Fukushima: Sake Wonderland

“Something elegant, never boring, something that you feel like drinking again and again…”

As Fukushima Sake swept the board at the 2015 IWC Sake Championships, it became evident that something extraordinary was afoot. Just how was it possible for a single prefecture to produce such a variety of world class Sake? Rie Yoshitake, UK Sake Samurai Representative and Hitomi Kumasaka, Social Media Specialist, made a pilgrimage to the prefecture and visited four of the most prestigious breweries, Daishichi, Yamatogawa, Suehiro and Aizu Homare, to uncover the “Fukushima Formula” for trophy sake.

It quickly emerged that while each brewery possessed unique characteristics, a number of common themes persisted, perhaps explaining the region’s unqualified success in the competitive arena:

  • Regionality – breweries exhibited a singular focus on expressing local character via the Sake brewed. At Suehiro brewery, this was achieved through the use of local rice, grown by 100 farmers from Kitakama city.
  • Innovation – Homare brewery, creator of 2015’s champion sake, ceaselessly pushes boundaries to refresh the concept of Sake. Their latest innovation is a nigori made with fresh strawberry juice: cloudy and delicately pink in hue, this is a truly appealing and luscious drink.
  • Tradition – despite a fearless attitude towards discovery and invention, many breweries stay close to their heritage, whether by means of traditional architecture, or by adherence to an established “house style”. Daishichi brewery is a case in point, with its traditional brewing facilities and classically aromatic Sake.
  • Transcendence – transcending generations, transcending the old and new, transcending cuisines…it is increasingly clear that Sake is a drink that goes beyond Japanese food culture, Fukushima sake being a particularly fine example.
  • Quality – just as “Made in Japan” has become synonymous with quality, “Made in Fukushima” has attained the same cachet in Sake circles. The prefecture has developed its own strict standard for Sake manufacture, which includes thorough checks on all the rice used to screen for possible contamination.

With over 50 independent breweries, Fukushima prefecture is an undiscovered Sake wonderland. Elegant, endlessly drinkable…the local Sake is the embodiment of the local environment, of innovation married with tradition, and a drink which transcends cultural and gastronomic boundaries – the Fukushima Formula!