Aqua vitae from the roof of Japan Masudashuzo

Website: MasudashuzoExternal site: a new window will open
Category: Japanese Food

Sake for everyone

Toyama, a prefecture sandwiched between the Japan Alps to the east and the Sea of Japan to the west, is a microcosm of Japan. Here, east meets west and the various micro-cultures of the island nation meet and meld. This mingling makes the sake produced in the region something of an everyman’s sake, as in there is a variety of sake to match every taste. In the midst of this cornucopia of diversity is Masudashuzo, a brewery founded in 1893 by father and son Hyozaburo and Kamejiro Masuda. Five generations later, the brewery, led by family patriarch Ryuichiro Masuda, is crafting 20-plus varieties of high-quality sake for both the domestic market and abroad.


Masuda family patriarch and head of Masudashuzo, Ryuichiro Masuda


Masuizumi, Masudashuzo's main brand

Variety is the spice of life

Masudashuzo’s representative brand is Masuizumi, named after the family name Masuda. Masuizumi has the meaning of a springing fountain of happiness, and is known as the delicious and auspicious sake. It includes an array of sake that runs from sweet to dry, aged to un-aged. Most varieties are matured in enamel tanks, allowing for the true flavor of the sake to remain uncluttered by other fragrances. To enjoy it, play around with it — different temperatures will result in different flavors, and each will match different kinds of cuisine. Masuda’s only hard and fast advice is this: enjoy it with friends.

Where tradition and technology meet

Good water is essential to good sake. Masudashuzo sources its water from deep within the Joganji River system that runs down from Tateyama, a mountain in the Northern Alps —known as “the roof of Japan” — synonymous with pure, natural beauty. Next is rice, much of which comes from within the prefecture, a prime farming area. Beyond ingredients is technique, and here Masudashuzo takes an interesting stand. Rather than stubbornly adhering to the belief that “tradition is best,” Masuda believes that the traditional way is only as good as its results. Therefore, in those parts of production where mechanization improves quality, traditional manual techniques are let go. Masuda estimates that production is split roughly 50-50 between the new and the old.


Production is split 50/50 between new technology and old techniques


Top quality Daiginjo sake

A partnership for the ages

Perhaps the most important part of the process, however, is the work of the toji, or master brewer. It’s under his guidance that flavors are discovered and quality maintained. The current toji is the fifth generation of his family to work alongside the Masuda family. This partnership has produced award-winning sake popular across Japan, though these days, Masudashuzo has chosen to bow out of competition to focus solely on crafting sake. This gives the company more room for innovation than contests allow. Instead, Masudashuzo participates in international exhibitions, which has seen its sake exported to various Asian countries, as well as Australia. In the future, Masudashuzo has its eye on France, England and Scandinavia in particular, but would like to see Masuizumi make waves the world over. At just over 121 years young, and with the passionate Masuda at the helm, Masudashuzo will surely be doing just that — and they’ll be waves of fine Toyama-brewed sake.

Website: MasudashuzoExternal site: a new window will open