As well as being known as a sightseeing spot, Saijo in Hiroshima prefecture is well known as one of Japan’s top 3 sake-brewing areas. There are 8 sake breweries within walking distance of JR Saijo train station.
Between the Seto Inland Sea in the south and the mountainous Chugoku region to the north, Hiroshima prefecture is home to over 50 breweries. In terms of the variety of sake brewed, the special characteristic of the region is that even within the same prefecture flavors range from sweet to dry and from tanrei (crispy and dry) to nojun (deep and rich flavor).
And among all the sweet sake, numerous in Hiroshima, there are a lot of firm fans of the Kirei Brewery’s (Kirei Shuzo) “Prime Dry Sake”. We went to discover the secret behind its popularity.
Even today, the Kirei Brewery maintains the toji * system, and they brew sake by hand using traditional methods passed down from generation to generation.
*A toji is the head of the brewery (toji = ‘chief brewer’). The toji comes to the brewery from the farming villages and brews sake from late autumn, the season of leisure for farmers, until early spring.
Today, with the majority of breweries using the full time employee system, there are only a few left that still use the toji system.
Mr. Nishigaki, the Kirei Brewery’s well-known chief brewer, spends the spring and summer seasons farming in Hyogo prefecture, his home region. Come brewing season, however, he returns to the brewery.
To what does Mr. Nishikagi pay extra attention to provide customers with the delicious flavor that makes them happy?
Apparently, the key is to brew at a low temperature over a long period of time to bring out the best flavor of the rice. Low temperature brewing takes time, but the merit of not increasing the production rate for efficiency, is that this method clearly makes customers happy.
Today was Mr. Nishigaki’s last day of brewing before heading back to Hyogo prefecture… His voice is coarse. Focusing seriously on sake brewing, I can imagine him shouting in the brewery everyday!
It’s obvious that it’s a sake made carefully with the strong team spirit of the sake brewery workers living together.
I spent a moment sensing the aesthetics behind protecting traditional methods. Within one cup of delicious sake, and the taste that pierces your heart, you can feel everything, and Mr. Nishigaki’s dedication packed within.
In the surroundings of the Saijo breweries, there are plenty of popular restaurants where you can enjoy Hiroshima’s local sake and cuisine.
After sightseeing around the breweries, how about enjoying the deep flavors together with their stories?
Kirei Shuzo Co., Ltd.
Location: 8-18 Saijohonmachi, Higashihiroshima city, 739-0011
Setouchi Finder Photo-writers: Makoto Esaki & Yoko Suganami
Yoko Suganami Rainbow Sake, Inc. After an extended stay in Hawaii, in 2011, I returned to my hometown of Kure, Hiroshima. Having worked at advertising companies in both Japan and Hawaii, I founded Rainbow Sake - a PR company with the goal of spreading Sake abroad. I hope that sake will ""bring the people of the world together"" and that I can be a part of that. I often travel abroad, and mostly to Hawaii and Singapore. Every time I come back home, I rediscover the beauty of my hometown and the happiness the easygoing, calm, fresh and simple sea and mountains of Setouchi bring. http://www.rainbowsake.com
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