Sake from Japan” Introduces a Variety of Sake
• A Japanese sake event “Experience Sake from Japan”
took place at the Chicago Cultural Center on February 24, and 19 sake
breweries from Japan and import traders served a variety of sake, shochu,
and other alcoholic beverages. The event had two parts, one of which invited
restaurateurs and distributors. Another welcomed people from the public
who were over 21 years old. Each part gave two sake seminars regarding
sake categories such as daiginjo and junmai, sake making processes, sake
matching food, and more. Several kinds of cheeses were served to the visitors,
and they enjoyed good matching taste of cheeses with sake.
Interview with Sake Breweries
• Hakutsuru Sake Brewing of Hyogo Prefecture, Japan has
been selling its sake products through the JFC International, Inc. for
more than 35 years. Sweet sake “Sayuri” in a pink bottle is its best-selling
product in the U.S.
• Gaku Saito, General Manager of the Hakutsuru Sake of America, said that
its sales volume has increased to 150% in five years. “I think that most
American people feel sushi equals sake, so its popularity spread over
the U.S. I wish sake will become a part of American culture as sushi did,”
• Hakutsuru’s new product is “Hakutsuru Nishiki Junmai Daiginjo” made
of sake rice “Hakutsuru Nishiki”, which was newly developed by the brewery
in a long process. A variety “Yamada Nishiki” has been called “King of
Sake Rice”, which was developed in Hyogo Prefecture in the 1930s. Hakutsuru
sought to create better sake rice and met the challenge by crossing old
varieties of “Yamadaho” and “Tankan-wataribune.” After eight years of
trial-and-error, it finally created a brother variety of Yamada Nishiki
and named it “Hakutsuru Nishiki.”
• “The sake of Nada” is a famous expression for good tasting sake, especially,
in the Kansai region because of availability of good quality water. Hakutsuru
is located in the Nada area; thus, the brewery can take advantage of the
water and grow good sake rice.
• Another new product is “Toji-Kan.” Toji means a master brewer. When
Hakutsuru’s master brewer reached his retirement, the company asked him
to make his favorite sake, so he pursued it. He used the high quality
of Yamada Nishiki, which was usually used for junmaishu or higher grade
of sake, and attained the ultimate in the sake taste. As the result, his
masterpiece became futsushu, an ordinary grade of sake or sake for everyday
drink. “Toji-Kan” is good for celebrating the finish of a day’s hard work.
• Saito said, “Thanks to JFC, Hakutsuru products are well embedded in
the Chicago market. Our share is pretty high.”
• The Maruishi Jozo of Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture was
founded in 1690. It embarked on overseas business seven or eight years
ago and began selling its products in the U.S. three years ago. Hideki
Fukada, Sales Director of Maruishi, said that it was the first time to
go overseas to promote the product directly from his brewery company.
• Maruishi, one of the oldest breweries, has developed a line of fruit
liqueur flavored with strawberry, peach, orange, yuzu, mango, and matcha
green tea as a selling edge to enter foreign markets. The idea came from
younger workers including Fukada. They harvest strawberries, hull strawberries,
and then a cake maker mashes the strawberries manually. The matcha powder
comes from nearby City of Nishio, famous for macha production.
• Fukada said, “Fruit liqueurs gained visitors’ attention very well. There
is a big difference whether we have the liqueurs or not because sake is
• Maruishi introduced its sake named “Nito (two rabbits)”. Fukada mentioned
a proverb, “He who runs after two hares will catch neither,” and said,
“Only he, who runs after two hares, will catch two.” The company blended
two different sake qualities such as “tastes and aroma” or “acidity and
umami (savory taste)” together into Nito. “If you drink Nito, a little
acidity comes first followed by sweetness, and then you’ll have a sharp
finish,” Fukada explained.
• The Sekiya Jozo of Shitara town in Aichi Prefecture
brought premium sake named “Kuu (air),” which was rumored, “You have to
wait for one year to get it.”
• Masafumi Sekiya, Sales Manager of Sekiya Jozo, said that Kuu was made
of Yamada Nishiki, which was polished by 40%, and was fermented in low
temperature, so that the taste became elegant.
• He also said that most important factor was quality of water. The company
found very soft water, which sprang between rocks in a mountain that located
three kilometers from the brewery. They get the water through an underground
• Kuu is a well-known brand among local people and sold to mainly those
people. Sekiya modestly said, “I appreciate getting a premium on Kuu.
To tell you the truth, it is a matter of demand and supply balance.” Because
of the soft water, Kuu is lacking body; thus, the brewery keeps the sake
in tanks for 1.5 to 2 years for maturation. “We have so many tanks,” Sekiya
says, but it takes time to deliver Kuu to customers.
• Sekiya Jozo entered the American market more than 15 years ago and has
sold its sake products in 13 countries, mainly Asian regions. Regarding
his impression of Chicago, he said, “The visitors are really serious to
taste sake. I think that they came here to find something new. I brought
sparkling sake, too, because I thought that Chicagoans would love it.
My prediction was right! I’m very satisfied.”
• The Wakatsuru Jozo of Toyama Prefecture was founded
in 1862. The brewery has sold its sake products through trading companies,
but this was the first time it promoted its products directly in a sake
• Wakatsuru’s sake was “Nokaya,” the name was taken from an inn run by
Wakatsuru’s owner in Edo samurai period. It also introduced “Kijo-shu”.
• According to Yoshiyuki Kakuzaki, Trade Business Development Manager
of GRN, a subsidiary of Wakatsuru, instead adding water, sake was added
in Kijo-shu in the sake making process, so that sweeter sake was produced.
Adding sake into sake sounds expensive, but Kakuzaki said, “No.” “Most
of the cost is manual labor. Dai Ginjo for example, we polish sake rice
by 67%, that requires many hand workings, but Kijo-shu doesn’t need so
much human labor, so it’s not very expensive,” he explained. “Kijo-shu
was more popular than Nokaya at this fair,” he said.
• Wakatsuru also brews whiskey. Kakuzaki said that Japanese whiskey has
become very popular in the world and was easily sold out. “Thus, people
say, ‘Rare whiskey that is hard to obtain,’” he added.
• Amid this trend, Wakatsuru is going to release a new whiskey brand soon
and another in the fall. Kakuzaki offered the new one to the visitors
from a no-label bottle.
• He talked about a story that nearly 200 bottles of 55-year-old whiskey
were found in the company last year. A bottle of the whiskey was sold
at about $5,000, and all of them were sold out quickly. Kakuzaki said
that they wouldn’t have sold well 10 years ago.
• The event “Experience Sake from Japan” was hosted by
JETRO Chicago, Consulate-General of Japan in Chicago, Japan Sake and Shochu
Makers Association, and Japan America Society of Chicago
The all visitors are welcomed by a variety of sake
at "Experience Sake from Japan."
The visitors ask questions about Japanese Sake.
Gaku Saito, General Manager of the Hakutsuru Sake
Masafumi Sekiya, Sales Manager of Sekiya Jozo
Hideki Fukada, Sales Director of Maruishi Shuzo
Yoshiyuki Kakuzaki, Trade Business Development Manager