local sake

After I know that the local Gujo fermented food, miso and soy sauce, has a strong flavor but when you cook it, it will change into smooth and mild, I want to know more about another kind of fermented food “Sake” in Gujo. Sake is one of the most difficult fermented food to make requiring delicate procedures. Knowing local sake is one of the ways to know Gujo! Let us visit the two more sake brewers here.

The first one “Hirano Jozo (Hirano Brewery)”, producing “Bojoh”, is the most well-known sake brewery among the locals. The second one is “Nunoya Harashuzojo (Nunoya Hara Brewery)” brewing “Genbun”. If you know well about Japanese sake, you must have heard of these two famous sake breweries.

A sake brewery with root deep in Gujo
“Hirano Jozo”’s famous “Bojoh”

A sake brewery with root deep in Gujo
“Hirano Jozo”’s famous “Bojoh”

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Trees on the mountains start to turn red from around November. Driving along Nagaragawa-river, one of the 3 major clear streams in Japan and turing north, you can see “Hirano Jozo” with the logo of “Bojoh” on your left. All “Bojoh” I have tried at local restaurants are made here! The chief brewer, Mr Yoshihiro Hioki shows us around the brewery. He seems very nice and friendly.

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They have just started brewing. Mr Hioki looks at every tank very seriously. There is an old saying “Good sake is where good water is.” All water they use for brewing, and even washing is from the local water “Kokindenjunosato”. They use rice from sake Fukui-ken or Gifu-ken and local Gujo’s rice.

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I am so impressed when Mr Hioki told us about what sake he is aiming for. During sake tasting, sweet sake usually gets higher compliment. But Mr Hioki is aiming to make dry and light taste. He says, “There are many sakes make you think they taste good, but what I am trying to make is sake that makes you say ‘One more please!’”.

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After the tour, the vice president of Hirano Jozo, Mr Yuzo Hirano brings us “Junmai-ginjo” and “Dai-ginjo” to try. I try “Junmai-ginjo” first and surprised me with the big gap between its smell and taste. Although the rice polishing ration is only 55%, the smell and taste just like raw sake. The smell is quite strong, but it turns mild and smooth when you taste it, just like Gujo’s miso and soy sauce! “Junmai-ginjo and super dry you have tried match with grilled Ayu (Sweetfish).” It is the most popular way in Gujo! I really need to have a drink tonight!

Next is “Dai-ginjo”, the most expensive sake here. Smell and flavor are so clean and clear with a fruity flavor. It goes well with sashimi or grilled fish too. Even I have only tried two kinds of sake, they provide different tastes and flavors. Both make me want to say, “One more please!”

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You can reserve for a tour in Hirano Jozo. During brewery opening event once a year , you can try new sake too. But the most noteworthy is the “Fudo-sake (Local sake)” that only made for the event. They use wooden bucket from local shrine and local rice and water for ingredients. If you wonder what it tastes like, you need to come and try it yourself!

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local sake

Before visiting the second brewery “Nunoya Harashuzojo”, we go to a soba restaurant, Niwaka, that recommended by local people in Gujo Hachiman. You can find all 4 kinds of sakes from Harashuzojo! I just wonder soba with sake? My husband who used to be a bartender, says “Stylish adults drink at soba restaurant.” Let me try soba with sake, that I have never tried before.

When I taste my first bite, we both surprised by the tastiness. Soba itself is so tasty that you may not need a sake. But I am wrong that this sake tastes so different from other fermented food in Gujo. This smooth and soft taste matches with soba and make it tastes even better.

Sake from “Hirano Jozo” works together with soba and makes an original taste of Gujo while sake from “Harashuzojo” makes soba tastes better. The best match we think is “Soba in cold soup with spicy radish” which the restaurant recommends too.

This restaurant “Niwaka” is running by Mr Hogen Hara, the younger brother of the 12th owner of Harashuzojo, Mr Mtoohumi Hara. They use local buckwheat and crush it with stone mills. They also use water from Harashuzojo to make soba too.

All made from flower yeast!
“Harashuzojo”, where “Genbun” is made

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All made from flower yeast!
“Harashuzojo”, where “Genbun” is made


Driving along Nagaragawa-river from Niwaka and turn north for 25mins. You see a sake brewery with traditional beauty waiting for you. This brewery is established in 1740. They have been using the old way to brew since establishment. The main house has the history of around 100 years. The nobleman of this region came to pay a visit and stayed at Harashuzojo during Edo era.


When we enter the entrance, the 12th generation of Nunoya, the 39th generation of Hara family, Mr Motofumi Hara welcomes us. He is very gentle and nice that he explains everything including their history and research to us in details. Although we have studied about fermented food a lot, we find that we still have plenty to learn.


The main characteristic of this sake is they are using “Flower yeast” for brewing. They use the most common cherry blossom, chrysanthemum and 30 kinds of flower yeasts. Technology to separate flower yeast from natural flower is first found by Tokyo University of Agriculture. The most important point of this technology an antibiotic called “Yeastcidin” is found by Mr Hara.


All sakes are made by local rice, Akitakomachi. “Rice for normal diet is actually the most suitable for making sake. There are two types of rice, Koshihikari and Akitakomachi are grown in this region. In tradition, sake brewery uses local rice, so we decided to use Akitakomachi. We are shaving 50~70% of the rice before brewing that makes the sake tastes better. Water we use is from Gujo which is smoother and matches our sake.” Harashuzojo also open for visit. Please make a reservation in advance.



A unit, to promote the food culture in Japan leading to the future in the next 100 years, is formed by husband “A farmer and a maltster” facing with the blessings of nature and wife “A soy sauce sommelier and designer”. They aim to introduce Japanese food culture with fermented food supported by agriculture, fisheries and forestry.

Husband : Mr Takashi Miyamoto

He started a new koji venture in the Koji industry. He uses pesticide-free and chemical-free fertilizers in preparing miso. He was fascinated by the world of fermentation and started running a Koji shop in Nishihazu-cho, Nishio-shi, Aichi-ken. He also holds a Miso and Soysauce Study Circle for more than 1000 people a year.

Wife : Ms Keiko Kuroshima(Miyamoto)

A soy sauce, olive oil sommelier & designer. She was born in the soy sauce town of Shodoshima Island and grew up with the brewers. Based in Shodoshima, she continues to visit brewers nationwide and continues to connect people and things through design, writing, and recipe making. She published “Soy Sauce Book” from Genko Publishing.

Photographs by miyamoto