The art of sake making
As far back as he can remember, Kenya Kudo wanted to be a shokunin, an artisan who works with his hands. He liked to drink sake and while still in college heard that artisanal breweries were suffering because of a shortage of young people, so he thought he could be a brewer.
Today, he is the brew master, or toji, at Obata Brewery on Sado Island. At this tricky time of year he moves into the brewery so he can keep an eye on the mash around the clock.
Timing is everything in sake-making...Kudo must pay attention to the temperature of the water, the quality of the polished rice and the amount of washing or soaking it has undergone, in order to avoid any cracking of the grains. When Kudo signals the men to lift the rice out of the water, they do it in unison and transfer the rice to a conveyer belt, where it is prepared for steaming. It is like watching a carefully choreographed dance.
Photo: Rice cools on mats as part of the sake-making process. Credit: Sonoko Sakai