The foundation of Ryozeki Shuzo Co., Ltd. can be traced back to 1874 in southern Yuzawa City in Akita Prefecture. The “ryô” in Ryôzeki means “both,” while “zeki” is short for Ôzeki, which formally stands for the champion of all sumo wrestlers. Ôzeki is also used to describe something with the highest rank in its field, similar to “the king of…” In the saké industry, “Masamune” is a common name given to brands, coming from the name of one of the best katana swords made in eastern Japan. In addition, another famous katana from the western region is called “Munechika.” A man who loved saké and swords proposed that, if “Masamune” is the Ôzeki of the east and “Munechika” is the Ôzeki of the west, “Ryôzeki” would be a perfect name for the “king of saké” that rules over both eastern and western Japan.
Ryozeki Shuzo started with one main building and four kura (brewing houses). They were the first tangible cultural properties to be registered in Akita under the national Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties. For many years, the brewery’s saké has been awarded prizes at the national new-brewed saké fairs organized by the National Institute of Brewing. In addition, its products have received high praise at prestigious international liquor competitions around the world.
Even within Akita, the land of snow, Yuzawa City is famous for its heavy snowfall. The hot summers and freezing winters provide an environment suitable for producing high-quality natural spring water. This groundwater is the base of Ryozeki Shuzo’s brewing process. Yuzawa is also a great location for saké production because it is one of the main areas for harvesting rice suitable for brewing. “Bizan Nishiki” is one of Akita’s proud lines of saké rice, and roughly 80% of it is produced in Yuzawa City.
By taking full advantage of these great sources of water and rice, Ryozeki Shuzo challenges itself every day to create delicious saké. Ryozeki Shuzo was the first brewery in Akita to be awarded the grand prize by the National Institute of Brewing (cf. “A History of Akita’s Saké” in this booklet).
The low temperature long term brewing technique is a part of Akita’s traditions. However, Ryozeki Shuzo developed its own unique brewing skills. Using the region’s well-known cold weather, it holds down the highest temperature of the moromi (unfiltered saké in the middle of the fermentation process) as much as possible and ferments the saké slowly. By adopting this method, the brewery can achieve a smooth taste. Instead of maintaining its exclusivity, Ryozeki Shuzo publicly opened this technique to other breweries in order to contribute to the advancement of saké production in the Tohoku Region. Furthermore, another policy the company has firmly maintained since its establishment is training its own Tôji (Head Brewer). All the brewery’s Tôji have been trained within the company.
Ryozeki Shuzo has two main mottos: (1) “To produce in harmony with the people, one must brew what brings harmony to the people,” and (2) “Quality first.” These two mottos have never been broken, and to date, the brewery cherishes the spirit of tradition.