On a snowy winter day, Miho Fujita, president of Mioya Shuzo sake brewery in Ishikawa Prefecture, dons a white jacket and picks up a long, wooden paddle. Before manually mashing up rice in a bucket of yeast starter — a mixture of steamed rice, water, and kōji (steamed rice inoculated with kōji mold, which breaks down starch into sugar) — she cues a Korean pop song from a speaker.

In ancient times, brewers sang work songs to ease the burden of the laborious process used in the traditional kimoto method. Fujita knows those old tunes by heart, but she's updated the tradition in her own way, infusing the age-old craft with a modern twist. This progressive spirit is emblematic of how she has tackled every aspect of running Mioya Shuzo over the past 20 years.

Fujita's journey into the world of sake began in 2000 when her father, a native of Hakui, purchased Mioya Shuzo, a brewery on the brink of bankruptcy. When her uncle, who had been running the business, passed away suddenly in 2003, Fujita decided to step in and fill the role — despite her successful marketing career in Tokyo and the hurdles she faced as a woman in a male-dominated industry.