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HomeSake Rice

High-Grade Rice of Brewing Quality

The rice grains used in sake brewing are fundamentally distinct from rice intended for cooking. A select number of strains are especially suited for fermentation. Such rice is registered as being “Shuzo Kotekimai”, meaning rice that meets criteria for high-quality sake brewing.

九州福岡産酒米1

The Yamada Nishiki strain of rice is renowned for yielding quality Junmai and Junmai Ginjyo ranked sake. Because of the rigorous standards the rice must meet, this strain is developed in explicit accordance with the land and region in which it is grown.

九州福岡産酒米2

At Kitaya, we primarily use the Yamada Nishiki strains, supplied by JA Itoshima contracted farmers, and the Gin no Sato strains from JA Fukuoka Yame contracted farmers.

Itoshima’s Yamada Nishiki

The 2013, the IWC commended our Daiginjyo Gokojo Kitaya as the best sake in the world, awarding it the Champion Sake Trophy. This sake was made using only the Yamada Nishiki strain from JA Itoshima.

九州福岡産酒米3

The Yamada Nishiki strains from Hyogo Prefecture have long been pervasively considered the best sake grain, by both distributors and consumers. Since winning the Champion Sake Trophy, locals have been excited that Fukuoka Prefecture’s Yamada Nishiki strain has also been recognized as one of the best.

The ears of rice are long and each grain is large, making it susceptible to strong winds and especially hard to grow. This limits where the grain of rice can be cultivated, thus the majority of Fukuoka Prefecture’s Yamada Nishiki is grown in Itoshima.

九州福岡産酒米4

Itoshima’s Yamada Nishiki
Top-left – Unpolished Rice Top-right – Polished down to 60%
Bottom-left – Polished down to 50% Bottom-right – Polished down to 35%

The flavor and scent of the sake varies depending on the extent that the rice is polished.

A Thank You to All Our Farmers

The world’s finest sake could not have been made entirely in Fukuoka without the supreme dedication of all of our farmers.

安田一郎JA糸島酒米部会長と一緒に

We would like to start by thanking Mr. Ichiro Yasuda, Chairman of the JA Itoshima Sake Rice Division, and everyone involved in cultivating the best Yamada Nishiki rice for sake. Breweries in Fukuoka are proud to use Itoshima’s Yamada Nishiki.

Blessed by Itoshima’s favorable weather and soil, the farmers of Itoshima have dedicated their efforts with meticulous care. Ever improving the quality of their rice, the results are a crop perfectly suited for sake brewing.

JA Itoshima-made “Yamada Nishiki” rice strain.

Reaching the pinnacle of sake would not have been possible without the wondrous quality of Itoshima’s Yamada Nishiki. We dedicate ourselves to giving back to the farmers and the local community and economy by showing the world the wonders of Fukuoka.

Kitaya Rice Production Committee

In 2000, we founded the Kitaya Rice Production Committee to nurture rice for sake with our own hands. Every year, our employees take the initiative to toil the soil with their own hands, helping to raise the crop and deepen their understanding of the very rice they then handle. The results directly improved our sake brewing. Many of the employees have grown up raising rice crops on their family properties, but there are plenty of first timers, each who bring something new to the process of raising rice crop.

Kitaya Rice Production Committee

Our local community, Yame, does not have much of a history in raising Shuzo Kotekimai (high-grade rice of brewing quality). In order to contribute to our local community’s economy through our growing purchasing needs, we decided it was necessary to commission the production of Shuzo Kotekimai to the Yame Region.

Being friendly with and personally getting to know the farmers

Furthermore, being friendly with and personally getting to know the farmers adds a certain level of comfort in producing high-quality rice because of the sincere trust we build in our business relationship. To ensure that our efforts to produce rice for sake does not jeopardize the production, demand, and pricing of edible rice, we worked with JA Fukuoka Yame insuring that the benefits of this increase in production pervade the entire community.

Gin no Sato, A Grain Filled With Desire

We are where we are today because of our work with Kyushu and Okinawa Agriculture Research Center’s Mr. Sakai, who developed our Gin no Sato.

Gin no Sato 1

Using Kitaya’s experimental crop field and the employees’ crop field, we cultivated an experimental strain of rice in 2006. That rice was then used to make the 55% polished Junmai and the 50% polished Junmai Daiginjyo experimental sakes.

The results of this endeavor were of such high quality that we began the search for a farmer within the JA Fukuoka Yame region to grow this crop the following year. At the time, the project was codenamed “Saikaishu No. 255” (Western Sea Sake).

Gin no Sato 2

In the fall of 2007, “Gin no Sato” was registered as a new strain of rice. “Gin no Sato”, appropriately meaning the “roots of Gin”, was birthed from the dream that a rice perfect for Ginjyo sake would take root in the local community. Year by year, from 2007 to 2010, the production grew from 3 households cultivating 1 hectare, to 7 households cultivating 4 hectares, to 8 households cultivating 6.8 hectares, to finally 8 households cultivating 8.1 hectares

Finally, in 2010, the JA Fukuoka Yame recognized and registered the Gin no Sato strain of rice as a Shuzo Kotekimai (high-grade rice of brewing quality). Since then, production has rapidly grown from 13 households cultivating 11.3 hectares in 2011, to 22 households cultivating 17 hectares in 2012, and 26 households cultivating 21.5 hectares in 2013.

High-Grade Rice of Brewing Quality that Represents Yame

There are five breweries other than Kitaya who have started using JA Fukuoka Yame’s “Gin no Sato” rice strain. All breweries have received great feedback from their customers and have seen sales improve. The demand for this crop has increased year over year to the point that there are not enough farms ready to plant the crop to supply the growth in demand.

中島秀徳「吟のさと酒造用玄米研究会」会長と一緒に

The Gin no Sato rice crop meets the ideal quality for Junmai and Junmai Ginjyo sake, all while still allowing breweries to stay cost competitive. The farmers are similarly overjoyed that their revenues have increased.

The farmers growing this strain of rice formed the “Gin no Sato Rice for Brewing Sake Research Committee” in 2011 to improve cultivation techniques and better the quality of the rice.
“Gin no Sato Rice for Brewing Sake Research Committee” Chairman Hidenori Nakashima, pictured left.

吟のさと3

The ideal increment by which to scale the production of this rice is a single grain elevator dryer. In terms of unpolished (raw/brown) rice, it is equivalent to 300 tons of rice that requires 40 hectares of land to grow.

To make this wish a reality, we are dedicated to making Yame’s Gin no Sato strain as widely recognized as Itoshima’s Yamada Nishiki strain of Shuzo Kotekimai (rice qualified for sake brewing)

 

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