Of Rice and Water

During my time here in Fukui, I have been fortunate enough that people have seen my work and reached out in the hopes of working together in some capacity. Over the past year, I’ve developed something of a working relationship with the division of the Kanazawa Tax Bureau in charge of promoting sake. Admittedly, this mostly consists of them inviting me to events and occasionally taking me to local breweries under the provision that I promote them on my work social media accounts, but I have actually enjoyed opportunities they have kindly given me.

Recently, they invited me to yet another brewery located in Eiheiji, just north of Fukui city―the Yoshida Sake Brewery. It’s most well-known brand of sake is a line of three junmai (sake made with only water, rice, and the special koji fungus that helps ferment it) called Hakuryu, which translates as white dragon. Though it’s not the most famous of Fukui’s 33 sake breweries, it’s definitely one of my favourites.

A small operation consisting of 10 people, the Yoshida Sake Brewery is headed by Yukari Yoshida who is one of three female sake brewery owners in Fukui. She took the reigns after her husband passed a few years back, and has since been making moves to modernise the 200 year-old brewery. This includes not only upgrading the tools used in the sake brewing process, but also developing new products such as a sparkling rice wine for the markets growing female demographic.

Another thing that is particularly unique about this brewery is that one of it’s brewers is a woman. Though the number of women working in sake breweries is steadily increasing, Mako, the 24 year old daughter of Yukari, is still something of a rarity in an industry that was once restricted to men. The position of sake brewer (杜氏 toji in Japanese) is undoubtably the most important, and as such, was traditionally passed down from father to son. While that is no longer strictly the case, seeing women take up the mantle of toji is still very rare, especially at such a young age. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to talk to her, but I’m hoping I’ll have to chance before I leave Fukui.

While taking a tour around, I managed to snap a bunch of photos, so without further ado, here’s a peek inside the Yoshida Sake Brewery!

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