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Hidetoshi Nakata tavels around Fukushima <#01> Arriving in Fukushima – “sake”

Hidetoshi Nakata tavels around Fukushima
<#01> Arriving in Fukushima - “sake”

A series where Hidetoshi Nakata travels throughout Fukushima. This time, the destination is Aizu which is known for sake. Nakata visits Kenji Suzuki, who is known as the “person who changed sake in Fukushima” at the Fukushima High-Tech Plaza Aizu Wakamatsu Technology Support Centre.

A more superior and great tasting sake – a revolution

Since he began producing “CRAFT SAKE WEEK” an event that provides an opportunity to experience sake in depth, Nakata has been involved in popularizing and developing the culture of sake. He heard about Suzuki on numerous occasions during his visits to 350 breweries over the years. Suzuki was said to be the person who revolutionized sake brewing in Fukushima, helping it to make great advances.
Sake from Fukushima is known for its depth, lightness and great aroma, and has earned top awards for the past 6 years in the nationwide sake contest. Nakata himself gives high praise to the sake masters of Fukushima.
“I was especially impressed with Tokubestu Junmai and Junmai Ginjo, which are delicious and affordable.”
Suzuki nods in agreement, stating that those are the varieties the prefecture is trying to promote.
“The `Utsukushima Yume Kobo` that the prefecture developed is quite good. Junmai Ginjo tends to be more expensive because the rice is polished more than Junmai. But we can make a light tasting sake with a wonderful aroma by using this particular yeast, even without the extra polishing. This allows us to control the cost.”

While Fukushima is now known as one of the top producers of sake, there was a period when it was trailing behind other prefectures.
At the nationwide sake contest in 1990, no gold awards were given. The local breweries were quite concerned about the results, and requested the prefecture develop a local brand or rice for sake. The Seishu Academy was started to nurture local brew masters or “toji”. In 1995, the local brew masters formed the “High Quality Seishu Research Association aka “Kanetori Kai”. They analyzed different sake, shared brewing methods which used to be top secret, exchanged ideas and technology, in an effort to improve the quality of local sake. Suzuki used to participate as a technical advisor, but he reflects that he was also able to learn quite a lot from the brewmasters.

Increasing sake fans with easy to understand language

Around the same time, Suzuki had an opportunity to meet with Tadao Hiroi, supervisor at the Niigata Shuzo Research Center to learn about “making gold winning sake”. Suzuki created a manual for Ginjo sake production based on that concept and distributed it to local breweries.
His efforts came to fruition, and Fukushima secured the most gold awards at the nationwide sake contest in 2005.

Suzuki told us that while the techniques used in Fukushima are showing great advances, sales are limited to certain brands. Nakata suggested that perhaps labels need to include information that is useful even for those who are not that familiar with sake.
“People who are well informed about sake don’t understand the categorization. Perhaps you could include information about foods that are a good pairing for the sake, to help people form an image of the sake and make the right choice for them.”
Suzuki smiled in content after their exchange of ideas. Making sake easier to understand, and making it more familiar. What steps will Fukushima take to achieve this?

ACCESS

Fukushima High-Tech Plaza Aizu Wakamatsu Technology Support Centre
88-1 Shimoyanagiwara, Tsuruga, Ikki, Aizuwakamatsu-shi, Fukushima
URL http://www4.pref.fukushima.jp/hightech/index-pc.html