Kuribayashi Brewery was established in 1874 at Rokugô in the southeastern part of Akita Prefecture. The present head, Naoaki Kuribayashi, is the seventh generation. The brand name was taken from the lyrics of a Noh song titled, “Hagoromo,” which is usually sung on auspicious occasions. It includes the following passage:
Haru-kasumi tanabikini-keri hisakata-no-tsuki-no-katsura-no-hana-ya-saku
“While the spring mist has settled here (on the Earth), flowers of tsuki-no-katsura [a legendary flower that was believed to exist on the Moon] must be blooming on the Moon.”
Situated at the foot of the Ou Mountains, Rokugô includes dozens of natural springs. It is referred to as the “home of excellent spring water.” The snowmelt from the mountains is filtered through rocks, and it emerges as fresh, pure spring water, which supports the brewing industry in Rokugô. The cold spring water is also one of the main tourist attractions during the summer heat.
Rokugô is buried deep in snow during the winter. The highlight of Rokugô is the Kamakura (Snow House) Festival held in February. Among the numerous events, the ”Takeuchi” (Bamboo Pole Fight) is one of strangest in Japan because it involves two groups of townsmen who hit one another with six-meter-long bamboo poles. Since the Middle Ages, Rokugô has prospered on the Ushû Road due to its rich rice and saké production. During the Edo era, there were approximately 20 breweries operating. Saké barrels in those days were made from bamboo, which is believed to be one of reasons why the “Takeuchi” started in Rokugô.
From the late 1970s to the 1990s, the brewery won many prizes at national and prefectural saké fairs under Tôji (Head Brewer) Seiji Kameyama. The brewery used K-9 yeast extensively and introduced techniques from all over Japan. It also began researching the possibility of using homemade original yeast. After Kameyama retired in 2008 after 60 years of brewing saké, Naoaki Kuribayashi assumed the responsibility for brewing. While continuing the brewing tradition, the brewery staff members work hard on a daily basis.
Kuribayashi Brewery’s saké is characterized by Rokugô’s tender spring water, “Misatonishiki” saké rice cultivated by contracted farmers, and K-9 yeast, which brings an especially rich taste. “Misatonishiki” saké rice is an excellent hybrid of “Miyamanishiki” rice and “Yamadanishiki” rice, which is only available from farmers in Akita. Since the rice name was taken from the name of the town, many farmers in Misato grow “Misatonishiki” saké rice. At Kuribayashi Brewery, the rice is used mostly for kôji. The flavor of its saké, which is fully developed with Misato’s water, rice, and K-9 yeast, goes well with Japanese cuisine.
Since 2011, the brewery has been producing saké with “Kameyama” yeast extracted from old brewing facilities built during the Meiji period. The Kameyama yeast combines the features of K-9 yeast and those of modern yeasts. Saké production using the Kameyama yeast is increasing each year. Through the addition of new techniques and specialties of the region, Kuribayashi Brewery is improving the quality of Harukasumi.