For most of its thousand-year history, sake has been a man's world. Even as recently as 30 years ago, women were forbidden to enter some breweries, but today's pioneering lady brewers and brewery heads are teaching the industry to embrace its feminine side.

As a child, Miho Fujita, president of Mioya Shuzo in Ishikawa Prefecture, had never imagined that she'd be working at a sake brewery, much less running one. After a thoroughly urban upbringing in Tokyo, Fujita had gone into advertising, handling marketing for the American toy brand Hot Wheels. However, when her uncle, who had been the brewery's executive director, passed away without leaving a successor, Fujita realized that there was no one in her family left to fill the role.

"At that time, I was equivocal about trying (to take over the job)," she admits, "and I went to Ishikawa without thinking deeply about it at all."