Tomita Brewery is a sake brewery on the northern tip of Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture. They make Shichi Hon Yari sakes, which this month, is featured as part of Sake Gumi. We also always have their junmai on our shelves at Umami Mart (a Sake Gumi selection from November 2015!). I have been a long time fan of their sakes.
Shichi Hon Yari (Seven Spearsmen) sakes have gusto and vigor, just like I imagine the Seven Spearmen were. They were the seven samurai who fought for politician and samurai Toyotomi Hideyoshi, in a famous battle against Shibata Katsuie in 1583. This battle was fought on Mt. Shizugatake in Shiga. I was lucky enough to be staying at the foot of Mt. Shizugatake when I stayed in Shiga last month.
The hike up Shizugatake was no joke! The mountain was steep and intimidating – a dramatic site for a fierce battle.
I have always loved Shichi Hon Yari sakes. They are full-bodied, ricey, and full of umami. My favorite way to have their junmai is warm alongside nabe or dumplings.
In addition to using the water from Mt. Ibuki, they use organic, pesticide-free rice grown and harvested by local farmers like the Nagahama Agricultural High School Farm. The main rice strains they use are local to Shiga: Tamasakae and Ginfubuki.
I visited Kinomoto, the town that Tomita Brewery was located in. As a bottle shop owner, I was inspired by the layout and atmosphere of the little shop in front of their brewery.
I wanted to know more about the process and concepts behind Shichi Hon Yari, so I went straight to the source and asked the head brewer, Yasunobu Tomita, some questions.
What defines Shichi Hon Yari sakes?
We brew sakes that capture the umami of the rice we use. Our sakes have plenty of body with a satisfying finish.
We are featuring the Shichi Hon Yari Junmai Namazake Spring Seasonal "Fresh Katana" this month for Sake Gumi. What makes it special?
It's a very fresh, raw sake.The sake was bottled on December 25, 2018, fresh after pressing and skips pasteurization – it's alive. We use Tamaezakae rice for making this sake. When used for making regular sakes that are aged for a little longer, the result is a sake that has a mellow long finish, but when used for a young sake like our namazake, it really packs a punch. That punch makes this sake unique.
What is your favorite food pairing with this sake?
That's easy: prosciutto!
I loved visiting your town of Kinomoto, and Shiga Prefecture, in general. I enjoyed the landscape of Lake Biwa with the backdrop of Mt. Ibuki. What do you think makes Shiga special?
Shiga is special because of its delicious water and has a long rice-growing history. Unlike many places in Japan, Shiga does not have an ocean coastline and people here make lots of fermented foods. Shiga is also unique because it's always served as a thoroughfare between other cultural centers like Kyoto, the Hokuriku region, and Nagoya. This results in a very unique cultural mix.
What are some characteristics of Shiga sakes?
Shiga sakes pair well with our local cuisine, for example, the fermented foods I mentioned earlier and other local favorites like Omi beef. The sakes here are sturdy and earthy, and don't follow the recent trend of floral, fruity aromatics.
I want to thank Tomita-san for answering my questions and, most of all, for making sakes that capture the bold spirit of the Seven Spearsmen!
To top off the visit at Tomita Brewery, I had their Sake Gelato.
This was creamy, and a little savory. like a cheesecake.
529-0425 Shiga-ken, Nagahama-shi
Kinomotochō Kinomoto, 110