Back to Where It All Began Hiroshima「Kamotsuru」｜Scenery Where Rich Japan is Created
Japan, the island country which is slender and long, extending north to south. Small, but beautiful land with full of rich nature and blessed with pure water here and there. Delicious things have been developed from beautiful sceneries. In this series, we will introduce delectables originated from landscapes in Japan, which cannot be found in big cities.
Back to Where It All Began
Saijo,Higashihiroshima city in Hiroshima is one of the three major sake brewing towns in Japan along with Nada in Hyogo prefecture and Fushimi in Kyoto. Still now, seven breweries nestle next to each other in the central city, which makes it very rare among “Japanese sake towns.” If you walk around the town with your head up it is clear to see. The red brick chimneys rising from each brewery contrast sharply against the blue sky, creating a beautiful scene. Kamotsuru is a leading brewery in Saijo and is celebrating its centenary this year.
"Making sake begins with cleaning and ends with cleaning." In order to keep bad bacteria away from the brewing, kurabito (a sake artisan) never neglects cleaning. The spacious sake brewery is kept clean and spotless, making the place well-freshened. Kamotsuru have challenged themselves to go “back to basics” and once again use local ingredients to brew its brand, whilst “valuing the traditional Kamotsuru flavor” upon which the brewery has expanded from generation to generation.
In Japan, it is very rare these days to find sake being made from the local brewing rice. Unlike wine, where the “terroir” is considered very important, there are even some breweries who resource brewing rice from different prefectures. However, Kamotsuru has managed to reproduce legendary “Hiroshima Nishiki” brewing rice. This rice was originally produced in the early 20th century as a premium brewing rice but its production was stopped due to the difficulty of harvesting. Kamotsuru also uses “Kamotsuru natural yeast” whose recipe was invented by Kamotsuru in early 20th century. For water, which is one of the most important factors for sake brewing, they use the underflow water from the local Kamo mountain range. By combining these key ingredients, Kamotsuru have achieved their goal of producing “Hiroshima Nishiki” sake with a crisp and clean flavor which is wholly “Made in Hiroshima.”
When we visited, it was the last day of the brewing season. In the silent brewery, the chief sake brewer Shigeru Mukuda tasted the sake, which was freshly squeezed from the last barrel and served in a pure white cup. “The flavor is refreshing. It’s like Muscat,” said Mukuda. He expressed his confidence in the quality of the sake which was brewed with tender loving care.
While there are many breweries who have closed their business due to slow sales of Japanese sake, Kamotsuru challenges themselves to produce sake all made in Hiroshima. Their attachment to the local resources motivates them to take up this challenge as they look ahead to the next century...
Photographs by Tetsuya Ito・Text by FOOD PORT.