Ponshu paradise
Sake(Fukui Prefecture)
March 16th, 2017
by Takeshi Takashima

Fukui entertains visitors with a variety of fine sake. Sake is Japanese alcohol made from rice, water, koji (a mold that grows on rice), and yeast. Japanese people often call it “Ponshu” to show their affection toward Nihonshu (Nippon Shu) which literary means “Japanese sake.” There are more than 30 sake breweries in Fukui. You must already be excited to go on a treasure hunt of sake breweries in Fukui.
Quality of water is key to sake brewing. In order to produce their finest sake, sake brewers know exactly where to get the best water from deep inside the ground, going through many layers of rock and soil. Sake brewers call this great water from the local ground “water stock,” showing their respect toward such water rich in minerals. Minerals in the water give sake made in Fukui an essentially smooth touch and clear crisp flavor. Since 1733, Nanbu Shuzo brewery has produced sake in Ono City, an hour drive from Fukui Station. Ono City is famous for its natural ground water. Many people still drink the ground water from the taps in their houses. The peak season of sake brewing is in January and February, the coldest months of the year. From early in the frigid morning, sake brewers move quickly yet in a sophisticated manner. When the rice is cooked the sake brewery is filled with white steam. It is at this time when sake brewers show their professional skills.

Sake in Fukui is basically all handmade. The rooms where rice is steamed are kept at a high temperature and high humidity. Sake brewers stay naked to the waist, and mix rice and koji by hand only. Without koji, sake cannot be brewed, so this process of mixing is the most important step. Sake brewers keep mixing for almost two days with very little time to sleep, even at night. They need to keep mixing in order to have the koji mold grow to the center of every grain of rice. The more they take care, the nicer koji grows, so they keep on going as if they are raising a child.Sake is finished after 20 to 40 days of brewing the water, rice, koji and cultured yeast in tanks. Sake brewers decide the best time to “squeeze” finished sake at its best. They watch and taste the sake, and listened to the sound of bubbles in the tanks. Nanbu Shuzo brewery once introduced an automatic sake brewing machine, but it was eliminated in around 1995. Since then Nanbu Shuzo has produced only handmade sake. Nanbu Takayasu, the CEO of Nanbu Shuzo, emphasized the contribution of sake brewers who work delicately by hand to make excellent sake. He avoided mass production, but chose a process that gives his brewers satisfaction. Fukui is blessed with nice traditional food culture. Along the coast facing the Japan Sea, it is easy to get fresh seafood. The culture of traditional dishes using wild flowers and plants from the mountains has developed in mountain villages. Fukui gets a lot of snow in winter. The cold climate enabled locals to develop their original fermented food. Sake brewers have been exploring unique sake that best suits a variety of these original foods developed in Fukui. The oldest sake brewery in Fukui is 400 years old. Every sake brewery produces their best original sake learning from the history of their experiences.Every spring, the Fukui Sake Brewery Association holds a sake tasting event. It is a fun occasion where anyone can taste the brand new sake of the season. It is going to be held at Fukui Phoenix Plaza on March 18th, 2017. ( All you need is to pay your entrance fee, then you are allowed to taste as much as you want. It is fun to visit your favorite sake breweries. Also, this sake tasting festival is surely another fun thing that you can experience in Fukui. Come to Fukui to meet your favorite “Ponshu.” However, just “Kyotsuketay” (be careful) not to drink too much!









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