Akita Meijyo Brewing

Akita Meijyo Co., Ltd. was established in 1922 to brew Ranman with the goal of “bringing Akita’s saké brewed with good rice and abundant water to the national market.” While most breweries in those days were traditionally small family-run enterprises, 88 investors in Akita Prefecture (including brewers, politicians, and financiers) established Akita Meijyo Co., Ltd. as a modern corporation.

If the brewery was to establish a national reputation, it was necessary to equip it with the capacity to produce a substantial volume of high-quality saké. For this reason, the company constructed a modern factory with a brewing capability of 10,000 koku of saké (10,000 koku = approx. 1,800 kiloliters). To choose the name of the new saké brand, a national public competition (with a prize) was held, which was also part of a nationwide marketing strategy. Subsequently, the sales of Ranman expanded to Sendai, Tokyo, and the rest of Japan, until production was halted due to the Pacific War in December 1941.

After the war ended in 1945, Akita Meijyo Co., Ltd. restarted in 1949, and it successfully conquered the market due to its quality and marketing strategy. On the one hand, saké stores highly valued that Ranman had the quality of a first-class saké (called tokutei-meishu, “special-designation saké,” since the enactment of the National Tax Agency Notification in 1989) even though it was classified as a second-class saké (called futsûshu, “ordinary saké”). Thus, the brand became available inexpensively. On the other hand, its active marketing strategy of using Sayuri Yoshinaga, a very popular actress, had a tremendous impact on consumers. However, after a sales peak in the 1970s, changes in consumers’ tastes resulted in the rising consumption of other alcoholic beverages and the gradual fall of saké. Currently, Ranman’s sales are only one-fifth the volume and one-third the sales of those in the 1970s. Due to changes in the lifestyles of the Japanese people, 1.8-liter bottles were replaced by smaller bottles or paper packs. The brewery is aware of the need for a change in its strategy, and it is making efforts to enhance the sale of special-designation sakés, such as daiginjôshu, ginjôshu, and junmaishu. However, 80% of its products are still designated as futsûshu (“ordinary saké”).

The brewery is located in Yuzawa, which is situated in the Yokote Basin in the southern part of Akita Prefecture. It has the Ou Mountains to the east and splendid rice paddies to the west, with magnificent Mt. Chôkai in the distance. Sannai Tôji (highly skilled brewers from the Sannai District in Yokote City), who used to work for the brewery only in the winter, are now full-time employees of the company and are fully devoted to the art of brewing. In addition, Yuzawa has the nearby tourist attractions the Koyasukyô Hot Springs and the Aki-no-Miya Hot Springs, and it is becoming increasingly known for its production of Inaniwa Udon (wheat-flour noodles from the Inaniwa District in Yuzawa City).

For its production of saké, 99% of the rice used comes from Yuzawa and Ogachi with identifiable producers. The remainder is Yamadanishiki rice used to produce daiginjôshu. The principal brewing method adopted at the brewery is Akita’s low-temperature, long-period fermentation, which is practiced with the natural blessings of the region. The major objective is to ensure the stable provision of Ranman to consumers with constant quality.