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Rieko Hayashi of Hayashi Honten Sake Brewery


When searching for sakes for Women Sake Makers month, I was delighted to learn that Hayashi Honten is owned by a female. Reiko Hayashi is the fifth generation Hayashi to take over the brewery. We have featured Hayashi Honten sakes in the store before, but I have never included it in the Women Saker Maker’s month selections for Sake Gumi. This month, we are featuring the OneTen Junmai at Level 1 and OneTen Yamahai Junmai Ginjo at Level 2.


Rieko Hayashi was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for our Women in the Industry blog series.


What first attracted you to the sake industry?


I grew up around the brewery and when I was six years old, I knew I wanted to follow in my family’s foot steps. Even at that early age, I had declared in my notebook that I would take over the business. I am now the fifth head of my family’s business and one of only a few female voices in the Japanese sake business. In addition to the craft of sake-making, I enjoy introducing Japanese culture to people around the world.


Rieko Hayashi of Hayashi Honten Sake Brewery


Can you give us a brief history of your background and how you got started at Hayashi Honten?


I studied at the Tokyo Agricultural University with a special concentration in brewing science. After graduation, I worked in sales at Kirin Brewery Co., Ltd. This was a great opportunity for someone who ultimately became the head of a sake brewery.


How do you relax after a tough day's work?


I am healed by having a conversation with my daughter and dog.


Umami Mart started out as a drink and food blog, so we love to ask people about their favorite foods. What do you like to cook the most in your kitchen? 


After a toast with beer, I like to drink sake in a relaxed mood alongside sushi and gyoza.


Gifu is known for its nature and great food. What do you love about Gifu?


Its clean rivers that weave through the beautiful mountains.


How do you start your day in the morning?


Every morning I will start by making breakfast and a lunch for my daughter.


How do you inspire your team at the brewery?


I lead a small team, since the brewery runs like a family business. I strive to create an environment where members can work while thinking.


Who is a role model you have who is also a female (they can be a relative, someone famous, someone from a different industry)? Why?


My grandmother lost her husband (my grandfather) early in their marriage. After he passed way, she ran our brewery as the female president. I admire women who have a strong and unique world view and carries it out in life.


How do you think women are making a difference in the sake industry?


Since women are less powerful (i.e. muscle mass) than men, we must think about how to alleviate some of the manual labor associated with sake-making. Using modern techniques and technology can reduce some of the traditional tasks that require people to transport heavy objects or to stay overnight at the brewery (it is becoming more common to use of automated temperature controlled systems that can be monitored by using apps on your phone).


More women have been interested in working in the sake industry. I encourage that trend by hiring women into my brewery. I just hired a female this year straight out of university.



Rieko Hayashi of Hayashi Honten Sake Brewery


What is the concept behind sake making at Hayashi Honten? What makes your sakes unique?


There is no manual on sake-making at our brewery. I just really enjoy the sake-making process and I seek to combine beauty and taste. I also love telling customers how to enjoy sake.


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From tasting Hayashi-san’s sake, it’s apparent that she approaches sake with a fresh, new outlook. The junmai we are featuring for Sake Gumi Level 1 is an extra-dry sake, but it is surprisingly super smooth, with notes of fresh grass and nutty brown rice. The yamahai junmai ginjo for Level 2 is a whirlwind! It’s savory like Iberico ham, with notes of hemp and sesame seeds. These sakes are wild and inventive, just as you’ve have to be as a woman in the sake industry.