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Sawahime: True local sake from Tochigi

Young Inoue toji (Master Brewer) from Sawahime believes in true local sake and having fun. He believes that local sake should be made with local rice and yeast by local brewers to be “true” local sake or jizake. He also thinks sake making should be fun and enjoyable. Thus, that element is bottled up with his sake and travels to us. Having both Inoue-toji. and his sake made Takase-sensei’s last benkyokai so interactive: sometimes very serious, and entirely a fun drinking event.

Sticking to his philosophy, Inoue-toji formed a new master brewers’ school, Shimotsuke Toji last November with two other brewers in Tochigi. The declining number of toji and the aging of the community is a constant issue for sake brewers and sake lovers. So, this unusual movement to create a new school with a younger generation of brewers is a welcome development.

Sawahime uses all local rice, Hitogokochi or Gohyakumangoku and local yeast. And, his sake is good – the daiginjo won the gold medal at the National New Sake Awards this year.

I have to admit, I do appreciate and enjoy what might be called “non-local” sake according to Inoue-toji’s definition, using non-locally grown rice such as Yamada Nishiki from Hyogo, yeast developed in Kyushu, and made by a master brewer from Noto or another school. Inoue’s idea of sake with locally grown rice, though, is growing on me. Diversity in rice makes sake tasting so interesting as I try to figure out several things as I sip, such as which attributes come from the rice or from the brewer.

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Sawahime Daiginjo and Junmai Ginjo muroka nama

Inoue-toji’s philosophy was packed in his bottles. We enjoyed their daiginjo which was really good with food, not screaming “ginjo” asking to be the center of attention but rather a good accompaniment. I liked their junami ginjo muroka nama genshu. OK I can hear your comment already, but I do like muroka nama! Sawahime junmai ginjo muroka nama had a sweet, fruity aroma, then ended really dry on the palette with nice balance. According to Inoue-toji, women like this one especially. Did he design it that way? I wonder. He is the architect behind Sawahime after all.

Please visit Sawahime’s web site, Gallery, to view nice flash video of their sake making process.

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Inoue-toji and me


2 Responses to “Sawahime: True local sake from Tochigi”

  1. Hey sounds great! I’m happy that there are folks like Inoue-san out there who are paying attention to local rice, styles, and diversity in general. All things – from food to music, to beauty standards – are in danger of being subsumed by http://www.monoculture.com, and sake is no exception. Go toji go!

    Posted by melinda | July 5, 2007, 6:32 am
  2. I agree. Everything is pretty much same everywhere and making things boring. I think it is already happening, but hope to see more diversity in sake.

    Posted by Et-chan | July 6, 2007, 8:51 am

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