Japanese Sake Series: Kikusui Sake Brewery
Kikusui Brewery complex
As a relatively modern brewery, Kikusui focuses on innovation and uses its location to its advantage to create great-tasting Japanese sake.
The name “Kikusui” derives from traditional Japanese performing arts. The name is the joining of two words – kiku, which means “chrysanthemum,” and sui, which means “water.”
In Japan, there is a traditional performing art known as Noh. In one Noh play called ‘Kikujido’, there is a character, a mountain hermit, who drinks dew that had collected on the leaves of a chrysanthemum plant and lives to be 700 years old. The water of the chrysanthemum gives perpetual youth and longevity, and it was from this that the sake brand Kikusui was born.
History and background of Kikusui brewery
History of Kikusui
The majority of sake breweries in Japan were started by landowners, people with money and privilege. However, the founders of Kikusui, the Takasawa family, were only a cadet branch and never held a position of privilege. Despite this, they were granted a licence to produce and sell sake. Founded in 1881, a relatively young brewery, Kikusui is still run by the same family under the current 5th-generation president. Over the years, Kikusui has endured many trials including securing rice, labour shortages, and drops in sales in the harsh post-war years.
Inside the brewery
However, the biggest challenges came in the form of the Niigata Earthquake in 1964, then the Kaetsu Flood of 1966 and 1967, when for two consecutive years the brewery was destroyed and washed away. Even in the face of such adversity, Kikusui has always remained committed to the pursuit of producing the highest quality sake. As drinking preferences change over time, Kikusui develops new yet high quality, affordable, and easy to drink products. From its humble beginnings, Kikusui has remained true to its vision of creating sake that can be enjoyed by all.
Kikusui Brewery’s essential ingredients
Niigata prefecture fields
Kikusui brewery is located in Niigata prefecture. Surrounded by oceans and mountains, Niigata is a land that boasts natural beauty and delicious food.
By far its greatest claim to fame, however, is its production of Japanese sake. The prefecture has more sake breweries than any other prefecture, and those breweries continue to work hard in their quest to produce fine Japanese sake.
The ingredients of Japanese sake are rice and water. This makes Niigata the ideal place to produce it.
With the largest land area devoted to rice cultivation in Japan, Niigata is the first prefecture to come to mind when it comes to rice. It is also extremely famous for its production of ‘koshihikari’, Japan’s most prestigious brand of table rice.
The Niigata city of Shibata, where Kikusui brewery is located, is an area of idyllic scenery, where much of the virgin landscape has been retained. The 2,000-metre mountains that tower over the area are covered in snow for much of the year, and the snowmelt that feeds into the area’s underground water veins provides rich water resources.
Niigata is known for its severe winters and heavy snowfall. Many houses find their ground levels completely buried in snow, forcing residents to enter and exit their homes from their second story windows.
All that snow keeps the air clear and clean, and this, along with the winter climate, makes Niigata the perfect environment to ferment Japanese sake at low temperatures.
Winter in Niigata prefecture
Fine sake does not just taste good. Kikusui believes that truly delicious sake creates pleasurable moments, gives rise to a unique and beautiful culture, and fosters peace and serenity. It treasures the history, traditions, and culture of Japanese sake and strives to continue them in the modern age.