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Hanegi shibori

Unique brewery in Nagasaki: Yoshidaya Brewery

Oct. 02. 2020
by Carlos Topete

Unique brewery in Nagasaki: Yoshidaya Brewery

Intro to sake

Did you know that drinking sake regularly reduces cancer risk, prevents osteoporosis, diabetes, and high blood pressure?  According to the World Health Organization Japan, humans live the longest with a life expectancy of 90.1 years for women and 85.4 years for men. This relationship between drinking sake and Japan’s longevity may be a coincidence, but what if is not? Of course, other factors like diet, exercise, and great habits crafted over hundreds of years have a lot to do, but drinking Sake may be an important contribution. 

Virtual sake tasting

Earlier this month, my friend Kyoko Nagano, who promotes sake breweries through Sake Lovers, invited me to participate in a Virtual Sake tasting. To be honest, I was hesitant because I didn’t know how the virtual event would occur but registered through their Facebook page, and a couple of days after the tasting I received four bottles from Yoshidaya Brewery. It was an enjoyable and fun and educational experience. 

The virtual sake tasting was conducted by Yoshiaki Yoshida san, the Toji of the brewery (Toji or Sake Master, is the person in charge of overseeing the workers’ brewery). Yoshida san,  graduated from Tokyo University of Agriculture and who happens to be the Toji of Yoshidaya brewery, he carefully explained to us the process of making sake and the history of Yoshidaya Brewery. 

Yoshidaya Brewery is located in the prefecture of Nagasaki. It produces about 9,000 bottles of Sake every year. Established in the 6th year of the Taisho era (1917) and has survived air raids from WWII that destroyed the brewery. Yoshidaya is a small but unique brewery. It is one of the few breweries in Japan that uses the traditional method of Hanegi Shibori to make Sake.  At Yoshidaya brewery, the sake is produced using natural yeast from the Abelia flower developed with Tokyo Agricultural University refresh center. All sake made at Yoshidaya Brewery is handmade. 

The Technique used at Yoshidaya brewery is called Hanegi Shibori、squeezing a tree. A tree that hangs from the ceiling and is about 8 meters long is used to press a bag of fermented sake; then the freshly squeezed sake is vested into a large tank and aged for a period of time. A key element is to keep the temperature consistent.

At Yoshidaya Brewery, there are not machines nor computers involved in the production of Sake. Yoshida san wants to keep and preserve the traditional method and technichs that have passed on to  generation to generation to make sake.

Making Sake through the process of Hanegi Shibori was interrupted, but it was reintroduced about 10 years ago. 

During the tasting, one of the sakes we tasted was the Bansho Hanegishobori Honjozo, a dry sake that goes well with sashimi or grilled fish, and other seasonal dishes. 

Originally the brand of Sake was launched under the name of Chiyogiku, but since the name was registered already, they had to change the name to Bansho. 

If you ever visit Nagasaki prefecture a must is to visit Yoshidaya Brewery.