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The Fushimi Keizai Newspaper reports on a collaboration between the Saitō brewery in Fushimi and the Umedai Garden Internship company, set up in April 2018 to offer work and study programmes for students aged 18 to 28. It is currently placing about 60 students from a number of Kansai universities.

The students take part in a range of projects, one of which was to communicate the culture of sake.

The project kicked off on 11 May 2018 when students from Umedai came for a study tour of the Saitō kura. The students will learn all about sake while developing an original menu of matching dishes for the brewery’s products in association with Umedai Garden’s cookery department.

Five students arrived at the brewery and were given a talk on its history and the production of sake by owner Hiroshi Saitō. He explained that the company was actually in the fabric business before the Meiji Era, based in the Ogura-no-ike district that was in those times the equivalent of the Kyoto Station district today with its many clothing shops. That world changed significantly in the Meiji period, particularly as the country was opened up by railways. Sōtarō Saitō, the 9th head of the family, decided at the young age of 17 to go into brewing.

The group then headed in to the brewery itself, where Saitō explained that kōji and water are the most important factors in producing sake. He emphasised that making kōji was extremely strenuous work, and they allowed no visits when it was being produced. Sake is mostly made up of water, so water has a very profound influence on the final product. The water in Fushimi is delicate and subtle, so even the nearby Matsumoto brewery’s water doesn’t taste the same.

The visit finished up with questions and answers, with one student asking about the brewery’s victory at this year’s Matsuo Taisha Sake One Grand Prix competition. Saitō replied that this competition was different because it’s judged across all categories and also has a fan vote for the “Sake One Grand Prix”. The brewery also won at the 2018 “Fine Sake Awards” (ワイングラスでおいしい日本酒アワード2018, or “2018 sake that’s delicious in a wine glass awards”) around the same time, which gained them lots of attention from both fans and professionals. Saitō was delighted by the wins and the positive evaluation of their sake from both groups.