Last week at the office one of my female co-workers handed me a bottle of sake she had been holding onto since last year. She had told me it was given to her at a business gathering somewhere in Tokyo, and that according to them it was very good. Fortunately for me she wasn’t a sake drinker so she decided to give it to me knowing that I wouldn’t waste anytime sampling its essence.
Looking at the label to the right I immediately thought it was some kind of geeky sake association in Tokyo. There is a close-knit association for just about everything here in Japan, so a sake association for geeks like myself wouldn’t surprise me at all. But turning the bottle around I discovered it was from Gifu prefecture in Hashima city, and that it was made by a highly respectable brewery called Chiyogiku and that the name on the bottle bore no association whatsoever to the brewer.
According to the label to the left it says Yoshio no Sake, and on the top right it says Ichiryu 1 Associates, which after careful research was named after a very famous entrepreneur in Osaka named Yoshio Ichiryu. That makes sense now. But why him? And what’s the association between an entrepreneur and a sake brewery?
Digging further I found out that this man, Yoshio Ichiryu, is the most prominent private sector advocate in Japan. So basically he’s an advocate for private business and enterprise and private profits with an emphasis on private businesses and small start-ups. According to several sources he believes that in order for Japan to revitalize its economy it has to move away from public sector economics by encouraging Japanese to become entrepreneurial instead of depending on State run programs to solve the economic problems. Sort of echoes former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s sentiments when he privatized the Postal Service in a move to free up trillions of yen for the economy.
I was intrigued, and since Gifu and Osaka are within a couple of hours reach of each other it also made even more sense as to why an entrepreneur would explore business opportunities there . One reason could be that Gifu has so many micro breweries that could use a financial lift. The neat thing too, is that most of these small breweries still make sake the traditional way with hardly no electricity; just hands, sweat, and song. Small brewery, less overhead, niche market…I get the picture.
But back on topic, this sake and Mr. Ichiryu have some sort of business affiliation, which I haven’t been able to confirm, but it’s highly likely that if a sake brewery puts your name on one of its sake than it’s either because you are a business associate or a celebrity, or a very important person, so I had no doubts in my mind that this sake would taste very good.
Upon opening, my nose was pleasantly ambushed by spring flowers. One of the brewery’s most important ingredients is its use of organic rice grains, which is a strand of rice called Chrysanthemum rice. The water used comes from a well source 128 meters deep and is checked annually by the government for its purity. Everything is made by hand, and pressed using traditional methods that go back hundreds of years.
Gifu has such a special place in my memories. The history; the sake; the mountains; the beautiful snowy fields; the onsen, beautiful women. I visited this prefecture several times and highly recommend it for those who want to get a taste of old Japan. Winter is the best time of year in my opinion. The best sake I ever tasted when I first came to Japan came from this prefecture and is called Uwazumi Brewery( 057-82009).
The nihonshu-do for this sake is +1.0 making it neutral, + 10 would be super super dry whereas, say - 3 would indicate more sweetness. Acidity is around 1.3 which means it has a full spectrum of taste whereas higher acidity would indicate more dryness. Seimai- buai is 58%.
All-in-all, this is a great sake with a very distinguishable tail that leaves a lovely scent leaving the mouth feeling tantalizingly refreshed. Just about anything this brewery puts out is going to taste the way sake should taste, like the Soul of Japan.