Introduction of Tamanohikari Shuzo (Tamanohikari Sake Brewery)


Tamanohikari staff

Tamanohikari, born in 1673.

For 340 years, with care and dedication, we have continued to brew the finest sake, striving each year to make it better than the last.

We take great care in selecting not only the type of rice we use, but also how it is planted. Tamanohikari led the industry in reviving junmai, sake made without added alcohol or sugar.

Our sake is made from rice, water, and koji (sake ‘starter’). And the simple wish to make delicious, timeless sake.


History and background

Tamanohikari’s clear sake

Junmai is a term for pure sake made only with rice and rice koji. For years, adding alcohol to sake to increase volume was the mainstream. During World War II, it was done because of rice shortages. After the war, sake makers did it to increase profits. Today 80% of sake on the market has added alcohol.

In 1964, Tamanohikari revived junmai for the first time in the industry. Because junmai takes up to 1.8 times the rice that added-alcohol sake requires, this practice was done at considerable cost to the brewery. Yet it could not raise the price of its products in fear that sales would plummet. What is more, few people in those days had a true appreciation for junmai. For Tamanohikari, it was one hardship after another.

Still, we believe this centuries-long tradition of making sake only with rice is the way to achieve the true flavor of sake. That’s why to this day, Tamanohikari brews only junmai.


Tamanohikari’s essential ingredients

Kyoto’s superb water

Top quality rice
Because Tamanohikari is made only with rice, water, and koji, our commitment to rice is extraordinary. Today only 5% of the sake on the market in Japan is made using shuzo kotekimai, rice that is suitable for brewing sake. Tamanohikari uses bizen-omachi, a rare variety regarded as the best rice for making sake, and yamadanishiki, praised as the “yokozuna” (master) of sake rice, as well as premium-quality iwai sake rice from Kyoto.

Brewed with the finest water and the blessings of the Earth
The Fushimi ward of Kyoto is blessed with excellent groundwater. At Tamanohikari, the water we use for all steps, from washing the sake rice, steaming, and creating the moto yeast starter and the moromi mash, all comes from a source in Momoyama Hills. Centuries ago, legendary warrior Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598) pumped the same water for use in his tea ceremonies.

Today the source is recognized by Japan’s Ministry of the Environment as one of the country’s 100 finest waters. Tamanohikari is adamant about selecting only the finest rice and koji. But when it comes to water, we simply give thanks to the blessings of the Earth.

Koji
Koji is a living thing. That’s why it is lovingly crafted by human hands. The sprinkling of koji mold to make koji rice is one of the most important processes in sake making. At Tamanohikari, this process is entirely done by hand. The way the koji mold is sprinkled on the steamed rice is determined by the many years of experience and the intuition of the toji chief brewers.

Koji crafting process

Half a century has passed since Tamanohikari revived the tradition of junmai pure rice sake. Today more and more people appreciate the quality of junmai and ginjo pure sake. But still, you could look all over Japan and you will find only a handful of breweries dedicated to the making of junmai ginjyo and junmai dai-ginjo. As one of Japan’s only junmai ginjo breweries, we will continue to uphold the traditions of years past here in Fushimi, Kyoto, and simply make the best possible sake.

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