Asahi Shuzo Brewery in Nagaoka City,  Niigata

Asahi Shuzo Brewery in Nagaoka Niigata

Next on my whirlwind trip to Niigata was a visit to Asahi Shuzo, makers of the world renowned Kubota Brand of Sakes. I was given a tour of the brewery by Mr. Masamichi Sanjo, who is in the export sales division at Asahi Shuzo.

Kubota Facility

Kubota Facility

Sanjo-san met me at the Nakaoka station in Niigata and drove me to the brewery for a tour. The outside of the Asahi Brewery was solid and seemed like the “Fortress of Solitude”. The walls were tall and smooth concrete. It really seemed like the Fort Knox of sake, secure, stable and solid. You won’t be getting in unless invited. Luckily, I was invited! With the beautiful low mountains of Niigata as the back drop, this was impressive to say the least.

Inside, I could see that the Brewery was clean, efficient and beautiful. Not just the facility itself, but also the size was impressive. As Sanjo-san gave me the tour, from start to finish, I got the sense that this place as run like clockwork and had a tremendous scale of operation.

First, I got to take an up close look at the moto (yeast starter) and even got to try my hand at mixing the moto! Yes, please note the hairnet and coat. It’s a really good look for me!

Mixing the Moto

Mixing the Moto

Moto tanks were smaller in scale but still a sight to behold. The Moto is also known as the “yeast Starter” and is one of the corner stones of the sake production process. A small batch of sake is made at this point under exacting temperature control with an incredibly high yeast content.

This is the incubation chamber of sake and it is understandably lavished a lot of attention. This yeast starter ends up in the main tank and kicks off the brewing process giving the yeast a fighting chance to survive and create lots of alcohol in the main mash.

Brewing Room Tanks

Brewing Room Tanks

Especially impressive was the view of the brewing tanks. Each silver lid you see is the cap to a large brewing tank that holds fermenting sake. All the tanks were monitored daily with specific instructions and observations written about each batch. A wonderful attention to detail that reflects itself in their delicious sake.

Speaking of their sake, Kubota makes some heavenly sake that is available for sale both in Restaurants and retail in The USA. After our tour, Sanjo-san took me out to expore Nagaoka and for a wonderful dinner to taste local food with delicious sake.

Enjoying Kubota Sake with Sanjo-san

Enjoying Kubota Sake with Sanjo-san

Now the Kubota brand is incredibly well known in Japan and is a flagship brand of sake if ever there was one! Starting with Kubota Senju Tokubetsu Honjozo, we have a delicious and well crafted honjozo that is a dream to pair with grilled fish and the like. Next I enjoyed the fantastic Kubota Hekiju Junmai Daiginjo. With a halo of lightness and delicious fruits on the palate, this sake is a treasure and oh so easy to enjoy. Last but not least, I marveled at the superior and delicious Kubota Manju Junmai Daiginjo. Manju is really a crown jewel of the kubota line and a top of the line product in Japan and the USA.

What a day! As I headed back to my hotel, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face! I had such a fantastic experience and felt so lucky to have seen Asahi Shuzo. My sincere thanks to Sanjo-san and family for the wonderful day in Nagaoka! The tour and hospitality were simply amazing. I can’t wait to return and see more of beautiful Asahi Shuzo and Nagaoka!

3 replies
  1. Ichiro Nakano (or Ichibay)
    Ichiro Nakano (or Ichibay) says:

    Timothy Sullivan san

    Thank you for reading my blog and visiting “Tokyo Sake Site.”

    Niigata is a really exciting place for sake lovers. I also visited Niigata personally four times this year. The places I visited include Niigata City and Nagaoka City. Nagaoka City has 17 sake breweries and is actually the biggest city of the prefecture in terms of numbers of sake breweries.

    In a recentl year, Niigata brewers and farmers made a new sake rice variety named Koshitanrei. Asahi Shuzo has made an amazing sake from this new rice. It is called Senbatsu Asahiyama, which I enjoyed its mellow flavor with my sake friends. I believe, being given the advantage of Koshitanrei, Niigata brewers will make wonderful sake products more and more in the near future.

    Thank you again for getting interested in my blog and Web site.

    Best regards,


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] sake being served, but the event was hosted by Masamichi Sanjo. Sanjo-san was the gentleman that gave me tour of the Kubota Sake Brewery (Asahi Shuzo) on my 2008 trip to […]

  2. […] was thrilled to visit the brewery where Kubota was made in 2008. It was so beautiful […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply