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Tono, Japan: Pioneering Moonshiner Revives Rustic Sake Tradition

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From left to right:. Kaitaku, Gokoku and Kaika are micro-brew doburoku unfiltered sakes made by Sachio Egawa | MELINDA JOE

15 years ago, Sachio Egawa embarked on a quest to revive the lost art of doburoku-brewing. Working with officials in Tono, he lobbied for an exemption to the liquor licensing rules, and became the first individual since the Meiji Era to gain permission to micro-brew doburoku.

 reports: Sachio Egawa is a Renaissance man of sorts.

A spry 68-year-old with a jokey manner and a full head of black hair, he raises his own cows, grows rice and cultivates giant yamame trout in a pond on his farm in northern Iwate Prefecture. In autumn, he forages for wild mushrooms; in winter, he goes hunting for deer and, on occasion, bears.

Egawa incorporates the fruits of his labor into thoughtfully prepared meals for the guests at his pension, Milk Inn, on the outskirts of the town of Tono.

“I want visitors to taste real kyōdō-ryōri (Japanese country cooking),” he says, explaining that the regional cuisine — which traditionally relies on home-grown crops and wild ingredients such as vegetables and berries gathered from the mountains — is an expression of Iwate’s history of self-sufficiency.

“It was hard, because there was no precedent. There was no one I could ask. Anyone making doburoku at home would have been arrested.”

– Sachio Egawa

Until the early 2000s, the one thing missing from the rustic repasts at Milk Inn was doburoku — the slurry-like, unfiltered sake that had been brewed by local farmers for centuries. The practice was outlawed in the Meiji Era (1868-1912), when the national government introduced liquor taxation laws and imposed strict regulations on sake production. However, 15 years ago, Egawa embarked on a quest to revive the lost art of doburoku-brewing, which he describes as “an important part of Japanese food culture.”

Working with officials in Tono, he lobbied for an exemption to the liquor licensing rules, which require that sake brewers produce a minimum of 6 kiloliters per year.

“It was hard, because there was no precedent,” Egawa says, recounting a painful two-year struggle to cut through the multiple layers of red tape.

In 2004, then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi granted the city of Tono an exemption from the licensing laws, declaring the area a “special economic zone” — known as tokku in Japanese — and Egawa became the first individual to gain permission to micro-brew doburoku. But after obtaining his groundbreaking permit, he faced another obstacle: He needed to learn how to brew.

“There was no one I could ask,” he says. “Anyone making doburoku at home would have been arrested.”

Eventually, he turned to historians, who helped him craft a recipe based on ancient texts. He studied the basics of fermentation … (read more)

via The Japan Times

more here: milk-inn-egawa.com

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