Unveiling Uozu's famed charm to the world!
Junmai-kura brewery based on fundamental culinary concepts
The 7 brewers brew the sake with a strong love for their hometown. Uozu Shuzo, the "small giant" in Toyama, is dedicated to making sake that will shine bright at the dinner table, a philosophy unique to a brewery in Uozu, which is a treasure trove of foodstuffs.
Uozu, a coastal city blessed with a harbor, sacred mountains, mirages, and abundant nature
Uozu Shuzo is located in a quiet residential area near the port, about 20 km northeast of the center of Toyama City. The site is lined with buildings that give a tangible sense of history, and the chimneys, which have outlived their usefulness with the advent of boilers, have become a symbol of the brewery's presence.
Toyama Prefecture belongs to the Hokuriku region of the Chubu area, and together with Ishikawa and Fukui prefectures, is known as one of the " Three Major Hokuriku Prefectures". The topography of Uozu City facing the Sea of Japan is long and narrow, stretching inland from the Sea of Japan side, and the distance from the plains along the Toyama Bay coast to the 3,000-meter-high mountains is short. The citizens of Uozu are proud of the clean water and abundant seafood and mountain produce produced by this unique difference in altitude.
Being one of Japan's representative ports, the Port of Uozu has flourished since the Edo period as a strategic point on the coast of the Sea of Japan due to its favorable geographical conditions. Most of the representative seafood found in Toyama Bay, such as firefly squid, yellowtail, red snow crab, and white shrimp, are landed from here.
Toyama Bay, where the Port of Uozu is located, is known for its mirages that appear several times from the early spring till early summer. Tourists from all over the country come to catch a glimpse of this whimsy of nature.
With one of the best fishing ports in Japan, majestic mountains, and mirages, Uozu is a city of food and mystery, richly blessed by nature.
Uozu Shuzo is the only sake brewery in the city. In December 2022, the company changed its name from Hongo Shuzo when its business was succeeded to Nihonshu Capital (Tokyo). The company name conveys the strong desire of the president and employees to not only preserve the sake brewery but also to make the character and charm of "Uozu" known both domestically and internationally.
The brewery at Uozu Shuzo is directed by Mr. Katsumi Sakamoto, the toji (master brewer). He has worked at five different sake breweries throughout Japan and has spent the last 20 years mastering the fundamentals of sake brewing. Always wearing a white towel wrapped around his head, Mr. Sakamoto is very different from a typical toji, who can be stubborn and craftsmanlike, and has a friendly and oratorical manner.
The declaration of a ‘ junmai-kura’ brewery with renewed facilities- The key is in its synergy with food
Mr.Sakamoto began working at Uozu Shuzo as a toji in the summer of 2010. The first thing he did was to completely change the facility layout. The design drawings for the koji room, where the koji is fermented, were redrawn more than five times through a lot of trial and error. Sakamoto also set up the thermometers without being bound by conventional wisdom. He said ‘’Thermometers are often placed on the ceiling, but what we really need is the temperature in the space close to the rice. I hung the thermometers from the ceiling and fine-tuned their positions."
The koji room, where rice is fermented to make koji, is an extremely sensitive and important place. Temperature, humidity, and invisible bacteria are strictly controlled at all times. Visitors are not allowed to enter there. "I asked the architect to install a window so that visitors can at least see the inside of the room," said Mr.Sakamoto. This thoughtful consideration toward visitors is a testament to Mr.Sakamoto's personality. Uozu Shuzo declared itself a "junmai-kura brewery" when its business was transferred in 2022. Uozu Shuzo's sake is authentic junmai-shu, made with only water, rice, and koji, without using any brewing alcohol.
"Uozu has an abundance of delicious ingredients. That is why we want to make junmai-shu which is smooth to drink and goes well with food so that it can play a "supporting role" to the cuisine.’’ (Mr. Sakamoto). The star of the show is the food, and the best sake is the one that can add a subtle flair to the meal. This concept is typical of a sake brewery in Uozu, where various ingredients are available.
Uozu Shuzo is Mr.Sakamoto's sixth brewery. Comrades who knew him in the past say that his sake has been "softened" and is"gentler" since he started working in Uozu. Although he has not fundamentally changed his methods, the water, rice, and ingredients of Uozu, as well as his encounters with President Tanaka, have probably stimulated him to further evolve his sake brewing techniques.
The brewery's representative brand is "Hokuyo Junmai Daiginjo Fukurotsuri (北洋 純米大吟醸 袋吊)". Junmai Daiginjo is brewed with soul and sincerity and is carefully pressed using a time-consuming and labor-intensive method called fukurotsuri. The taste is rich, with a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. The brewery recommends the firefly squid kurozukuri, a specialty of Uozu, as the perfect accompaniment to this sake. For example, the fruity ginjo aroma goes perfectly with Western dishes such as endive and scallop salad and escargot with butter. The brewery is planning a renewal of this sake in 2023.
Sake "born in Uozu" is what we want you to know
What is Uozu Shuzo's main concern? According to Sakamoto, more than the technical aspects of selecting ingredients and controlling temperature and humidity, it is the fact that the sake is made in Uozu. “We want people to know that it is sake brewed in Uozu, no matter who buys it," says Mr. Sakamoto. As the only sake brewery in the city, Uozu Shuzo is determined to share its sake, which is designed to be paired with food, along with the name of Uozu, a treasure house of food, with as many people as possible.
“If the brewers do not have enough enthusiasm, many people will not drink the sake. I would like to make sake, which is loved by president Tanaka and the brewers themselves, and then, their enthusiasm will be conveyed to the buyers". One sip of Uozu´s sake cannot help but remind one of the extraordinary nature of Uozu, a fishing town where mirages can be seen, and where the brewers have much love for their hometown.