Rihaku was founded in 1882 in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture. At first the brewery sold its sake under such brand names as “Nagaiki” and “Wakamatsu,” but in 1927 a local politician named Reijiro Wakatsuki, who had twice become Japan’s prime minister, convinced the brewery to change its name to Rihaku. Wakatsuki was an admirer of the 8th century Chinese poet Li Po, who often found inspiration when drinking sake, and whose name is pronounced “Rihaku” in Japanese. Wakatsuki often said “Sake loved by a poet should be loved by all,” and Rihaku was the sake he most loved from his hometown of Matsue.
Rihaku the poet was called a “divine hermit”, banished from heaven to wander among us on the desert isle of earthly existence. While he called himself merely a drunken hermit, he is regarded as one of the brightest stars among China’s many poets. Du Fu, his friend and fellow poet, wrote that Rihaku was among the eight greatest sake lovers in all of China, and that he could drink a bottle and write 100 poems. Rihaku’s poems about the joys of sake continue to strike a chord with sake lovers today.
The “Rihaku” appearing in Chinese script on our bottles was copied from Reijiro Wakatsuki’s own handwriting.
In the 1980’s Rihaku began exporting, first to Hong Kong, and now to thirteen countries, including the USA, France, Germany, Singapore, and Switzerland.
The Rihaku brewery is located in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture. Matsue is a waterfront castle town that retains all its ancient charm. The city is in the Izumo region, famous for its food culture, which has been nurtured by a rich environment of mountains, rivers, lakes, and seas. This food culture and the natural blessings of clean air and water make Matsue an ideal place to brew premium sake.
Also, Izumo is the setting for countless stories from Japan’s original Shinto mythology, and even today it has the aura of a place where the gods and people co-exist. Many of these ancient myths refer to sake, and so Izumo has come to be associated with the roots of sake brewing in Japan.
The Izumo region has no less than 640 Shinto shrines, among them the Saka Jinja shrine, which is dedicated to the gods of sake making. In fact, a primitive form of unfiltered sake called doburoku is made right in this shrine for its annual sake festival, Doburoku Matsuri. Indeed, Izumo has an unbroken and unbreakable connection to the ancient origins of sake, and is rightly known in Japan as the “Country of Sake.”
Rihaku’s mission is to promote the expansion of sake culture in our own time, and to pass this culture on to future generations. Naturally, this begins by making high-quality sake, and then by making sure that sake becomes the comfortable and relaxing medium that brings people together and makes all the elements of a meal, from the food to the tableware to the conversation, more enjoyable.
We aim for flavorful sake, with savory depth and yet clean in the finish. Above all, it must have the balance to enhance the enjoyment of food. To this end, we use only rice bred for sake making, sourced as much as possible from local farmers. Our main rice varieties are Gohyakumangoku and Kami no Mai from Izumo, and Yamada Nishiki from Hyogo Prefecture. We polish the rice ourselves to ensure this high-quality sake rice is handled in the best possible way for brewing.
We believe the best tradition is one that keeps the best of the past and yet recognizes the need to change with the times. We do not try to chase every twist in food fashion, but always strive to improve overall quality while respecting the roots of our Izumo brewing methods. We use new technology and new techniques so long as they help our mission to expand sake lifestyles in Japan and abroad, and pass it on to future generations.
Rihaku aims for sake that becomes the comfortable and relaxing medium that brings people together and makes all the elements of a meal, from the food to the tableware to the conversation, more enjoyable. This means sake that doesn’t get in the way of the food or the conversation, but rather quietly enhances the dining experience. We aim for easy-drinking sake with savory depth and a clean finish.