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Column 2024.02.28

Echigo TojiTouch the “soul”


The chief brewer, the brewer, is the person in charge of brewing sake. ``Echigo Toji'' is considered one of Japan's three major tojis, along with Nambu toji in Iwate prefecture and Tanba toji in Hyogo prefecture. What is the "soul" of Echigo Toji that should be inherited even when times change?

A book to learn about Echigo Toji

First, I would like to introduce a book that summarizes Echigo Toji in detail.1999(Heisei11) ``Echigo Toji and Sake Brewery Life'' by Toyojiro Nakamura (Niigata Nippo Publishers).

1925 (Taisho14Mr. Nakamura, who was born in Joetsu City (formerly Kiyosato district) in 2010, researched the history of sake brewing in Niigata Prefecture while teaching at high schools throughout the prefecture as a high school teacher. After he retired, he also served as a lecturer at Niigata Sake School.

According to the book, Niigata Prefecture, a snowy country, has traditionally had migrant workers in various occupations during the winter, and ``sake-ya-kaku'' (sake-ya-kaku), in which a group of sake men (brewers including chief brewers) led by a chief brewer goes out to sake breweries all over the country to make sake. was one of them.

Echigo Toji is called by the name of its birthplace, and there are four major birthplaces that have produced many chief brewers. The current ``Kubiki Toji'' in the Yoshikawa Ward and Kakizaki Ward of Joetsu City, the ``Kariwa Toji'' in Kashiwazaki City and Kariwa Village, and the ``Mishima Koshiji Toji'' mainly in the Koshiji area of ​​Nagaoka City. ``Mishima Nozumi Brewery'' in Teradomari, Nagaoka City. Mishima Koshiji Toji and Mishima Nozumi Toji are often referred to by the abbreviations of ``Koshiji Toji'' and ``Nozumi Toji.''

From “Echigo Toji and the Sake Man Group” in “Echigo Toji and Sake Brewery Life”

During the heyday after the Meiji era, the total number of sake men in Echigo was2It was said to be a million people. He learned the techniques under brewers in Saigoku regions such as Tanba and Tajima, and gradually devised his own unique Echigo-style sake brewing techniques.1930(Showa5) After the Niigata Prefectual Sake Research Institute was established in 2007, the technique and taste were further refined with the support of specialized researchers. His skills, as well as the diligence and tenacity of the Echigo people, were bought by brewers, and Echigo Toji gained momentum, with work locations mainly in the Kanto and Chubu regions.26It also extended to prefectures.

Later, with the shift to mechanization and a year-round employment system, the number of migrant workers decreased, and in the Showa era30(1955) Around the year1000He was a strong man, but at the end of the Showa era (1985Around 2000), about half of the14(2002) around the year200I cut someone.


Mr. Nakamura's book covers everything from the existence of intermediaries who supported Echigo Toji's expansion into the Kanto region during the Edo period, to the life of the Echigo Toji group in the Taisho and early Showa periods, when hand-made sake was the mainstay, and the sake brewing process, which was popularly sung at the time. A detailed introduction to the work song ``Sake Brewery Song,'' as well as the decline in the number of sake men due to changes in the times and the initiatives of the Niigata Sake School, which was established ahead of the rest of the nation as a countermeasure. This book can be called a bible for understanding Echigo Toji.

Echigo Toji biography

“From Niigata” published by our companyR"of2021spring·15In the issue, we published a special feature entitled ``My Beloved Echigo Toji''.

The project was to tell the story of Echigo Toji through the introduction of a legendary toji and a toji who graduated from Niigata Sake School. Among the many legendary master brewers, due to differences in birthplace and working environment,6Introduced the name. Introducing six Echigo Toji from our 2021 coverage.


Yoshio Go, a native of Koshiji, Nagaoka City, had a history of sake brewing at the time of the interview (hereinafter the same).61year.16He started working at Ikeda Sake Store (currently Wakura Sake Brewery, Chiba Prefecture) in Chiba Prefecture at the age of 20, became a brewer at Takahashi Brewery Co., Ltd. in the prefecture, and then moved to Kawachu Shuzo Co., Ltd. (Nagaoka City). He received the Niigata Master Craftsman's Medal with Yellow Ribbon.2010Niigata Sake School, which took over the headship from Mr. Go in 201020In the eyes of Mr. Nomizu Manjuo, a first-year student, Mr. Go is ``a demon of koji.'' Looking back, he says, ``At the root of my strictness was always the desire to make good sake.''

Yoshio Go (left) and Kawachu Shuzo Co., Ltd. chief brewer Manjuo Nomizu (at Kawachu Shuzo Co., Ltd.)


Mr. Nagaichi Aoyagi, the Nozumi toji, is originally from the seaside Teradomari area of ​​Nagaoka City, and has a history of sake brewing.69year.

Around Teradomari (Nagaoka City) (taken in spring 2009)

Mr. Nagaichi Aoyagi (at Takarayama Sake Brewery Co., Ltd.)

15At the age of 10, he went to work as a sake brewer at Ishibashi Sake Brewery in Asahikawa, Hokkaido. After working at sake breweries in Gifu and Tochigi prefectures, he moved to a sake brewery on Rishiri Island in Hokkaido. After that, he worked at Tahara Shuzo Co., Ltd. in Itoigawa City, Prefecture, where he was the number one person in charge of the entire operation under the chief brewer.2to the ``kashira'' (head). Next, he became a brewer at Nagano Meijo in Nagano Prefecture, where he worked, and was responsible for producing sake at Yahiko Shuzo Co., Ltd. in Yahiko Village and Takarayama Sake Brewery Co., Ltd. in Iwamuro Village (now Niigata City). He received the Niigata Master Craftsman's Medal with Yellow Ribbon. At Takarayama Sake Brewery Co., Ltd., in response to his brewery's request, he persevered and succeeded in brewing sake using Koshihikari rice.


Hiroshi Yoneyama and his wife Chii

Mr. Hiroshi Komeyama, a brewer from the former Koshiji Town (Higashiya, Nagaoka City), has a history of brewing sake.60year.18At the age of 10, he went to work at Nakayama Sake Brewery in Sado City. He worked at Tsumura Sake Brewery in Kyoto Prefecture, Iida Sake Brewery in Chiba Prefecture, and then became chief brewer at Wakatsuru Sake Brewery in Toyama Prefecture. He is grateful to his wife for taking care of his home for six months during his active career, when he was mostly working outside the prefecture. The fact that he jokingly calls his wife ``Okainai'' (fearful = strong-willed) is a sign of his deep love for her. It makes me smile.

Mr. Hisashi Yanagisawa

Hisashi Yanagisawa, a native of Yoshikawa Ward, Joetsu City and a graduate of Prefectural Yoshikawa High School, has a history of sake brewing.58year.1953(Showa28), before the brewing department was established, and after graduating, he went to Takarayama Sake Brewery Co., Ltd. He experienced the sake brewing process while being in charge of analysis. It is said that his sake brewing songs were also composed here. After that, he worked at Ichikawa Sake Brewery in Aichi Prefecture, and then at Nanawarai Sake Brewery in Nagano Prefecture. He received the Medal with Yellow Ribbon. Above all else, he cared about harmony among people, and said, ``Sake reflects the temperament of the person who makes it.''


Yasuo Hirano

Like Yagisawa, Yasuo Hirano is from Yoshikawa Ward, Joetsu City.1960(Showa35) Established in (2004Graduated from the brewing department of Yoshikawa High School (closed in 2010). Sake brewing history57Year. After graduating from high school, he worked for a year at an equipment company that made koji chambers, etc., and then moved to Hara Shuzo Co., Ltd. in Kashiwazaki City.2020Until he retired as a master brewer in 2010, he was devoted to Hara Shuzo Co., Ltd. During his active years, he not only mastered his own sake brewing, but also served as the chairman of the Japan Sake Brewers Association and was very active. He received the Medal with Yellow Ribbon. Sake brewing songs and self-composed songsCDHe is also an accomplished performer, and also showed off his beautiful voice in ``Niigata Sake no Jin''.

Masayuki Hirata (right)

Masayuki Hirata, a native of Kubiki Village (now Kubiki Ward) in Joetsu City, has a history of sake brewing.52Year. After working at the Sakai Sake Brewery in Gunma Prefecture and the National Tax Agency Brewing Experiment Station (Tokyo), he worked at Myokoshuzo Co., Ltd. (Joetsu City).38He became the youngest chief brewer in the prefecture at the age of 20. This is the first time that Echigo Toji has been certified as both Niigata Master Craftsman and Zengiren Meister. He says that while exploring and pursuing technology, what is important is the harmony of brewers. “You often say “Kuraguse”. That’s the teamwork of the brewers.”


In this special feature, we asked Kumiko Honma, the ``mother of Echigo Toji,'' who has been supporting brewers and sake brewers for many years as the Niigata Prefecture Sake Brewery Employees Union secretariat, about her story.

``In the spring, I had no choice but to work hard until I returned home with my paycheck in hand.Because we have shared these memories with each other, the brewers are good friends,'' says the brewer, who has been awarded the Medal with Yellow Ribbon. He is in charge of the ``Ojokai'', a group of people.

Echigo Toji's number1Aiming for

Niigata Prefecture Sake Brewery Employees Union, a union for employees involved in the sake brewing industry (currently merged with the Niigata Prefecture Sake Brewery Study Group and Niigata Sake School Alumni Association, to become the Niigata Sake Brewing Technology Study Group)35Anniversary magazine “Echigo Toji and others carving out tomorrow” (2001・Heisei13(Published in 2010) describes how Echigo Toji not only made sake in the winter, but also held summer seminars after returning to his hometown to hone his skills and hone his Echigo-style sake brewing. is introduced.

In the past, in the spring after returning from work abroad, fairs were held at each brewer's association in the prefecture.


I was covering the sake brewing exhibited by Kinshihai Shuzo Co., Ltd. in Muramatsu, Gosen City.2010(Heisei22)Of year4Early in the month.

Noboru Abe, former chief brewer of Kinshihai Shuzo Co., Ltd. (Photographed in 2010)

The event was held at the Teradomari Branch in Nagaoka City, as Mr. Noboru Abe, who was the chief brewer of Kinshihai Shuzo Co., Ltd. at the time, belonged to the Teradomari Sake Brewery Employees (Nozumi Toji) Union due to his predecessor.62I covered the second fair.

Master brewers who are active in the prefecture, Fukushima prefecture, and all over the Kanto region will gather together to brew the sake they are proud of.60Once the points are lined up, the teachers at the Prefectural Brewing Testing Center will judge the results.

From my book “Kenka Sake: Sake Brewing in Niigata: The Challenge of a Small Brewery” (Niigata Nippo Jigyosya) “Competing with Echigo Toji Techniques”

Masatsugu Fujinoi, who was the chairman of the association at the time and the master brewer of Miyao Sake Brewing Co., Ltd., said, ``In addition to competing for rankings, it is also a gathering to celebrate the successful completion of sake brewing by friends who have gone to work in various places. "The best thing is that I'm healthy and can bring home the sake I've made," he said. It was a precious experience that I will never forget to witness the stern gaze of a famous master brewer and the warm smiles on his face.


In "Echigo Toji and others who open up tomorrow", the Showa era43(1968) Also introduced the Sake Fair held for the first time in 2017. No.1From the prefectural governor's award4It was a competition to decide the Niigata Nippo Award. Excellent number1There is also an interview article with Masao Horii, who works at a sake brewery in Gifu Prefecture and whose family won the 2016 Prefectural Governor's Award. At this time2The winner was the aforementioned Mr. Yoshio Go (Kawachu Shuzo Co., Ltd.).


The Sake Competition still continues under the name “Echigo-ryu Sake Brewing Technology Championship” and this year’s “Reiwa Sake Competition”5At the Echigo Sake Brewing Technology Championship of the Sake Brewing Year56Count the times.

The gold prize will be decided at the National New Sake Appraisal, which will be announced in May, but this competition will be held by Echigo Toji's number1is decided,1from rank10It is said that awards are given to people up to the highest rank, and even as times change, it is a competition that continues to be a passion for sake brewers as well as sake brewers who make Niigata sake. In recent years, a number of master brewers who graduated from Niigata Sake School have also joined the ranks. Last time (Reiwa4Sake brewing year) number1The brewer of “Koshijinokoubai” (Kubiki Sake Brewing Co., Ltd.) is from Niigata Sake School30It was Tsukasa Yoshizaki, a former student.

Commemorative photo of the award ceremony for the Reiwa 4th Sake Brewery “Echigo Sake Brewing Technology Championship”. Mr. Yoshizaki from Kubiki Sake Brewing Co., Ltd. is third from the left in the back row.

Sake breweries in the Kanto and Chubu regions that follow the Echigo Toji trend are also scheduled to participate. Scene 1 (Kura)2Dot by dot, approx.130It is expected that a number of items will be put up for sale. The examination will be held on April 2nd and 3rd.4Month25An awards ceremony will be held in Kashiwazaki City on the 1st. This year's number1What will happen...?


It's been a while since I've covered the awards ceremony at this fair several times.

The 2009 award ceremony for the predecessor "Jibori Sake Fair". Cups will be awarded to 1st to 10th place.

At that time, I was impressed by the fact that the chief brewer's wife was on stage with him at the award ceremony. It is likely that the thoughtful consideration that was given to support the family during the period of migrant work continued. Currently, the brewery (manager) and chief brewer2Name will be on stage.

The traditional toji system is disappearing as sake brewery styles diversify and brewers become employees. However, Echigo Toji, who has created the current taste of Niigata sake, has the skills and passion for sake brewing, and wants to make sake better than anyone else! This spirit will continue to live on. Expectations are high for the sake that Echigo Toji, which continues to evolve, will brew in the future.


Photo cooperation: Hideki Sakamoto, Kinshihai Shuzo Co., Ltd., Kawachu Shuzo Co., Ltd., Takarayama Sake Brewery Co., Ltd.  

"Cushu notebook""R from Niigata"Publisher


Mariko Takahashi