Japan Trip 2010: Hinomaru Sake Brewery

With Hinomaru Toji Mr. Takahashi

In late 2009, I had the honor of sitting down for a lengthy in-person interview with Mr. Jouji Sato, President of Akita’s Hinomaru Sake Brewery. This interview left me feeling greatful and intrigued by this Brewery and their well known brand “Manabito”. When the opportunity came up to visit Akita this Fall, I was delighted to be able to pay a visit and see birthplace of Manabito for myself!

Mr. Sato was away on business the day I arrived, but I was given a delightful tour of the facility by Hinomaru Section Chief Saeri Kutsuzawa and Hinomaru Director Mr. Yuji Nakajima. Ms. Kutsuzawa and Mr. Nakajima first led me on a tour of the Brewery facility where we started in the rice milling area. Even though the sake brewing for the season had not yet begun, the two milling machines at the brewery were already at work 24-7 milling rice.

A very wide variety of sake rice is used at Hinomaru

Rice is a big deal at Hinomaru brewery… they proudly use a staggering variety of sake rices from Gin No Sei to Aktia Sake Komachi to Takane Minori to Miyama-nishiki and even a lost variety of Akita sake rice they re-established from only 33 grains found in a rice archive.

After the brewery tour, I was given a chance to taste the full range of Hinomaru sakes in their landmark reception room, with it’s lacquer walls, intricate woodwork, and historic glass, this room is a tourist attraction for several groups that come to see it every day. In this room, Hinomaru has a physical manifestation of the respect for tradtion they infuse in all their sake. It was an honor to taste their sake there!

After tasting, I had the chance to taste some local Akita specialties including Inaniwa Udon and Iburigako Smoked daikon pickles. delicious and everything paired so well with Hinomaru sake. This is my idea of terrior – sake that matches the local cuisine perfectly!

Hinomaru Brewery is exporting several sakes to the United States. You can check out the following pages of my sake notebook to learn more about each brew:

You can also check out the ASPEC sake website to learn more about Hinomaru sakes. My sincere thanks and appreciation go out to Mr. Sato, Mr. Takahashi, Ms. Kutsuzawa and Mr. Nakajima for making my stay so lovely and informative. I won’t soon forget my visit!