Blending Tradition & Innovation A tour through Sake breweries

New Update


Having been invited by Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association (JSS) – a trade body that promotes Japanese Sake and Shochu all over the world – I got a good opportunity to get a detailed insight into Sake by visiting five breweries in Aomori and Iwate – the two northernmost prefectures of Japan. I was a part of a global group of seven beverage experts; being the only one from India.


Japan has 47 prefectures, each having Sakes typical to the region and there is no prefecture in Japan that doesn’t produce Sake. There is so much to learn & imbibe in the land of Sake.

Our Sake knowledge expedition began right from Tokyo at a well equipped JSS Information Centre where 60 different Sakes from all over Japan are stocked at any given point of time.

After an introductory presentation by Yoshiro Okamoto, Vice President, JSS, we learnt the basics of Sake at a day-long knowledge session with John Gauntner, the world’s leading non-Japanese Sake expert. A tasting at the JSS Centre and a dinner with brewery owners towards the evening prepared us for the expedition that lay ahead.

Sakes from Aomori


Our next stop was Aomori, which is around an hour’s flight from Tokyo. Aomori is the northernmost prefecture of Japan’s main island, which has high reputation for its local brews. The prefecture’s capital is also called Aomori, which is well connected from everywhere in Japan. Aomori is famous for its winter landscapes, cherry blossoms and apples that account for over half of Japan’s annual apple harvest.

Indian Connect at Rokka Shuzo

The Rokka Shuzo brewery is one of the biggest in Aomori, being spread over 40,000 square metres. The brewery was established in 1972 by merging three companies (one of them established in 1719) to compete with the big breweries of the Kobe region.

Rokka Shuzo (production volume: 360,000 litres) is most famous for their dry range ‘Joppari’ Sakes with the ‘Daruma’ logo that interestingly has an Indian connect, as Daruma happens to be the Japanese name for Bodhidharma; an Indian monk who took Zen Buddhism to Japan via China. Daruma dolls incidentally are also good luck charms, often sold in Japanese temples.


At Rokka Shuzo brewery we could also try our hands at the various Sake production processes including paddling the ‘Moromi’ (fermenting Sake mash). Kitamura Hiroshi, President, Rokka Shuzo, hosted a private tasting for us that showcased their diverse range of Sakes.

Apart from Joppari, which is a dry Sake, Rokka also produces sweet Sakes and Sake-based liqueurs. My top favourites at Rokka turned out their Joppari Hanaomai (Junmai Daiginjo), Joppari Akinori (Junmai Ginjo) and Joppari Yuuka (Junmai, low alcohol).