Sake-Making Family Visits Farm from Japan

Sake-Making Family Visits Farm from Japan

  • posted on: June 16, 2014
  • posted by: 21 Acres
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Tomizawa family

The Tomizawa Family, sake brewers, from Fukushima Japan visited us at the 21 Acres farm recently.  We toured the fields led by Farmer John and then we sat at the round kitchen table to discuss their visit.   The daughter Mary said that she hasn’t seen her parents so happy and relaxed since the day of the devastating 2011 earthquake in Japan, and she was very appreciative of the opportunity to visit the farm.

Here’s a link to an interesting article about the family, ‘Miracle yeast” saves 300-year-old Fukushima sake tradition.

The Tomizawa’s are planning to purchase property in Woodinville near the 21 Acres farm and begin their Sake making here in the US possibly as soon as next year.  Their plan is to use rice from California for the first a few years, but in the future they would like to use “locally grown” rice.  They said that was how they made their Sake for generations, and being able to work with the farmers who grow the rice is critical for their Sake making.  In fact, the farmers who grew rice came to work at the brewery in Japan during the winter to help them make Sake.  They did not even need to sell their Sake in larger cities such as Tokyo, as their products were all sold in the local market.  Mary told me that their hope is to build an open and community-based Sake Brewery where people in the neighborhood can drop in anytime.  She said from their experience from the earthquake tragedy, they learned that the strong community is extremely important in the time of emergency.

The father of the family told me that people in the past advised him that the region where their home was located was not suitable for rice growing due to weather, but after spending 20 years he cultivated a rice resistant to the colder temperatures (the father farmed himself).  They have seeds they saved (and tested for radiation) ready for export, and they’d like to explore the possibility of growing rice in Western Washington.  The family has been a big fan of the farm market at 21 Acres, and they visited us almost everyday when they were in town.  They are planning to move to Woodinville.

— Asako

Tomisawa brewing from Futaba-machi, Fukushima Prefecture, restores their sake “Shira-Fuji” tradition in Seattle   (Jungle City Article, May 22 2014, Translated by Asako Sullivan)

Since the accident of the Fukushima nuclear power plant that occurred in March 2011, Tomizawa Shuzoten Sake Brewery has been displaced from their hometown in Futaba Town in Fukushima Prefecture. Now they are aiming to revival their family legacy sake “Shira-Fuji” (White Fuji) and traditions in Seattle Washington.

Tomizawas has been making Sake for over 300 years in Futaba Town, Fukushima Prefecture. Their Sake brewing tradition began in 1716 (Kyoho era), and their Sake which utilizes subterranean river water of Abukuma Mountain has been loved as a drink with the natural sweetness and flavor of rice.

The 20th generation head master and the father of the family Shuhei Tomizawa in the center, his eldest son and the 21st master Mamoru and the daughter Mari are engaging in brewing Sake. They have been carrying out their traditional manual method of Sake making for all these years, but due to the accident of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, they were forced to evacuate from their brewery which was located within two miles of the nuclear power plant.

Since then, the rescued Sake microbe “Shira-Fuji” was repeatedly tested and no effect of radiation was found, but their brewery is yet in the evacuation area and hope for operation resumption is diminishing.

They visited many places in Japan for possible migrating location, but the shrinkage of Sake market and the government policy to reduce the numbers of Sake Breweries in Japan have become the hurdle to overcome.

December 2012, the daughter Mary visited Seattle, and an idea to make Sake in Seattle came to her mind. “The climate, water, and nature in Seattle are very similar to our home town. Sake needs to mature in the cold weather, and I think Seattle is suitable to make good Sake”, says Mary. They decided to migrate to Seattle area, and they are aiming to initiate their processing beginning autumn 2015 and have the first shipment available around the holiday season. “The people I met in Seattle were all very warm and with beautiful smiles. We would love to be a part of the local community and continue practice our family traditions. We will strive to do our best to be Seattle’s local Sake,” says Mary.