Japan 2008: Tomita Brewery & Shichihonyari
Tomita Brewery is an exceptionally small brewery that has attained global reach when they began exporting their sake to the United States. From Kyoto I had to take 2 local trains to get deep into Shiga countryside and was met by Shichihonyari Executive Director, Mr. Yasunobu Tomita. Tomita-san is a young guy whose enthusiasm for sake is impressive. There is certainly no shortage of hard work for anyone running a sake brewery, but Tomita-san has taken on these challenges with self assurance and confidence.
The “Seven Spearsmen” Brand
Tomita-san’s The flagship sake is Shichihonyari, which translates as the “seven spearsmen”. This name honors 7 samurai warriors who helped secure victory for the famous Japanese War Lord Hideyoshi in 1583. In the US today, we have access to two delicious Shichihonyari sakes. First is their most famous export the Shichihonyari Junmai. This sake uses locally grown Tamazakae sake rice. It’s fantastic both chilled and heated and offers a robust, truly artisan hand crafted sake experience. Not to be missed. Oh, and you can’t beat the cool Samurai design on the label.
Another sake we can get from Tomita-san is the Shichihonyari Shizuku Junmai Daiginjo. An exquisite Shizuku or “drip” sake, it’s an elegant treat of light fruits on the palate a wisp of crispness that gives it a grounded backbone and good balance.Artisanal Spirit
The Brewery tour began with a walk through of the facility. One of the first things that I noticed was Tomita Shuzo was kickin’ it old school. They were not using the latest computer driven gizmos to make their sake, but had simple old fashioned tools that allow them to craft sake more by hand. One of my favorite examples of this is their “fune” or sake press. The Tomita family has a vintage wooden fune that is beautiful to look at and helps their sake keep a true artisanal spirit. It’s true… they make their sake the old fashioned way… they earn it.
After a tour of his brewery facility Tomita-san took me out to lunch and for a visit to a nearby rice field. The day was spectacular and I got stunning views of beautiful Lake Biwa, circling hawks, and the low rolling hills of Shiga. Fantastic!
I can’t thank Tomita-san enough for hosting me on this wonderful day in Shiga. I won’t soon forget all his kindness. Also thank you to the entire Tomita family for such outstanding hospitality. I hope I can return someday, but until then, I’ll keep giving my pop quizzes about Shiga to help spread the word of the “Seven Spearsmen”. Kanpai!