The Sankei News reports on a new book that picks six tōji responsible for famous brands and interviews them, putting the focus on people in the bigger story of sake.
The six subjects include those born into the position, like Kenji Hiroki, tōji for Hiroki from Aizu, Kazutaka Takashima, tōji for Hakuin Masamune from Numazu, and still-rare female tōji Yuka Imamura, for Wakanami from Fukuoka.
There are also newcomers such as former soy sauce maker Tetsurō Igarashi, maker of Tensei in Shōnan, Kumamoto, former bank employee Takahiro Shōji who is the other tōji for Wakanami, and Kōichi Moriya, a 9th generation farmer now making Amanotō in Akita.
Although they have varying degrees of experience, they seem to have one thing in common - the ability to make excellent sake as relative beginners and without much instruction. Maybe because the only factor anyone seems to care about is cost, and sake seems to be losing its charm? Even Hiroki once joined a whisky company when confronted with bankruptcy. All in their 40s or 50s, their encounter with excellent sake or with significant figures seems to have awakened every cell in their body and somehow given them a sixth sense for making their own.
Hiroki and Takashima say they were told that if they made something good, the retailers would sell it, and that's what thought about as they threw themselves into their work. They also crossed paths with the makers of famous labels like Juyondai, Kaiun and Isojiman, and found their artisan spirits shaken up by the encounters. The only response they could make was to devote themselves even further to their craft.
But although they were inspired by existing great sake, none of these six tried to imitate what was already there. They all went after their own dreams, Igarashi after Shōnan's beloved natsuzake (summer sake) and Takashima striving to leave a trace of zatsumi (course flavour) to match Numazu's local delicacy of dried fish.
Despite six very different people featuring in one book, there's no sense of disjointedness between the stories. The book contains a glossary and stockists for the interviewees' sake.