Yasutaka, Sake Master
“Sake is truly the treasure of Japan, in terms of history, its story, and its taste, the quality of which can be recognized globally. And along with everyone else involved in Japan’s sake industry, I want to share sake and the story behind it, not only within Japan but globally as well. I’m working hard everyday to make that happen.”
Although he grew up the son of a sake-brewer in a historic sake-brewing community in Osaka, it took a six year journey of travel and reflection in his twenties for Yasutaka to fully realize the value of sake brewing and the power of his roots. Growing up in a small village in Katano, an area that had over 100 sake breweries in the Edo period, and being the son of a famous brewer, there were many expectations placed on young Yasutaka that made it difficult for him to simply appreciate the craft of sake brewing. As a young man, he realized he had to discover his identity for himself, and promptly set off on a long journey traveling extensively, a journey that eventually brought him home, but with a completely different mindset. Yasutaka reflects on this dramatic U-turn: “What I reflected on through my travels was the purpose of the brewery, the traditional industry, this family business, which to me used to be a burden. As I got older, I started to realize that I should be grateful for the things that my ancestors left us and so when I was 27 years old, I came back to the brewery.”
Today he is the sixth-generation manager of his family’s sake brewery, which was established in 1826. Utilizing the high-quality rice grown in Katano in Osaka and the delicious freshwater from the Kongo-Ikoma mountains, the sake produced by his brewery is globally renowned.
Respecting the legacy which he has received, Yasutaka ensures that the sake at his brewery is producing using the traditional methods that have been handed down to him: “We complete each process very carefully and thoroughly, striving to stick to the original way as much as possible. Our sake’s flavor is produced from these values.”
Although he of course knew the process of sake making as the brewery manager, he decided to go deeper 15 years ago when he worked as a Touji, Sake craftsman, for the first time. This further enriched his appreciation and understanding of sake. Yasutaka reflects on the specific qualities of their brewing process: “Essentially, we try to keep the ‘umami’ of the rice in the Sake as much as possible. Because we use soft water, which has a low mineral content, our Sake is produced very slowly. That makes it possible for us to produce Sake that maintains the umami of the koji and rice itself. And so, our Sake is has a very gentle flavor”
Although it seemed as if he wouldn’t share his ancestor’s love of sake-brewing when he was younger, Yasutaka came back to his roots as a 27 year old with a passion that is still evident today. In more ways than one, his outward focus and wanderlust has opened doors for the brewery, allowing its sake to be recognized and appreciated on a global scale in a way that would certainly make his ancestors proud. A man on a mission, Yasutaka concludes “Sake is truly the treasure of Japan, in terms of history, its story, and its taste, the quality of which can be recognized globally. And along with everyone else involved in Japan’s sake industry, I want to share sake and the story behind it, not only within Japan but globally as well. I’m working hard everyday to make that happen.”