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Japanese Sake Series: Miwa Sake Brewery

Brewing sake

Originally a sake created as an offering to the gods, Miwa Shuzo now produces high-quality Japanese sake for anyone to enjoy.

Established in 1837 in Ogaki, the Water Capital,  the brewery originally produced sake for the Toda area. The mainstay of Miwa Shuzo is  a sake called Shirakawago Junmai Nigorizake. It was first produced at the request of Shirakawa village, now a world cultural heritage site for its thatched roof houses, to be gifts of o-miki (sake offerings in shrines) for the Doburoku Festival.

The idea was to make a 'Doburoku' (cloudy sake) product similar to that served at the Doburoku Festival to make the townspeople happy.

To do this, the brewery used pure rice and created an exceptional sake with a 'do' (a standard measure of sweetness/dryness) of minus 25.

History and background of Miwa Shuzo

Miwa Shuzo’s historical storehouse

Found in the mountainous area of Gifu, Shirakawa village has been designated by the Unesco Committee as a World Cultural Heritage site for its thatched-roof houses. For hundreds of years, these houses have been protected and maintained by the villagers through their cooperative efforts as a symbol of their communal ties. The houses create a very nostalgic scenery for Japanese people, and generate a feeling of warmth to visitors.

Shirakawa village’s iconic buildings

From the end of September through October, one of the world's most unique festivals, the Doburoku Festival, takes place here. During this festival, people pray at shrines in each of the districts to the mountain gods for fertility, family safety, and peace in the village. Beginning around 1300 years ago, Doburoku has been served at  the festival. Every year, a little 'brewery' at each shrine serves Doburoku made with its own special ancient techniques passed down through the generations. This is a true Japanese hometown festival at which one can see the villagers and visitors drinking Miki-Doburoku (sake offerings to shrines) together in gratitude for the harvest.

The local Doburoku Festival

Shirakawago sake first came about when the sixth brew master of Miwa Shuzo was asked by the mayor of Shirakawa Village to produce a Doburoku similar to that served at the festival, but one that could be drunk and sold at any time of the year. However, at that time there was no precedent of a nigorizake produced for sale year-round, so initially it wasn't officially permitted to be sold under the alcohol tax laws. But through continued tenacious negotiations, the national tax board finally recognised and allowed the sale of nigorizake, after finally admitting that it was the best way to prevent its illegal production and distribution. Upon hearing this, the Shirakawa Village people were overjoyed and the village council authorised the trademark name of Shirakawago.

Miwa Shuzo’s famous cloudy sake

While cherishing the role played by the previous generations in creating the name Shirakawago, and being particular about the ingredients and brewing process, the producers of Shirakawago Junmai Nigorizake want to pass along the culture and traditions of nigorizake to the next generation.

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