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Japanese Sake Series: Akita Seishu Sake Brewery


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An illustrious history; proved methods of production; and fresh, quality ingredients. Akita Seishu Sake Brewery has an excellent recipe for Japanese sake.

History and background of the brewery

In 1865, the company “Yamato-shuzouten” was founded in the area of Minaminaraoka(currently Daisen-city) in Akita prefecture by Ito Juushiro, the 12th head of the Ito family.

During this era, Japan had only just started to open up as a country: It was the dawn of a new era. The landowning Ito family moved from the Kansai area to the Tohoku area, and established themselves as a prominent agricultural powerhouse on a national level. This paved the way for Juushiro to establish a brewery using high-quality local rice.

Ito Kyonosuke, the 13th head of the Ito Family, took over the business and put Yamatoshuzouten into commercial use in 1913. Honouring the toji’s (master brewer) desire to produce exceptional sake, the Ito family renamed their company “Dewatsuru” –or “crane of the Dewa Region”—in order to convey the elegance of its products.

Dewatsuru brewery

The historical building of Kariho Brewery was established in 1850 in a neighbouring village. The brewery was constructed along the Omono River, used as a centre for water transportation.

The years passed, and in 1913, Ito Kyonosuke took over this brewery to start another sake business with colleagues. This was the beginning of Kariho Brewery. The sake was named Kariho as a reference to the waka (traditional Japanese poetry) written by the Tenchi Emperor. This Waka shows respect for the farmers who work hard to cultivate the rice fields and has a deep meaning for all sake producers.

Kariho brewery

It is in these two breweries, ‘Dewatsuru’ and ‘Kariho’,  that Akita Seishu produces top quality sake. Its main brands are ‘Yamatoshizuku’, ‘Dewatsuru’ and ‘Kariho’.

Yamatoshizuku Sake

The brand name Yamatoshizuku originates from “Yamato Brewery”, which was the first company name at the date of establishment in 1865. “Yamato” is the trade name of the Ito family, and in the brewery, there are still Yamato trademarks everywhere. Now, 150 years on, it still works with the same spirit as the brewery founders did all those years ago. Its philosophy is to brew original and local sake by only using particular local rice and water within a 10km radius.


Rice being farmed

The main characteristic of the sake rice used for Yamatoshizuku brewing is that it must be grown within a 10 km radius of the brewery. This is because from the founding of the company in 1865, the use of local sake rice has been one of its most important ideals.


Water source in the mountains

Going deep into the mountains, its water source comes from a spring. About 15 million years ago, this area was at the bottom of the sea. Due to that, the water in the region is special, as it contains more minerals than other sources.

Dewatsuru sake


Rice for Dewatsuru

Dewatsuru’s sake brewing process begins from the cultivation of high quality rice by the toji (master brewer) and kurabito (brewery workers). Making use of the rich soil in the region, brewery workers, along with local farmers, produce high quality rice and cultivate their skills through the organisation of a sake rice organisation.”


Water source for Dewatsuru

One of the most important aspects of brewing sake is the quality of water. Its water comes from natural aquifers near Dewa Hill. The clear, light taste of this water is one of the main characteristics of Dewatsuru.

Dewaturu’s Guiding Principle

Framed on the wall of the Dewatsuru Brewery break room, you can find their motto: “Good harmony makes good sake.” The teamwork of their kurabito and the pride in their craftsmanship make it possible for them to produce high quality sake.

Kariho sake


Watersource for Kariho

Kariho’s water comes from natural aquifers in the Ou mountains.Filtered through  a gravel layer, the water is abundant throughout the year and contains minerals which keep the fermentation process for sake well on track.


Brewing process

The Kariho brand is characterised by its traditional yamahai brewing method. In this method, the sake is kept fermenting for as long as 60 days at a low temperature. The use of naturally-produced lactic acid and yeast cells creates a silky taste and flavourful undertones. The taste of yamahai-style sake excels in bringing out the flavour of food. Yamahai sake is also brewed with natural yeast that comes from the brewery.

Sakafune Shibori

Pressing process

The last step in the brewing process is the traditional way of pressing,called sakafune shibori. Kariho Brewery has 6 “sakafune” (ships) to press sake, which is very rare nowadays. Sakafune shibori is time consuming and takes up a lot of energy, and because of this, there are few brewers who actually use this process. It takes 2 days of pressing to make the well-balanced, mature, strong sake characteristic of Kariho Brewery.


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