Information about brewery

Brewery’s cellar

How long have they been running?

The sake brewery has a long history.The breweries that have been involved in sake brewing for more than 500 years still remain today, and many of them opened in the 17th to 19th centuries (Edo period). New breweries have a history of about 100 years since they opened in the early 20th century (early Showa period).

In Japan, each brewery needs to have a brewing license. In recent years, almost no brewing licenses have been issued, so most existing breweries are such long-established companies.

Where were the famous brewing areas ?

Sake brewing was done all over Japan, but as a business, it flourished in Kyoto in the 15th century (Muromachi period). This is because Kyoto was the capital of Japan at that time and had  a large population, which meant it prospered with the privileged classes, such as the royal family and aristocrats .

But, “Itami”(current Itami city at Hyogo pref.) was an important Sake brewing place. This is because Itami was protected by Konoe-ke(a leading aristocratic family in Kyoto) and Itami produced an excellent quality Sake which was enjoyed by the Royal Family and other aristocratic in the them capital-Kyoto.

The oldest brewing place for Sake was Nara / Nanbu (South of Osaka) , which inherited the tradition of making excellent Sake at temples in the era when the Sake brewing industry was not yet commercialized. Later, “Itami”, which flourished by an exclusive supply to Kyoto, and “Nada”, which gained a reputation in Edo (now Tokyo) in the 17th century, became well-known. All of there places were in the Kansai region.

Why they were localize.

Sake brewer's traditional house

Sake brewing techniques are extremely complex, and these techniques (anti-corruption techniques etc. which are now common) were secrets and were only told to one-child in each brewery.

Also the movement of rice, which is the raw material for sake, was prohibited in principle from moving outside the control of Daimyo(Japanese feudal lord) in each region. So,Sake other than the area that is said to be a “meijou-chi” (famous brewing area) was consumed locally. It was not until the 19th century (Meiji Era) that the quality of sake in most breweries improved significantly. At present, there are “meijou-chi”, which have their own characteristics throughout Japan.

In order to brew Sake, the brewers have to buy a lot of rice, which was valuable food at that time, so brewers needed a lot of money.  and   if the produced Sake was not sold it would go off, so the brewers need to have enough economical strength to survive such problems, therefore the local brewing industry were owned by rich local merchants and wealthy farmers. For this reason, the current breweries are also often an owned by noble families in the region, becoming the centre of towns and villages, and there are still many breweries that preserve historic buildings.