Kamoizumi Brewery was founded in 1912 by Toshikazu Maegaki, whose family had been in the rice business for generations. The name “Kamoizumi” comes from the ancient name of the region, Kamo, and the Japanese word for a spring of water, izumi. The particular spring Maegaki had in mind was the source of their brewing water, a famous spring on the Sanyo Road called Miyoga Shimizu.
In 1965, Kamoizumi took a radical step which was both far ahead of its time and a step back to an earlier era of sake brewing. It committed itself to reviving the junmai style of sake, which is sake to which no spirit alcohol has been added. It brought its first junmai to market in 1972 with a product called Muroka Shu Honjikomi Kamoizumi, at a time when most brewers were still adding copious amounts of alcohol to increase profits at the expense of quality. The next year, Kamoizumi joined 15 other pioneering brewers to form the Junmai Sake Association, and it has been producing and promoting high quality junmai sake ever since.
In 1992, Kamoizumi completed a new brewery to mark its 80th anniversary, and then celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012.
Kamoizumi is located in Saijo, central Hiroshima Prefecture. Saijo is about 20km from the Seto Inland Sea, in a highland basin at 250m in elevation. Winter temperatures average 5C, nearly perfect for sake brewing, and indeed the town is home to eight sake makers. Saijo has become famous as a “sake town.” The brewing water is medium-soft ground water from Mount Ryuo, to the north of the town. The water is the lifeblood of the town, so all of Saijo’s brewers join with local volunteers to maintain and protect the water source and the surrounding forest.
Every spring, Saijo hosts Japan’s national sake appraisal, the Annual Japan Sake Competition, in which over 1000 entries are judged. And in the fall, Saijo holds the largest sake event in Japan, called simply Sake Matsuri, or Sake Festival. Over the two days of the festival, more than 250,000 sake fans come to Saijo from all over the world to taste products from 1000+ breweries across Japan.
And throughout the year, festival or not, thousands flock to Saijo on the weekends to visit the breweries, which are all within a ten minute walk from Saijo Station, which is itself only 35 minutes from Hiroshima Station, and only 30 minutes from Hiroshima Airport.
Kamoizumi makes only junmai style sake. It never adds alcohol to any of its products. The brew master is from the Hiroshima brewer’s guild, and he focuses on traditional three-stage mash production to brew high-quality sake by hand.
Kamoizumi sources nearly all of its rice within 50km of the brewery. Its Yamada Nishiki sake rice is grown under contract by farms in the Zoga district of eastern Hiroshima, a mere ten minutes’ drive from the brewery. The brewing water is drawn from an onsite well, and is a pure and soft groundwater originating from Mount Ryuo.
It is said that the quality of the rice steaming determines whether the sake comes out good or bad. We use a “koshiki” steamer that allows us to increase temperature to 130C during the final ten minutes, which results in the ideal rice consistency of a hard outer surface and a soft inner core.
The microscopic yeast are actually what makes the sake, and we push them to ferment the mash for as long as possible. Long, slow fermentation produces the best sake flavors and aromas, so controlling mash tank temperature is very important. We use a temperature control system that regulates each individual tank in 0.5C increments to maintain the best temperature for every batch.
Kamoizumi does not engage in the standard brewing practice of fine-filtering with active charcoal. Foregoing this filtering preserves the sake’s natural savory rice flavor and golden color. We also age our sake for a certain period to give it more maturity and balance. Depending on the sake style, we pasteurize it, and then store it at cool room temperature to deepen the flavor.
Our sake is flavorful and mellow, with a soft golden color of Japanese roses. We make sake that retains the natural savory and sweet flavor of the rice. Our sakes are all junmai, which is a style that is particularly expressive depending on the serving temperature. When chilled, the sake shows a pleasant acidity; when warmed to around 40C, the flavors soften and expand. We aim for sake that not only stands on its own, but also multiplies the enjoyment of a meal.