Innovative attempt against traditional sake-brewing process: the challenge of kuramoto-toji

Fumigiku Sake Brewery is a small sake brewery based in Toyama City with a long history and tradition. Established in 1916, it celebrated the centennial of its founding in 2016.

Current kuramoto (owner), Keiki Hane, who has now taken over the family business—Fumigiku Sake Brewery—began his career as a sake brewer after working at a major bio-fermentation products manufacturer in Tokyo.

At the time, award-winning senior brewers were producing sake at his brewery. It was common practice to use significantly different brewing methods for products that were submitted to competitions and for those that were sold at stores. Feeling uncomfortable with this distinction and convinced that commercially available sake should be the one to taste superb, Hane decided to brew all types of sake in the same manner as he did daiginjo, the most premium sake.

This was considered to be a revolting idea and one that was strongly objected by other brewers; however, Hane managed to persuade them that he would brew these products himself. The key to preparing for brewing sake is good control over the amount of water absorbed by rice. During his first attempt at brewing sake at Fumigiku Shuzo, Hane decided to adopt gentei kyusui-a time-consuming method used to brew daiginjo, wherein the amount of water absorbed by rice is kept at a limited level.  This is how Fumigiku Shuzo started a new sake-brewing era.

Hane began observing how seasoned brewers made sake and gradually took over the entire process. Today, Hane spearheads sake-brewing at the brewery, serving as the kuramoto-toji (brewery owner, who is also the chief brewer) while working together with brewery workers.

●HANEYA: a special limited-edition brand is born

FUMIGIKU and HANEYA are the two brands of Fumigiku Sake Brewery. HANEYA, the special sake, is being distributed nationwide, and Fumigiku Shuzo currently using this brand as a springboard while it is embarking on a challenging new journey to establish the next-generation of sake-brewing.

HANEYA-brand products are made using natural water from the Joganji-gawa River System in Toyama, which is considered to be one of “Japan’s 100 Best Natural Waters.” In addition to the gentei kyusui water absorption method, which requires great care and can only be achieved using a small quantity of rice, all HANEYA sake is made by using hako-koji (box koji) and futa-koji (tray koji), the same meticulous koji treatment techniques that are also used for ginjo (premium sake).

HANEYA only uses nakagumi or nakadori (both meaning “mid-cut”), which is sake created from the second pressing of the three-part pressing process, and is the best type of sake made in the tank.

Because HANEYA is made with great care, it is difficult to increase production, which means that the shipping quantity is limited. The brewery is making meticulous and sincere efforts to improve its products, with a never-ending passion to achieve the best-quality sake.

●Going global with a new value proposition

The name “HANEYA” has been used as the yago (the name of the store) for quite some time. It was called HANEYA with the hope that the brewery’s sake would lift the spirit of its consumers and give them “wings” (“hane”) to soar up into the sky.

The brewery practices year-round brewing to produce KIRABI (literally “shining lights,”  a pure-rice, unpasteurized, and undiluted ginjo), TSUBASA (literally “wings,” a pure-rice daiginjo), and other new standard products, as well as limited-edition products.

The brewery’s new value propositions are being recognized in Japan and much further afield. For example, HANEYA won the Gold Medal for two consecutive years in the Sake Category of the International Wine Challenge, one of the largest wine competitions in the world, and was awarded “The Fine Sake Awards Japan” for multiple consecutive years.

In recent years, HANEYA products have begun gaining wider international recognition. For example, the brewery resumed sake-brewing using Toyama-produced rice called “Tomi-no-Kaori” (literally “aroma of Toyama”), and the product with the same name won the top prize, the Platinum Prize, at the Kura Master 2018, a sake competition held in France.

With a view to tap the unlimited potential of Japanese sake, Fumigiku Sake Brewery continues to take on new challenges. Here at Fumigiku Sake Brewery, we would like to continue being innovative to create the utmost high-quality sake.