Kikusui Brewery

Kikusui Brewery was established in 1875 in Noshiro City, which used to be a well-known center for lumber distribu-tion. Because the brewery suffered from several devastating fires, the exact year of its establishment is uncertain. How-ever, it is possible that it dates back to the Kôka period (1844–1848) during the Edo era. From generation to genera-tion, the heads of Kikusui Brewery have inherited the first name Kisaburo, and the current head of the brewery is Kis-aburo the Sixth.
In the early years, Kikusui Brewery’s saké did not have any name, and it was simply known as “Kisaburo’s saké.” However, when the brewery participated in saké competi-tive fairs held during the Meiji era, a brand name was introduced, combining the first two Chinese characters for the child-hood name of the brewery’s head, Kikuji (喜久治), and Sui (水) (“water”). This was also the origin of its early saké brand KIKUSUI (喜久水).
The brewers work on Kikusui’s saké with a well-known ad-age in mind: Ichi kôji, ni moto, san tsukuri (“Kôji is of first importance, shubo is of second importance, and moromi is of third importance.”). This means making good kôji (rice mold) is the most important element in brewing good saké. Shubo is made using carefully prepared kôji, and the brewers at Kikusui Brewery make moromi by scrupulously following the traditional three-step fermentation process (San-dan-Shikomi) in which kôji, rice, and water are added to shubo.
Kikusui Brewery stores bottled saké in a 100-meter-long, brick train tunnel built in 1900, which was the 33rd year of the reign of Emper-or Meiji. The tunnel used to be called the “Tsurugata Tunnel”; today, it is a national cultural property. The new Tsurugata Tunnel runs along the old one, and it is part of the Japan Railway’s Ou Line con-necting Fukushima City to Aomori City via Akita City. The former Tsurugata Tunnel stores up to 60,000 bottles of saké and matures saké at 12°C throughout the year.
Kikusui Brewery is known for its unique “Kamutachi In-ternship,” a saké-brewing internship system. The name Kamutachi is an ancient word for saké brewing. During the period of fermentation from early December to the end of March, applicants live together and work with the head brewer to make saké. Those who complete the training re-ceive the title “Kamutachi Expert” and the opportunity to obtain confidential information about the brewery. Any able-bodied individual is eligible to apply for this program. The list of past Kamutachi interns shows that this program has included those from a wide array of occupations, such as brewers, professionals at saké-related businesses, office workers, students, journalists, housewives, civil servants, and university administrators. Many participants come from the Kanto and Kansai regions of Japan, which shows that many Japanese people still have a strong interest in saké brewing.