!
A huge thank you to Marumoto-san and his brewery staff, (Toda-san, Endo-san and Arai-san), for sharing their time, passion and knowledge! An extension of that huge thank you going out to Christopher Hughes for a great job as translator and co-host for the evening. I also must thank Thomas Ng, who is soon to be Australia’s first importer of Marumoto’s Sake, for joining us last night. Those who participated from Australia are certainly keen for it to hit our shores in 2021. Also a big thank you to Andrew Russell for planting the seed for this session.
Last but not least, and as always, a heartfelt thank you to all who attended this very special and unique session of TWTT either via the Zoom room or Facebook Live. I’m so incredibly grateful for your support for this project and your continued interest and ever-growing love for SAKE!
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 24:
Jiemon Matsui & Jorge Navarrete
– Matsui Shuzo
Session 24 of TWTT took place on Monday 23 November as we headed to Kyoto Prefecture to visit a brewery in the heart of Kyoto City. What a joy to spend over 2 hours with Jiemon Matsui and Jorge Navarrete from Matsui Shuzo for this wonderfully enjoyable session.
Matsui Shuzo is a small brewery with a big personality and an even bigger heart… not to mention a fabulous history of almost 300 years! Jiemon Matsui is the 15th generation owner of his family’s brewery!
Founded during the Edo period in 1726, this small craft brewery, which has moved around a little over the years, produces around 300 koku per year. Matsui Shuzo is now the oldest of the only 3 remaining Sake Breweries in Kyōto City.
It’s current incarnation is in a most unsuspecting location, situated on the ground floor of a residential building, which also neighbours a school; so unsuspecting that myself and possibly many others who have visited Kyōto have walked right past it without realising it’s a Sake Brewery. The brewery’s facility is state of the art; with stainless steel tanks, solar power and computerised cooling systems, all which allow for year-round brewing ~ yet their Sake is still very much ‘handcrafted’ and traditional.
Oh… and their merchandise/shop ‘uniforms’ are very cool indeed. I think a shipment of their ‘Multiple Parallel Fermentation’ t-shirts to Australia is in order, ASAP! At least until we can get their Sake here!
Again, I’m so thankful for another wonderfully informative and enjoyable session of TWTT. Each session is so different to every other session and we learn new things from new people each time. A huge thank you to Matsui-san and Jorge for their time, passion and knowledge, for lots of good humour and laughter, and for telling us their stories.
As always, thank you to everyone who attended via the Zoom room and/or FB Live.
Keep drinking Sake!
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 23:
Yuichi Hashiba – Izumibashi Shuzo
Session 23 took place on Monday 16 November and saw yet another wonderfully entertaining, educational and thoroughly enjoyable session of the Taste with the Tōji series as we headed to Kanagawa Prefecture, joined by Yuichi Hashiba of Izumibashi Shuzo.
Hashiba-san’s infectious sense of humour and passion burst through our screens as he told us about the philosophy of Izumibashi, their dedication to growing eco-friendly rice & strive for quality and respect for nature; all mixed in with stories of dragonflies, drones and some unique and memorable Sake analogies.
Hashiba-san is no stranger to these online sessions and came fully prepared with an array of interesting slides and videos to share with an engaging audience. Wonderfully generous with his time, he even stayed back a little for the Nijikai to answer a few more questions and Kanpai with the stayers.
A big heartfelt thank you to Hashiba-san for sharing his time, passion, knowledge and humour with all who attended, and of course that gratitude is extended to Rey Takahashi from Sakenet Australia, (Australian importers of Izumibashi), for his time and translation.
Thank you, as always, to all who attended, for your support for TWTT and passion for Sake!
Keep drinking Sake and keep supporting these great breweries.
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 22:
Takahiro Nagayama –
Session 22 of TWTT took place on Monday 9 of November as we headed to Yamaguchi Prefecture to gain some fabulous insight into the philosophy of Nagayama Honke, told to us by Takahiro Nagayama, current Kuramoto and Toji, as he joined us from the brewery cafe.
‘Think globally, act locally’, as printed on the back label of many a Taka Sake. On the topic of labels.. we also found out that the kanji calligraphy/Taka logo on the front was created by Taka-san himself, with his left hand (non-preferred hand) some time ago.
From a virtual tour of the kura, and a look inside their beautiful cafe space, (which was once served as the old Town Office building), where they now serve Sake on tap, to thoughts on terroir and his inspiration acquired from visits to vineyards in France ~ there’s always a lot to try and cover in a two hour session but what does get covered is always interesting and educational.
We also touched on their rice growing, (Yamada-Nishiki), and their hopes to grow Omachi in the future.
A huge thank you to Taka-san for spending his time with us and for sharing his knowledge, thoughts and hopes as well as his large and luminous smile which lit up our screens as we got to sit back, sip Sake and learn a little more about another wonderful brewery. That thank you is extended, of course, to Jim Rion
for his wonderful translation for this session, and again, as always, thank you to all who attended!
Taste with the Tōji ~ Session 21:
Kazuyoshi Sato – Koikawa Shuzo
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
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
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:
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
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
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
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
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:
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:
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,
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)
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,
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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
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
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
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.
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!