Iwase is located on the northern region of Toyama City in Toyama Prefecture. During the Edo period and Meiji Era, the town flourished as a port of call for Kitamaebune (northern bound ships), a shipping route for transporting large amounts of goods from Hokkaido to Osaka with several ports stops. When walking along the streets of Iwase, visitors will notice the magnificent residence of the shipping agency and other architectures built during the Edo Period and Meiji Era. Many people are impressed by how the historical townscape of the former Hokkoku Kaido (a route that connects Echizen and Edo) is beautifully maintained and preserved. The man who is behind this preservation is now a renown sake brewer representing Toyama, and his name is Ryuichiro Masuda. He is the fifth generation of Masudashuzo, the sake brewery that holds the brand, Masuizumi.
Masudashuzo was established in the 26th year of the Meiji Era (1893). The former president, Keijiro Masuda was scheduled to study fermentation engineering at the graduate school but had to take over the family business at the age of 22 after a sudden death of his father. Back in the mid 40’s of Showa Era (around 1970), when hardly anyone was brewing or drinking ginjo sake, Masudashuzo makes a decision to brew ginjo sake understanding the risk. This decision was related to the continuity of the sake brewery but the result was a success. The sake brewery continuously achieved numerous gold prizes in competitions and became the pioneer of ginjo sake.
The motto of Masudashuzo is Bimikyushin (pursuing the true deliciousness). Masuda says, delicious sake can only be made by the ones who have tasted delicious food. Due to its geographic location, Iwase has access to the delicious seafoods such as sweet shrimps, Japanese glass shrimps, firefly squids and snow crabs that are gathered at the Himi fishing port in Toyama Bay, as well as plenty of edible herbs from the mountains. When pursuing a sake that can match the tastefulness of the rich nature, Masuda feels that the current popular crisp and dry style is not enough. From the rich structure and characteristic of Masudashuzo’s sake, one can understand what he means.
“Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo Do You Know” 720ml 3,000 Yen (Tax Excluded)
It was more than 20 years ago when Masuda started to contribute to the town planning of Iwase. It all started when he purchased a former lumber store and had a soba restaurateur to use the building. He continued to purchase storehouses and housings that were planned to be demolished and renovated the building into a sake store called Tajiri Honten with a large wine cellar and a sake cellar. Later, young artists such as glass artists and wood craftsmen started to gather at Iwase and lead to establish Iwase Machizukuri Inc. in 2004. Considering these actions, it may seem that Masuda will be leading the town of Iwase, but Masuda answers that he has no intention to do so. “If I purchase a building that is unused and renovate it, there will be work for the carpenters. Then there will be restaurateurs and artists who will use the building. Then there will be a place where Masudashuzo’s sake will be drank,” he says. The town planning is not just for someone, it is also for themselves to continue to make sake at that place.
I have deeply felt through my activities of Sake Samurai, that introducing sake is about introducing the culture. I wish to keep an attention to Masuda’s sake brewing, his challenge to revitalize the town of Iwase and his ability to envision the future.
(Toshie Hiraide Speaking)
Ryuichiro Masuda, Masudashuzo’s fifth generation mentions that Bunka wo matou (to be wrapped in culture) is important for both sake brewing and town planning.
Toshie Hiraide’s Recommended Selection of Two Masuizumi Sakes
This sake takes a unique approach of aging several Masuizumi with different characters in an American oak barrel used for Chivas Legal Scotch. “The aroma of the whiskey’s oak barrel spreads with a nuance of honey,” says Hiraide. Wash type cheese pairs well with this sake.
Sake Type: Junmai-Daiginjyo
Rice Variety: Yamada-Nishiki
Rice Polishing Ratio: Blended with mainly 35% polished rice and other polished ratios of rice.
Sake Meter Value: –
720ml 5,500 Yen (Tax Excluded)
Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjyo, Do You Know
This sake uses Ise Hikari, a rice variety related to the Ise Shrine and grown in rice terraces by the “Do You Know”, an agricultural group that is famous between the chefs in Toyama. “Using Ise Hikari that are organically grown in rice terraces for brewing is a unique concept. The silky flavor of the sake pairs very well with dining,” says Hiraide.
Sake Type: Junmai-Daiginjyo
Rice Variety: Ise Hikari
Rice Polishing Ratio: 50%
Sake Meter Value: –
720ml 3,000 Yen (Tax Excluded)
269 Higashi-Iwasemachi, Toyama City, Toyama
Born in 1962. President of Co-op Sachi Ltd. a company aiming for the internationalization of sake and inviting overseas guests to the countryside of Japan. Sake Samurai Coordinator. IWC Ambassador. Shoryudo Ambassador (Inbound Ambassador for the 9 Prefectures of Chubu Region and Hokuriku Region).
Taking Pride in Sake Brewing. A S…