Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Wandering the Chugoku region) 

By Ryuji Takahashi

Since discovering the named Honshu-Ichi from Hiroshima prefecture last fall, I was moved by the flavor and wished to visit the brewery. I finally visited Umeda Shuzo-jo Brewery in Funakoshi town, Aki ward of Hiroshima prefecture. Founded in 1916, Umeda Shuzo-jo Brewery draws water flowing 60 meters underground from the Iwataki Mountain, used as mother water. Sake ingredients used are all produced in Hiroshima prefecture. Recently, Umeda Shuzo-jo Brewery has been garnering attention since winning a Japanese sake competition in Europe.  

First, I headed to Hiroshima Station on a shinkansen (bullet train), transferred to the Sanyo Main Line, and reached the Kaitaichi Station. From there, I drove approximately five minutes north along the river and arrived at the Umeda Shuzo-jo Brewery. Hiyama-san, the second son of this family-owned brewery who works as a brewery worker, led me on a tour of the brewery. Hiyama-san returned home to the brewery two years ago to produce sake during the winter, and sell sake in the Kanto region and surrounding areas during the summer. Umeda Shuzo-jo Brewery preserves the traditional sake flavor while introducing sake with notable aroma as main products for consumers from other prefectures and overseas.     

Currently, brand recognition is low outside of Hiroshima along with the low production volume. However, I’m convinced this sake brewery will one day captivate the attention of a sake connoisseur and become a popular brand. Their product concept, attentive sake production, and the character of each brewery worker are each reasons that prompt encouragement for the brewery’s success. I look forward to seeing this brewery grow into a global brand. While visiting the Chugoku region, I decided to revisit Ichinomiya Sake Brewing Company in Oda city, Shimane prefecture; for the first time in seven years. 

I headed north from my parents’ home in Fukuyama city, Hiroshima prefecture to Oda city, Shimane prefecture. The halfway point is the Chugoku Mountains, with the possibility of snow. I frequently checked the weather report as I continued north, but eventually encountered snowfall. Luckily, snow did not accumulate, and I arrived safely in Shimane prefecture.  

The weather was sunny in Shimane prefecture. I drove along the scenic coast, taking in the beautiful and vast Sea of Japan until I arrived at the Ichinomiya Sake Brewing Company. The Master sake brewer and his wife were as healthy as ever. I enjoyed a lengthy discussion with them about new ideas and strategies to sell their current inventory of sake and create an exciting future for their sake brewery. Their passionate thoughts and efforts recharged my own motivation as well. I toured the brewery for the first time in seven years. The interior was considerably remodeled and cleaner since my last visit.  

Both Umeda Shuzo-jo Brewery in Hiroshima prefecture and Ichinomiya Sake Brewing Company in Shimane prefecture cherish tradition, reconsider customs that pose a negative effect, hire young workers to brew sake, and continue to evolve their passion and efforts to pass on their respective sake brands onto the next generation. Motivated from my visit to two breweries in the Chugoku region during my brief stay of two nights and a wake-up, I concluded my trip by gazing at the 400-year-old Fukuyama Castle from the bullet train on my way home.