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Kubi 5 Ro

Kaiun Hase Shokichi

When I stopped at the Tokyu Foodshow in Shibuya last week, I spotted Kaiun‘s crown jewel bottles, to-bin dori daiginjo that hold Toji’s name, Hase Shokichi label, wrapped in a thin white paper and carefully stocked in the refrigerator. Whenever I see this bottle in a shop, I can’t help myself but pause for a moment with respect that is more like with reverence with a big sigh, “Ahhhh, I wish I could get this bottle”. So, I did the usual thing; stood in front of the refrigerator at Tokyu for a few seconds in awe when I noticed a hand-written tag on the bottle, hardly noticeable since it is wrapped in a thin semi-opaque paper. At the May kikizake kai at Ichibe where Kaiun was the featured kura, the kanpai was to-bin dori Hase Shokichi daiginjo nama, my favorite of all sake. Just like as the bottles I was looking at in Tokyu last week, that had a blue hand-written label with three letters that read “Kubi 5 Ro”. Until I heard the explanation, the label was like a mysterious code to be decyphered.

This rather unusual coded tag shows the pressing method “kubi”, tank number “5” and the order the sake was pressed, “ro” is often used to show second, so on the label, it meant 2nd to-bin, right after arabashiri.


Short for kubitsuri, which is a pressing method to let the big bags of moromi or mash hang from the edge of the tank so that gravity is the “press”. Also called fukuro zuri or literally, hung bags. I guess the term kubitsuri came from the way the bags look, but when I heard it for the first time, I thought I was missing something because in a normal context, the term means hanging oneself. It does not sound too good.

If you are wondering how this kubitsuri pressing process looks, Amanoto has nice pictures in this blog post.


i, ro, ha, ni, ho, he, to… This is as far as I can go with Iroha, which comes from an old poem, but is commonly used today in Japan more like a simple alphabet. Instead of saying ABC, people often use i-ro-ha in documents, or at least that’s mostly where people will see this.

At the May kikizake-kai, I forgot to ask when Kaiun started to market by specifying the pressing method, tank number, and to-bin number. Or, maybe this is just seasonal–I don’t know. Maybe Rober-Gilles would know? Just like any Hase Shokichi I tried in the past, though, this bottle at the kikizake-kai was so well balanced with a light fruity aroma that never stands out by itself. The first sip is like elegant chamber music with velvety layers of flavor changing their tones as it touches different parts of the palette: deep, yet light, then finishes quietly letting the nice remnants to linger. It’s so special that I can go on forever about this nihonshu. Actually, Hase Shokichi is what got me hooked on sake-it all started from that one bottle. When I finally met Hase Toji in person and asked for his autograph, I felt like a teenager meeting a rock star. Well, in the sake world, he is just that kind of legendary figure.

I will write more about that memorable first bottle and Hase Toji later in a separate post, but if you spot this special tag in a shop, you will know what it means.

Buy it.


8 Responses to “Kubi 5 Ro”

  1. Whoa, wait a sec. Overload. Am I reading this right? Is “tobin-gakoi” the same as “tobin-dori”? (Meaning the good stuff put aside in the 18 l bottles?) Or is “tobin-dori” the term for putting drip-pressed sake into tobin? And “tobin-gakoi” is for funashibori (old wooden press sake)? Next, is “shizuku” the general term for gravity-only pressing from cotton bags, and “kubitsuri” or “fukuro zuri” more specific terms? Or are they all the same, in the normal annoying practice of Japanese having a thousand different words for the same thing depending on what prefecture you happen to be standing in?

    And come on, don’t be coy, how much dosh would one lay out for a bottle such as this?

    Posted by Jocelyn | June 13, 2008, 6:37 pm
  2. Gee, Jocelyn, I thought you are moving to DC not to NY. OK, important stuff first-$$$. This 1.8L bottle is 10,500 yen. I think it’s totally a bargain!

    You got me thinking. Yes, we have thousand different ways to describe the rain and sake. That gets me really confused, too.


    ?Tobin-dori? and ?Tobin-gakoi?
    I think brewers use these terms today for marketing interchangably–basically to refer to good stuff. It is interesting, though, that I found out before the current fukuro-zuri pressing method was introduced in 1965, brewers pressed using fune into tobin, especially for the kanpyokai [new sake contest]. So I think the association between tobin and the current fukuro-zuri method is relatively new. I checked with Takase-sensei about tobin-dori and tobin-gakoi to be sure my understanding is correct and he gave me some interesting trivial facts!

    Pressed sake goes directly to tobin instead of going to the tank. I think it is really meant to describe where the pressed sake goes.

    Pressed sake is stored in tobin. So, to be precise, I think this can be used for any pressing method. Also, I was told and confirmed this term is a trademark owned by our friend in Shimane, Rihaku!?They said they use this term for their Shizuku sake stored in tobin until it is sold in October.

    Posted by Et-chan | June 17, 2008, 9:21 am
  3. Oops, Japanese part did not come out right.

    Posted by Et-chan | June 17, 2008, 9:23 am
  4. You shouldn’t worry too much about the details. This type of sake is extremely limited and mainly brewed for contests or rich collectors/drinkers.
    Although I’m not rich, far from it, I do love them and drink them from time to time.
    For example Kampai Brewery made only five this year (I mean large tobin).
    I doubt that Kaiun makes many.
    Fukuro zuri on the other hand is getting pretty popular as demonstrated by Sanwa (Garyubai) or Kokkou Brewery.
    They simply are not common sake and are very difficult to find outside their prefectures, especially Shizuoka!

    Posted by Robert-Gilles Martineau (ロベル。ジル) | June 17, 2008, 4:46 pm
  5. Hi Robert-Gilles! 5 tobin? That is really special! May was my Shizuoka month with Kaiun, Hatsukame and Garyubai! Oh, I just remembered the bottles from Hatsukame I ordered from last month are not here…. I’d better find those turtles. Kampai!

    Posted by et-chan | June 20, 2008, 7:00 pm
  6. Etchan!
    Just saw the bottle in Shizuoka City.
    It was priced only 8,400 odd yen!

    Posted by Robert-Gilles Martineau (ロベル。ジル) | July 3, 2008, 4:56 pm
  7. Local price?

    Posted by et-chan | July 7, 2008, 8:20 am


  1. […] been aged for over one year total, this developed a more honey-like and thicker taste. Looking over my notes on the same brew in an unpasteurized version, I see that the velvety feel that rolls on the palette was still there. […]

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