Sagami Sake Rice Association

History of Sagami Sake Rice Association

Annual Event for Sagami Sake Rice Association

Apr Grand conference & Agreement for cultivation square meters
May Hot water sterilization for rice seeds
Jun Planting of rice seedling
Jul Field check for growing rice
Aug Field check for growing rice
Sep Field check for growing rice & Harvest meeting
Oct to Nov Quality check for harvested rice & Delivery
Dec Review meeting
Feb Soil analysis, Soil improvement discussion & Seminors

Association by local rice farmers

Sagami Sake Rice Association is research and study organization by rice farmers and Izumibashi. It also receives assistance by JA (Japan Agricultural Cooperatives), Kanagawa Agricultural Technology Center and etc. The cultivation areas are Ebina-city, Zama-city and Sagamihara-city in Kanagawa and hectare for growing rice are 36 hectare (1 hectare = 10000 square meter) in 2014. The association’s members grow following breed of sake rice (rice suitable for brewing sake) in order of growing hectare; “Yamadanishiki”, “Kamenoo”, “Omachi” and “Shinriki”. Also, grow breed of rice for eating such as “Koshihikari” and “Kinuhikari”. The association has seven member rice farmers and all of them are certified as Eco farmer by Kanagawa prefectural government. *In the old time, the central area of Kanagawa prefecture used to be called as “Sagami”.

(Right side) now-dead Masaharu Nagaya Sensei – After retiring from general manager of official appraiser at Osaka Regional Taxation Bureau, he contributed to progress of agricultural and sake industry as the authority of growing sake rice. He had coached this association for eight years.

Round table talks with members of Sagami Sake Rice Association – July 2010

In 2010, all the members are certified as Eco Farmers by Kanagawa government. Today, all members are gathering together before the ceremony for certification and talk about the history of the association from 1997.

Chairman – Takei san
Hongo Ebina-city

Kamimori san
Oya Ebina-city

Organizer – Inami san
Shimoimaizumi Ebina-city

Hashiba (COO of Izumibashi)
It has been 13 years from the foundation of this association (founded in 1997). Inami-san is my senior at local volunteer fire company of Shimoimaizumi area. I asked his advice how to find rice farmers which grow sake rice with me. And he introduced me current members of this association.

Growing sake rice was totally different from growing eating rice.

At the trial production, we only could harvest 4 hyou (240 kg) from 1 tan (about 1000 square meters). 

It shows us we cannot earn enough income with the tril result. If we simply try to increase harvest amounts, the quality of rice will be declined. We discussed about the solution for this issue and also how to find companies to grow rice with us.

It was the conflicting assignment for us to achieve quality and yielding of sake rice as sake rice is different from eating rice. We usually increase the amount of fertilizer to improve yielding; however, if we do it for sake rice, rice would be lying down (brewer’s rice is taller than eating rice, so if the rice will be taller and the head of rice will be heavier, the stem of rice cannot bear).

Hashiba san already visited other sake rice farmers and researched the production methods, but we didn’t have any experience and knowledge about how to grow sake rice. We felt like starting new venture business from scratch. Although the advice by Hashiba san about controlling the amount of fertilizer, it was difficult for me to control proper amount of fertilizer until I experienced by myself.

Nobody had an experience to grow sake rice. Anyway, we grew “Yamadanishiki” and “Omachi” at the trial production. We decided to grow “Yamadanishiki” from following year as we simply thought production of Yamadanishiki seems easier than the other.

Ikegami san joined the association from 1999. He grows not only “Yamadanishiki” but also “Shinriki”.

My rice fields are in Zama-city and soil is different from Ebina-city. Water drainage is worse compare to that of Ebina. All “Yamadanishiki” in my rice fields were lying down in my initial production. So, I challenged other breed also.

Now Ikegami san grows “Yamadanishiki” very well also.

We also experienced many natural phenomena such as unusually cool summer in 2003, typhoons, and etc. We need to be careful especially before harvest time as sake rice is getting taller. Takei san visits all members’ rice fields in Ebina every time typhoon comes.

I worry too match about a situation like “only my place will be damaged” and couldn’t help checking all members’ rice fields (lol). Good thing is we don’t have to worry about lying down of sake rice recently.

In case of cool summer or typhoon, both yielding and quality of rice were impacted. I always realize the importance of communications between member farmers and the sake maker in both good and bad time because we are in the same boat.

We remember there were situations farmers and the sake maker had to share the pain.

It takes 7 to 8 years until both farmers and the sake maker are satisfied with yielding and quality. We could harvest satisfactory amounts for farmers and satisfactory quality for the sake maker.

Talking about Nagaya Sensei, do you remember I argue with him about his coaching in the initial time (lol)? I complained about low yielding of sake rice to him (lol). I really appreciate him, as we know, without his enthusiastic coaching we could not grow “Yamadanishiki” as we do now.

One year before Nagaya Sensei died, he came to our rice field for last coaching and acknowledged our style of growing rice and the importance for farmers to built trustworthy relationship with a sake maker. One thing we completely agree with him was why sake makers have to brew sake with highly polished rice such as 50% or 40%. He believe the quality of rice is good enough and rice doesn’t have to be polished too match.

I remember when Nagaya Sensei drank our newly developed lower polished sake (only polished to 80%), he said this is exactly what I wanted.

Other member of Sagami Sake Rice Association

・Suzuki san (Sugikubo Ebina-city) ・Shiowaki san(Shimoimaizumi Ebina-city)