Japanese sake series: Kaba Sake Brewery
Brewery main building
Kaba Sake Brewery’s many awards show how their history, location and values have served them well in their Japanese sake brewing.
Kaba Shuzo is a long-established sake brewery that has been making local sake in Hida for over 300 years. The blessings of Hida's abundant water and the manufacturing method using Hidahomare sake rice, which is nurtured by the harsh climate, are the secrets to producing Hida's rich local sake. Its representative brand name Shiramayumi is derived from a "makurakotoba" (pillow word; a decorative word used as a prefix in classical Japanese literature), which ‘decorates’ Shiramayumi as a proudly established Hida sake.
In addition, its main building and other buildings are nationally-registered cultural properties. The Bunko warehouse, the white-walled storehouse along the Seto River, plays a part in the landscape that symbolises Hida Furukawa, the town at the centre of Hida City.
History and background of Kaba Sake Brewery
Shiramayumi is a rich and tasty brew that is loved by locals and sake lovers all over the country. It has received awards at numerous competitions and is now known as the representative sake of Hida Furukawa.
Founding and growth
About 300 years ago, in the first year of Hoei (1704), Toan Kaba started his business in Hida Furukawa. At the time, the 5th Shogun Tsunayoshi Tokugawa ruled.
The Hoei Earthquake occurred in Hoei Year 4 (1707). A large eruption also occurred on the side of Mt. Fuji, causing great damage off the coast of Tokaido all the way to the coast of Nankai. In addition, a great famine broke out in Hida due to the impact of this great earthquake. Toan Kaba went to Etchu (currently Toyama Prefecture), where he was trading to collect food and buy rice for the people of Hida Furukawa.
However, Toan was later stranded at the border and banned from bringing rice. He begged the officials, "I don’t care if I am detained, but please bring the rice to Hida."
It is said that the magistrate who heard this story was so impressed by the ambition of Toan, he said, "I will allow Toan the freedom to trade with Etchu for his lifetime only." Thanks to that, Toan's business prospered and he was able to build a fortune.
Based on these foundations left by Toan, sake brewing began and Shiramayumi was born.
Around 1938, photo includes the then teenaged head of the company and their master brewer
Origin of the name of Shiramayumi
The origin of the name Shiramayumi is derived from the pillow word for Hida in "Shiramayumi hida no hosoe no sugadori no imo ni kofurekai wo nekane tsuru" (Volume 12) in Manyoshu (historical collection of poems). In addition, it is said that Hida may have been affixed with the name Shiramayumi because of the native Mayumi tree.
Since the conception of Shiramayumi, the face of the Kaba Sake Brewery, they have been making sake for generations. In addition to maintaining these traditions of sake brewing, the company inherited the spirit of Toan, who tried to send rice to his starving village at his own expense, and continues to give back to the community with the moral of the story, "profit should be accepted but not greedily coveted."
Proudly displayed family motto
Next to sake brewing, contributing to society and the community is an important mission of the brewery. With that in mind, they aim to become a brewery that is loved by many.
Kaba Brewery’s essential ingredients
Hida's "Hidahomare" rice
Hidahomare rice was developed over a period of about 10 years at the High Cold Region Agricultural Experiment Station, in Hida Furukawa, in response to the wishes of sake brewers and farmers who wanted to make rice that was especially suitable for sake brewing. Since it began to appear on the market in the latter half of 1965, it has been going through a continuous process to improve its quality and has become the official sake rice of Hida.
There are many people who do not know Hidahomare even though it is the official sake rice of Hida. Hidahomare accounts for only 1% of the total production of rice suitable for sake brewing nationwide, and it is still unknown compared to the famous Yamada Nishiki. This is not surprising, as the only region that produces Hidahomare is the Hida region in Gifu prefecture, and only Gifu prefecture breweries can make sake using it.
Hidahomare has a large amount of starch, required for sake brewing.Even with a low whitening ratio of 60%, it produces sake with sufficient umami. Also, making kouji (malted rice, a sake ‘starter’), sake can be made even lighterThis complements the concept of Kaba Sake Brewery, which aims to "brew umami sake."
Water from the Japanese Alps
The mountains of the Northern Alps provide a magnificent and unchanging scenery. The people who live in Hida spend their days protected, with healing, and encouraged by this mountain range. Pure water springs from these beautiful Northern Alps. This clear underground water is used for Shiramayumi.
The water in the Northern Alps is soft. Twenty-seven years ago, when chief brewer Mr. Fujii first tried this water, he instinctively thought that it can be used to make good sake.
The water of the Northern Alps is indispensable for the brewing of Shiramayumi, which has a rich and sharp umami flavour.
Winter in Hida
Hida's climate is vital for good sake brewing.A gorgeous spring with pretty flowers everywhere, a refreshing summer with dazzling fresh greenery, a beautiful autumn with golden rice ears swaying in the wind, and a quiet winter surrounded by cotton-coloured snow. Hida's four seasons provide the best conditions for brewing amazing sake.
Especially in the middle of winter, brewing is in full swing. At Kaba Sake Brewery, sake is brewed in the white wall warehouse that has been used for generations since the Meiji era. Even if the temperature outside is below freezing, the temperature inside the dozo (warehouse) is higher than the outside temperature, which is almost constant at 7-8 °C.
This low temperature is important for making koji and sake, and is especially suitable for making Shiramayumi.
The iconic warehouses in Hida
Nature’s climate and water brought, the fine sake rice, and the wonderful wisdom of their predecessors are irreplaceable treasures to Kaba Sake Brewery. While valuing these blessings, they continue to make delicious sake.