Story of making sake

Human creates both natural climate and sake

Blessing of Ebinako-chi

Many people associate Ebina-city with Ebina service area at Tokyo Nagoya express way. However, if we see the history of Ebina, this place was famous for rice granary in the past. Rice granary of Ebina was called as Ebinako-chi from old time. Ebinako-chi is part of the alluvial plain created by rich flow of Sagami River at the foot of Tanzawa cordillera and is one of the most fertile granaries in Sagami province (central Kanagawa used to be called as Sagami). So, Ebina-city was flourished as the center of local government with Sagami provincial monastery built in the middle of eight century. Old writing says the rice fields of Ebinako-chi were already developed in the middle of seventh century. We don’t know when the cultivation started, however, we are sure it was pioneered with the great efforts by local predecessors. Izumibashi brew safe and tasty sake with the blessing of Ebinako-chi.

Kamimori san (member farmer)

Label of Junmai-shu named Ebinako-chi

Cultivation skills for producing sake rice with good quality and agriculture to preserve the natural environment

There are seven member farmers (in 2012) in “Sagami Sake Rice Association” and all of them are certified as Eco farmer by Kanagawa prefectural government. The member farmers grow following breed suitable for making sake in order of growing hectare; “Yamadanishiki”, “Kamenoo”, “Omachi” and “Shinriki”. Also, grow breed of rice for eating such as “Koshihikari” and “Kinuhikari”. The members grow rice at Ebina-city, Zama-city and Sagamihara-city in Kanagawa. Especially, in Ebina-city, the members’ rice field area occupies about 10% of that.

We are frequently questioned as follow; “Why Izumibashi grow rice in local area instead of purchasing from outside?”

We divide sake making procedures as following three stages; “Growing Rice”, “Polishing Rice (Seimai)” and “Brewing (Shikomi)”. It is necessary to have good rice if we want to brew good Sake. “What is good rice?” Izumibashi defines the requirements for making good rice for making sake as follows; first, having rich soil for growing rice, secondly, introducing reduced agrichemical cultivation for safe & secure food production and environment protection and finally, improving isometrics of rice particle for high quality rice polishing. These requirements for good rice are highly depends on the knowledge and skills by rice farmers.

For example, every winter the association’s members analyze the soil at rice fields and discuss the type and amount of fertilizer required for creation of good soil. For reduced agrichemical production, members introduce hot water sterilization for rice seeds, investigate the living creatures in rice fields, challenge pesticide-free production and etc. For isometrics of rice particle, members investigate the best timing for harvest, discuss the type of dryer after harvest and etc.

Izumibashi believe that these three factors for rice productions are essential for making good sake. So, we grow rice together with local producers to be responsible for the actual growing procedures and being involved in the discussion how to grow good rice.

We preserve the rice fields as we have to pass them to our future generations. This is our responsibility as the maker for agricultural products.

Please come to our place, see our rice field and have a talk about…

Field check with Nagaya sensei (now-dead)

Monthly field check for rice growth

Ikegami san (member farmer) under rice transplanting

Hot water sterilization against rice seeds (We don’t need to use agrichemical against rice seeds)

Change the production policy or procedures depends on the weather

Weeding using rotary hoe at rice fields which doesn’t use chemical herbicides

Polishing rice is spirits of making sake – Henpei seimai (flat polishing)

There are two methods of polishing rice, which are normal polishing and flat polishing method. Izumibashi uses both methods and choose depend on the type of sake to be brewed. With normal polishing, the shape of rice will generally get to circle from the original oval shape of unpolished rice if we polish high percentage. With this method, we know that the rice is not polished efficiently (some part polished too match and the other not enough). In henpei seimai (flat polishing) (*1), rice will be polished with the same shape as unpolished rice. Based on the investigation, if the percentage of polishing is the same, flat method is about 10 % efficient and improving the quality of sake. However, this result will be happened only if the rice particles are isometrics. Also, this method takes 50% more time than usual method. *1: The flat polishing method is researched and presented by Tomio Saito Sensei (ex-general manager of official appraiser at Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau) in 1998.

Image of normal seimai (polishing rice) – red circle areas are not polished enough

Image of Henpei seimai (flat polishing) – polish rice from outside flatly and able to polish unnecessary potion and leave the necessary part (red circles)



Micro meter to measure the size of rice particle

Rice under sample check (polished and unpolished rice)

Rice after polishing

Underflow water from Tanzawa cordillera and dry taste

Izumibashi use underflow water from Tanzawa cordillera for making sake. This underground water is pumped from a well at our brewery and the well is 100 meters deep. Average water hardness at Kanagawa area is about 60 ml /ℓ; however, our water is 130 to 140 ml /ℓ and higher than that of average at Kanagawa. The rate of hardness is also higher than the average of other Japanese water and this hard water helps us to brew dry sake.

View of Tanzawa cordillera








Comparison of hardness between Izumibashi water and other – data extracted from Kanagawa waterworks department

We brew with classical manual handling processes

Izumibashi brew Junmai-shu with traditional manual handling. Sake is brewed day and night from November to April by toji (chief brewer) and local kurabito (brewery staff). The quality of sake we pursue to brew is refreshing, rich and dry taste, which bring out the flavor of meals. For koji (steamed rice inoculated with koji mold) making, we use the “kojibuta (wooden box)” and this is traditional equipment for making the best quality of koji. Kojibuta is highly labor-intensive method required to work day and night. So, many brewers are not using this method any more. For shubo (seed mash) making, we pursue to make sake with natural flavor by making shubo with “ki-moto” and “yamahai-moto” methods (about 40 % of shubo are made with these methods). For moromi (fermenting mash), we pursue dry taste by leaving no sugar than necessary. So, we limit the amount of rice for Shikomi (brewing) from 600 kg to 1500 kg. For joso (pressing), we press bags of moromi using traditional pressing (fukuroshibori). We brew and sell 750 koku (1 koku = 180 liter) annually.

Wash rice for koji

Work at koji room – manual processes required to work day and night

Carry steamed rice to koji room

Cool down steamed rice at koji room

Making shubo with “ki-moto” method

Moromi – initial process (hatsuzoe) thorw steamed rice and ko-ji into shubo

Moromi – mixing moromi (ingredients are; shubo, ko-ji, steamed rice and water)

Fukoro shibori – filling motomi in the bag and press bags inside fune

Blessing from god of making sake

We can see Mt. Oyama and Tanzawa cordillera from the rice field behind our brewery. There is a Shinto Shrine called Afuri Jinja on the mountainside of Mt. Ooyama. The shrine worship Oyama god. The Oyama god is also worshiped as the god of making sake.

In the old time, rain and rain-bearing clouds used to be more important before the irrigation canal was maintained. Our ancestors worshiped Mt. Oyama as it indicates signs of the blessing rain. Even in the present time, many people see Mt. Oyama to forecast weather because if the mountain is covered with clouds in the evening, we would have rain next day. So, the shrine on the mountain was called as Afri Jinja (raining shrine) as “Afri” means “raining” in Japanese.

Also, when a typhoon lands on from Sagami bay at typhoon season (usually September), Mt. Oyama and Tanzawa cordillera weaken the impact by blocking it and save the rice fields of this area from serious damages before harvest.

View of Mt. Oyama and Tanzawa cordillera