A brewery that has come to represent all that Hiroshima sake is, Kamotsuru was the sake of choice for feudal lords that stayed in Saijo in the Edo period (1604-1868). The brewery took the name “Kamotsuru” in 1873. The sake is brewed using superior sake rice such as Yamada Nishiki, Hattan and Senbon Nishiki. Making the most of the skills of the Hiroshima guild of toji, Kamotsuru began making ginjo and daiginjo early and, more than 50 years ago, was the first brewery to make such sake available to the public. Beginning in 1973, the brewery started a winning streak of 18 gold medals in the National New Sake Competition. There is a traditional-looking brewery building on site where visitors can see and study the sake-brewing process.
In 1917, Fukubijin became the first sake brewery in the country to exist as a legal corporation. From early on, the brewery won consecutive top awards in national sake competitions, and their sake was even designated as a “Standard For Excellence.” At the bequest of the industry at large, Fukubijin ran the Saijo Brewing School, an educational platform for the practical education of aspiring master brewers and fermentation engineers, until about 1970. The sake is representative of the typical “feminine sake” associated with Hiroshima, and thanks to its rich, deep flavors and clean finish, it is said to be a sake that one will never tire of drinking.
Founded in 1912, Kamiozumi has focused its efforts on brewing sake that is true to the origins of sake flavor, even back in 1965 when sake, known as “sanzoushu,” which has copious amounts of grain alcohol added to it, was the norm. In 1971, Kamoizumi became famous around Japan for producing a junmai ginjo grade sake using rice milled down to 60%, which was unheard of in those days. The toji, Yukio Masuda, a consummate journeyman of junmai-shu brewing, is well respected as the oldest living active master brewer in Hiroshima. Kamoizumi sake has a slightly golden color, thanks to a lack of carbon filtering, an omission that also helps to retain a rich and mellow flavor.
Sake has long been believed to be the best of all medicines, and the name of this sake, Kirei, refers to the age of a turtle. The name was chosen to suggest that those who drink Kirei sake might live as long turtles do. Not surprisingly, the brewery is rich in tradition and was the first to be awarded an Honorary Award in the National Seishu (sake) Competition. While most Hiroshima sake is sweet, Kirei is dry with a tasty finish. Kirei uses ideal sake rice and traditional techniques and is known to have fans throughout Japan. The brewery also produces noodles called “Jokamachi Udon,” which are made using a bit of sake, and a soap made with sake lees that said to enhance skin quality.
Saijotsuru brewery focuses on using Hiroshima’s ideal sake rice and traditional brewing methods. Today, the facility still retains the appearance it had when it was founded in 1904. Its tall brick chimney is the only one still in use amongst the many visible in Saijo. Saijotsuru produces sake only during the coldest days in winter, thus its junmai and ginjo sake have a clean aftertaste and are very easy to drink. The junmai daiginjo genshu (undiluted) sake, “Shinzui,” is made using a grand accumulation of brewers’ techniques and is matured over long periods of time at extremely low temperatures. This sake has won Gold Medals for 10 consecutive years in the “Monde Selection,” a respected competition that assesses and certifies the best alcoholic beverages and food in the world.
One of the oldest breweries in Hiroshima, the origins of Hakubotan can be traced back to 1675, when the company was founded by a descendant of general Sakon Shima, who served the famous Mitsunari Ishida. Along the road in Saijo known as “Sakagura Dori” (Sake Brewery Street) reside two of the brewery’s buildings named Enpokura and Tenpokura, both which were built in the Edo period (1604-1868). Tenpokura now has a tasting corner, and on the wall is an original print by the famous woodblock artist, Shiko Munakata. While Hakubotan values hand-crafted brewing, it was also eager to adopt computerization and automation early on. The sake is known for its clean finish and elegant taste. Novelist Soseki Natsume is said to have had a weak stomach, but he loved the sake produced by Hakubotan.
Founded in the late Edo period (1604-1868), Sanyotsuru uses rice from the northern part of Hiroshima Prefecture. This rice is said to be ideal for sake brewing, and produces a sake with an elegant and refreshing taste. The brewery’s popular Five Sake Sampler consists of five 180-ml bottles, and incudes a daiginjo, junmai ginjo and an orizake (slightly cloudy sake). Sanyotsuru also runs several pubs in central Hiroshima and downtown Tokyo that offer customers sake freshly delivered from the brewery.
Founded in 1895, the Kamoki motto is, “A small brewery cannot survive doing things the same way as large breweries. There are things that only small breweries can do.” Thus, little Kamoki focuses demonstrating its uniqueness through a wide variety of sake products made in small quantities. Popular products include “Malt Kamoki,” sake that goes well on the rocks, and a reddish sake made from brown (unmilled) rice. On the brewery grounds are a coffee lounge and a Japanese sweets shop, as well as a gallery and a sake tasting corner located where an old rice storehouse used to be. This space, which features excellent acoustics, is also used as a concert hall.
Founded in 1880, this company abandoned the traditional toji system in which a master brewer from the countryside is in charge, and instead the company itself took responsibility for everything from production to sales and even delivery. Their sake is hand-made in small lots by a crew that is significantly younger than the older toji formerly in charge. All of the sake, from the \2000 variety to the top-of-the-line \10,000 product, is made with the same care and attention to detail. All junmai-shu grade sake and above are kept refrigerated during storage, which is indicative of their thorough quality control. The mild taste and pleasant aromas are widely appreciated, especially by younger generations.
(Approx. 16 km northwest of JR Saijo station.)