Suzuka, the land of good sake
Suzuka, Mie Prefecture, the home to our brewery, has long been known as Umasake Suzuka no Kuni, ‘Suzuka, the land of good sake’. The first recorded mention of this metonym is in the ancient book ‘The Record of the Times of Yamato-hime-no-mikoto’, the story of the then princess Yamato-hime-no-mikoto. The book describes her travels to find a fitting place to enshrine the sun goddess Amaterasu. Upon finding the site, where the Grand Ise Shrine still stands today, the princess declared “I hail from Suzuka, the land of umasake”. And so it was that Suzuka became associated with ‘good sake’.
Indeed, Suzuka is fortunate to be blessed with a natural environment ideal for sake brewing. Cool, clear water from the Suzuka Mountains springs forth in into the vast Ise Plain, where rice of the highest quality grows. It is with this rice and water that Suzuka’s delicious sake has long been made. At the Kawamata Shrine in the Suzuka River basin, the Uma Sake Festival is held annually, to give thanks to the gods for the delicious sake produced in such favourable conditions.
It has been some 150 years since our brewery was founded in 1869 as Daikokuya Shimizu Seizaburo Shoten. And today, we continue to brew sake, preserving the long-held legacy of our land. We believe that it is our destiny to brew good sake here. And that is why we strive, each and every day, to brew a modern-day umasake.
Our Approach to Brewing
We believe that it is only working by hand that you can bring out the best flavour when brewing sake. But even then, simple repetition isn't enough alone to brew good sake. Just as the taste and quality of agricultural produce varies from year to year, so too will the nature of our brewing change with the natural environment. Each day, we watch, listen to, and work closely with our rice. It is this attention to detail that is key. Our hope is to merely take another step closer to our ideal sake with each passing day.
In our modern world, productivity and efficiency are often prized above all else, with many brewers using large-scale automated machinery to realise these goals. We don’t believe, however, that it is possible to produce our ideal sake taking that approach. Instead, we utilise small fermentation vessels, which allow us to pay close attention to the delicate workings of the fermentation process. We do our best to carefully manage our yeast, our koji, our water, and our rice, exactly so we can brew the best sake we can.
It goes without saying that rice sits at the heart of the lives of all Japanese people. This year, like
many that have come before, the harvest was thankfully a bountiful one. And so it is that we have
the privilege of making sake from our most precious rice. If we are sure to respect the rice we use,
we can always be proud of the sake we make.
This is our sake-zukuri – our way of making sake.
A modern-day Ise toji (master brewer),
Our toji , Tomohiro Uchiyama is a native of Suzuka. Having studied biochemistry at technical college in Nagoya, he then began his career in sake making. Since the very beginning, Uchiyama has combined an exceptional sensitivity with his strong belief in the importance of uncompromising sake brewing. In recent years, Uchiyama's talents have blossomed, and he has been recognised both nationally and internationally, winning a number of prestigious awards at major competitions every year.
Uchiyama’s aim is to produce a sake that can be enjoyed by everyone, everywhere. Learning not only
from tradition, he also actively participates in industry events and study groups across the country,
always committed to learning and improving his craft. Today, he continues to make sake with the same
care and dedication that we have always taken at Shimizu Seizaburo Shoten.
“We put our whole heart and soul into making sake – when it's finished, we don't want to have any regrets about what we should have done.”
Threads to the past, connecting people today
In Mie Prefecture, where the Ise Grand Shrine stands, sake has been long intertwined with Shinto rituals, both an inseparable part of daily life. Even today, those unchanged rituals are still performed at Ise Jingu, with sake fulfilling its role as a sacred drink of the gods.
But sake does not stand still! Rather, it has seen an unprecedented renaissance in recent years, with a variety of new flavours, aromas, and styles coming to the market. And this isn’t just the case in Japan, but also in the USA, Asia, and wine-dominated Europe, where sake judging competitions are now long-established.
As a brewery, we will continue to do our utmost to ensure that sake becomes part of the fabric of our collective cultures, so that it might be a common sight all over the world. Our sake is served in places where people meet, we hope bringing smiles to their faces, breaking down our social and societal barriers. All people, everywhere, can connect over a glass of sake, to share a precious moment together. It is our pleasure and privilege to make a sake which not only connects us to the past but also connects people in the present.