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The Mainichi newspaper site covers a thanksgiving of sorts in Tochigi Prefecture, where members of the prefectural brewers association trekked up to the famous Nikkō Futarasan shrine to give thanks for the fertility and fermenting ability of the microbes that keep them in business making sake and miso.

While I’ve known for a while that the popular red-gated Inari shrines with their fox statues are dedicated to the deity responsible for good rice harvests (and, by extension, prosperity in general and success in business), it seems there are also deities in charge of brewing – the Futarayama no Ōkami, three gods enshrined at Nikkō Futarasan. A spring that rises on the shrine grounds, Futara Reisen (二荒霊泉, Miraculous Spring of Futara) is supposed to produce excellent sake.

Brewery owners and tōji master brewers attended a ceremony at the shrine’s hall of worship, where they presented their brewed sake and thanked the gods for a good brewing season. They would normally have gone out to the spring to take some of the water, but due to rain the water was brought to the hall instead. The sacred water could be kept on the brewery’s altar (and they do have them, we saw some when we visited breweries last year) or used to dilute genshu.

Masayuki Kikuchi, head of the brewers association, also had a less supernatural explanation for the production of good sake – the kurabito. He praised their enthusiasm for the great sake produced in all Tochigi breweries and looked forward to sharing it with everyone who came to visit the prefecture.