The Dark side
Revised on July 3rd, 2007
Following supplementary investigation and discovering more reliable sources it is time for me to either amend (for my greatest pleasure) some declarations or confirm (&%$#$%) some hard facts:
Doi Brewery in Kakegawa City, nor Senju Brewery in Iwata City (the latter only recently) are not selling any of their sake to other Breweries any longer.
Three « Breweries » do buy their sake from Nada Breweries to sell it under their name:
Chiyonomusume (Hamamtsu City), Matsukawa (Kikugawa City) and Takamatsu (Omaezaki City)
This Nada Brewery having a alcohol-making plant in Shimizu City still sells its products to most Shizuoka Breweries but has been keeping a lower profile. Apparently they are no longer interfering with Shizuoka Sake business.
Unfortunately, the unethical deeds of the company owned by the family of Shinya Totsuka, present Mayor of Kakegawa City, go on unabated. I found out they even forced the shops at Kakegawa JR Station to sell their products, although the same shops are clearly stating they are selling only local products made by local farms, breweries and companies!
5) Lack of pride from certain « failed » breweries:
When I investigated why Fuji-Isami Brewery in Shizuoka City ceased operations exactly 10 years ago, I discovered to my chagrin that the last generation prefered to sit on the pile of gold amassed by its last owner. The son became an employee of Shizuoka Bank which has the Brewery’s money in their coffers. When you add the few « oku en » (100,000,000X?) representing the value of the prime estate land on which the Brewery is still standing in the company of a house and storebuilding, you understand why some people in Shizuoka are not proud of their heritage! At least, if the last owner had a little vision he could develop it as an izakaya holding sake events and what else!
The world is not all rosy. That is why you need your favourite drinks. But when I feel deprived of my last pleasure, I can become downright nasty…
March being a quiet month as far as teaching business is concerned, I decided to pay a visit to Kumpai Brewery across the Abe River in Shizuoka City early this afternoon. I had to pick up a couple of limited nama ginjo and dai ginjo bottles there, as well as ask for an interview. Mr. Ichikawa seemed only too glad to oblige and agreed on a date next week.
Along the way I had noticed a very large hangar cum company with the big name of Shinkon Sake. Uh? Why didn’t I notice that before.?
I decided to investigate and left my bicycle at the entrance. I simply barged in the very large lobby office, politely produced my shizuokasake blog name card and introduced myself as a Shizuoka Sake History Researcher, a big title full of ballooney but that has opened a lot of doors so far. The lady who welcomed me went to wake up the « katcho san » who was dozing in front of everyone. They must feel pretty secure and prosperous to show that kind of attitude…
The unsmiling katcho san came to me with a photocopy of his company’s official history for my benefit. So far, so good. I started asking innocuous questions in spite of all the information clearly written in Japanese before my eyes.
-When was your company founded?
-8th Year Taisho Era
-Was your company originally in Shizuoka City?
-Kakegawa City. That is from 10th year Taisho Era
-When was it established in Shizuoka City?
-In 1952 after it was rebuilt after the war.
-Has it stayed in Shizuoka City since then?
-No, we moved to Okayama City in 1956 under the present name of Hiraki Brewery. We opened a branch In Hamamatsu City in the same year.
-Why did you move to Wakayama City?
-Sorry, corporate privacy!
At that moment, to say that my interlocutor’s face was unhappy was a gross understatement. I « apologized » and followed a different tack.
-Although your company name is Hiraki Brewery advertizing Hiraki Honjozo (apparently they do not brew anything of better standing), I noticed the names of Nihon Sakari and Shinkon (I was playing the fool there). Do you also sell them?
-That is correct (the katcho san was becoming bored with the whole affair).
-I saw your casks at Sengen Shrine in Shizuoka City. Did your company donate them?
-That is correct.
I had enough by then. After some nonsensical comments about their branches in Shizuoka Prefecture and what else, I took my leave (politely).
Simply put, Hiraki Company was a true Shizuoka Prefecture Brewery until 1956, when they either bought themselves or were acquired in Okayama City. They used and expanded their roots inside Shizuoka Prefecture to inundate us with the products of no less than 31 companies through 10 outlets in Shizuoka Prefecture, going as far as to declare their company in Shizuoka City as their Mother Company!
No wonder that so many bars, izakayas and restaurants do not feature Sake brewed in Shizuoka Prefecture on their menus!
I mentioned all this to Mr. Ichikawa of Kumpai Brewery again. He nodded with a wry smile. When I remarked it was about time Shizuoka Brewers acted in concert, he smiled again…
Life in the future promises to become a little more interesting!
Kampai to that!
1) I happened to see Hiraki Hinjonzo almost everywhere during the next days. The interesting thing is that they write the name in the inverted order, although their website is clearly written Hiraki…
2) I soon found out that Shinya Totsuka, Hiraki Co’s main shareholder, is nothing less than Kakegawa City Mayor! Blimey, they are everywhere, aren’t they?
3) Last, can someone tell me why Hiraki Company and Fuuki materialized in Shizuoka exactly the same year?
Fuuki: A Rogue 2?
The story with Fuuki continues, but with some more evaluation.
Investigating the history of Sake in Shizuoka is akin to a hard-boiled story sometimes. You do have to talk to a lot of people in different spheres to fish out the true story lying behind some practices…
Now the role of Fuuki in Shizuoka Prefecture (and other Prefectures I dare say) has been determined. It sells its alcohol not only to other Prefectures, but to most breweries in Shizuoka. Until there, no problem.
But some nasty rumours have reached my small ears as recently as yesterday (no, I’m not going to divulge my source. Take it at face value, or else). Fuuki apparently tries to impose its way of making Sake to local Brewers. Otherwise no alcohol (fetch it somewhere else with according transport costs)!
I mentioned in the first part of this saga that many, if not all Brewers made sake on order for the big brothers. I was assured that the practice has completed stopped.
Bad luck, one brewer, a BIG one, still sells its brew on order. The fact is mitigated by a sort of « give-and-take » agreed with a Nada Brewer which helped that Big Brewer when it was still a struggling SMALL one 20 years ago and before. Understandable. But why do some people try to hide the fact, and why do the same people still include Fuuki as the « 33rd kura » (shall I say member) of the Shizuoka Sake Brewers Association?
Addenda: Found out today (February 20th) that Tancho, which ceased operations in the early 1990’s in Shimada, brewed for the benefit of Fuuki…
Fuuki: A Rogue 1?
For some time, I have been intrigued by the presence of a « Brewer » called Fuuki, located in Shizuoka City, Shimizu Ku, Yokosuna Minami Cho 2-1. Checking on the map, I noticed the presence of a natural river flowing along from the nearby mountain. The problem was that I could not find any bottle of it! I noticed recently one of thieir « taru » (cask on display in Sengen Shrine in Shizuoka City.
I first asked a pointed question to the gentleman working at the Shizuoka Brewers Association Office but only obtained a very vague answer.
Fine. Next, I asked my good friend, Mr. Masuo Yokoyama of Shimizu Ku to check for me. He found out that they are not making sake in that particular « factory », but making large amounts of alcohol for their mother brewing company in the Nada area (Kobe-Kyoto). Apparently they had found some good water.
A liquor shop owner friend of mine mentioned they were also into bottling business.
I reported my findings to John Gauntner who revealed that this particular company is one of the biggest cheap sake exporters to the uS. Ah, ah! John advised me to read his article on oke-gai for more information. Read it, and you will understand why I call Fuuki a « rogue »!
Upon more investigation, an old hand revealed that many tank lorries were seen and are still seen on the nearby main thoroughfares.
The Association has assured me that all Breweries were presently making sake for their own business only. Whereas I cannot fault companies on making extra money, I do hope that Breweries in Shizuoka Prefecture are all genuine!