This year, we are celebrating Female Frontrunners in March to coincide with Girl's Day on March 3, and International Women's Day on March 8. Every year (when we are open), Kayoko, my mom, and I set up the traditional hinamatsuri doll display at the shop and invite the public to celebrate with us on Girl's Day. It is a jubilant event that inspires us every year, as young and old gather at the shop and celebrate the energy and wisdom of women. Although we won't be able to have the event this year, we'll be celebrating in other ways including through this interview, as part of this month's Sake Gumi theme, Female Frontrunners. Watch for our release of these interviews plus features on Asako Hostetter of Heavenly Soap Co. and Miyuki Takimoto of HAGU. Find all of the interviews as part of this special month here.
Hiroko Yokozawa is the toji (brewmaster) at Tsukinowa Shuzoten. Tsukinowa Shuzoten brewed this month's Level 1 Sake Gumi bottle, Yoi No Tsuki "Midnight Moon" Daiginjo. Tsukinowa Shuzoten is located in Iwate Prefecture and first came to my attention through a friend's recommendation.
Please introduce yourself and your role at the brewery.
My name is Yuko Yokozawa and I am the toji at Tsukinowa Shuzoten, my family’s kura. I’ve been making sake for 25 years. The years have flown by! Currently, my husband is in charge of management and I am in charge of manufacturing.
What would you say is unique about your brewery?
Traditionally, the head of the family has been in charge of sake brewing. In the old days, shoya (village headman) used to collect annual agricultural taxes from peasants in their villages. Then, the shoya often started a brewing business to add value to their rice.
In our case, our ancestors, who were shoya and originally ran a koji shop. They were passionate about sake brewing and founded our company.
How did you get into the sake industry?
I was able to enter the industry since I was born into the family business. Even though I think that it’s challenging for the general public to enter the industry, there is less resistance for women (who are part of the kura’s family) to become sake-makers.
I love the mystery of how microorganisms work to turn rice into liquid.
I believe that because sake-enthusiasts all over the world are paying attention to women in the industry and women involved in keeping Japanese traditions alive, there is less resistance for more of us to enter these fields.
Steaming rice is very important. Good koji and moromi all start with optimally steamed rice.
I am a mother, and raising children teaches how to respond flexibly. A child's behavior is unpredictable. Similarly, moromi (sake mash) often does not proceed as you would expect and you have to be ready to respond to those changes.
What are some notable flavor notes for Yoi No Tsuki "Midnight Moon" Daiginjo?
Our daiginjo has a luscious smell. It is also very soft because of the rice and smooth because of our water.
What are your favorite pairings with this sake?
My favorite pairings include scallop sashimi, and white fish carpaccio with lemon and soy sauce. For yakitori and tempura, I think that it will go much better with salt flavoring (instead of tare sauce or tsuyu broth). This sake really shines with a salt element in the meal.
Who is this sake most popular with in Japan?
People who enjoy dry white wines enjoy this sake.
To fully enjoy the aroma, 41-50˚F is optimal.
Is this a namazake (unpasteurized sake)?
This sake is not a namazake. It has been pasteurized.
How long does this last after opening the bottle?
Please enjoy within a week of opening. After a week, the aroma will be less vivid.
Thank you Yokozawa-san for taking the time out of your busy brewing schedule to answer these questions for us!