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Isumi, a seaside city in Chiba Prefecture about an hour southeast of Tokyo, is home to Kidoizumi Brewery, which has been making sake since 1879.

The present owner’s grandfather was a pioneer in additive-free sake brewing in the immediate postwar years, when adding preservatives was the norm. Hayato Shoji, who now runs Kidoizumi with the help of four brewers, has inherited his grandfather’s dedication to making healthy, flavorful sake.

“Our sake is brewed by a method from my grandfather’s day that uses naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria. We make our fermentation starter by combining steamed rice, rice propagated with kōji mold and yeast with hot water, keeping the mix at around 55 degrees Celsius, the best temperature for converting starch to sugar. The heat and bacteria-produced lactic acid kill off unwanted bacteria, so there’s no need for additives,” Shoji says.

Kidoizumi’s lineup: (From left) Kokin, a blend of select 20- to 30-year aged vintages; a refreshingly tart sake made with naturally grown Hanafubuki rice from Aomori Prefecture; and Afs, a traditional sake made in a rare one-step fermenting process.
Kidoizumi’s lineup: (From left) Kokin, a blend of select 20- to 30-year aged vintages; a refreshingly tart sake made with naturally grown Hanafubuki rice from Aomori Prefecture; and Afs, a traditional sake made in a rare one-step fermenting process.

Justin Potts, an American who worked as a brewer at Kidoizumi and now assists with public relations there, explains: “We make our own all-natural lactic acid bacteria culture, and use it only at the start of the brewing season. After that, the bacteria living in the brewhouse take over. Naturally fermented sake has a unique tartness and depth of flavor that match nicely with Western-style dishes too. Non-Japanese drinkers and even Japanese who don’t ordinarily enjoy sake find naturally fermented sake easy on the palate. My wife and I are big fans, and that’s why we moved here.”

With organic sake in vogue these days, Kidoizumi has attracted the attention of those who are partial to natural libations.

“We’ve stayed true to the kind of sake we feel is important,” says owner Shoji, “and we’re happy that the world is beginning to think it’s important, too. My job is to continue the work of producing great-tasting, worry-free sake by our traditional methods.”

Kidoizumi Sake Brewery: Ohara 7635-1, Isumi, Chiba Prefecture 298-0004; 0470-62-0013; kidoizumi.jp

For more insight into Japan’s culture, arts and lifestyle, visit int.kateigaho.com.

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