The Kodama brewery was founded in 1879 in picturesque Katagami City, Akita Prefecture, northwest of Japan. Blessed with abundant quality rice and fresh clean mountain water, the generations have nurtured and developed renowned expertise in brewing sake.
Originally, the Kodama family started their business by making soy sauce and miso for local consumers. Soy sauce and miso have traditionally been basic essential seasonings in Japanese cuisine. Production of these quality “fermented” food products represented by “Yamakyu” brands still remains an important part of the Kodama Brewery’s business.
In 1913, Tomokichi Kodama, the second generation of the family business began making sake by the name “TAIHEIZAN” (太平山). This brand name comes from towering mountain in Akita City, Mt. Taihei (“Great Peaceful Mountain”) which for centuries has been the area’s spiritual symbol. Taiheizan Miyoshi Shrine, in Akita City overlooking Mt. Taihei, is still the most visited Shrine in Akita Prefecture for New Year worshipping today.
“Taiheizan” sake achieved its national recognition in 1933 when the Kodama Brewery introduced Japan’s first chilled sake, TAIHEIZAN-REIRO (太平山 玲琅) which soon after its release became a big hit. The following year in 1934, TAIHEIZAN won the First place at the 14th Annual National Sake Competition out of 5169 contestants. The prize and the popularity of this chilled sake enabled the company to expand its market to Tokyo and to other parts of Japan、making TAIHEIZAN a national brand.
Over the last 20 years, Kodama Brewery has gradually increased its production of pure-rice premium sake such as Junmai Daiginjo, and Junmai Ginjo over Futsushu (regular sake). From around the late 1980s, Japanese food was becoming popular among non-Japanese people overseas, and people enjoyed going to Japanese restaurants and drink sake. Later, European wine competitions included sake in their category, and consequently wine commentators began to write about sake and producers. TAIHEIZAN, which has been a national brand over 100 years in Japan is now available in over 10 different countries including US, Canada, Hong Kong, China, Singapore Australia, and Germany and its premium sake is enjoyed by many fans around the world.
Akita Kimoto Method
The unique characteristics of TAIHEIZAN sake is in its rich texture and complex umami taste with a sharp finish. One of the secrets behind this is in the creation of moto (yeast starter) before main fermentation. Kodama Brewery has developed a modern, modified version of traditional kimoto method, known as the “Akita Kimoto Method” to create strong moto. At the first pole ramming stage of traditional kimoto, steamed rice and koji are normally divided into several vats, but in the modified Akita Kimoto version, a hand-operated electric propelled pole is used to stir and pulverize steamed rice and koji in a vat. This creates a sticky, paste-like anaerobic environment, enabling acceleration of anaerobic bacteria, namely lactic-acid bacteria, to grow naturally without being infected by wild bacteria and germs in the air. The finished strong moto made by this Akita Kimoto style is clean and resistant to cold Akita climate for prolonged fermentations. It is of these long fermentations at low temperatures which create aromatic elegant fragrance and complexity that make premium TAIHEIZAN sakes.
Introduction of Junmai Daiginjo “TENKO”
Shin-ichiro Kodama, the 5th generation of Kodama Brewery introduced Junmai Daiginjo (pure rice super premium) “TENKO” made from Yamada-nishiki rice in 1989. 1980s were the time when people began to thirst for chilled quality premium sake over generally drank warm regular sake. Making of premium sake requires a lot of manual labor and expertise, but the Kodama Brewery determined to gradually shift its production from general processing sakes to more premium and super premium sakes made by “Akita Kimoto Method”. Well received by local and Tokyo markets, TENKO made its first grand debut overseas in 2000 by winning a Gold medal in Monde Selection in Brussels. Recognitions followed afterwards by receiving Gold awards in US National Sake Appraisals (Joy of Sake) in Hawaii from 2001-2010 consecutively. TENKO won the first –place Gold Trophy at London’s International Wine Challenge (IWC) in 2009 and Gold again in 2017 and 2018 .
TENKO has been selected as one of official sakes at Embassies and Consulates of Japan overseas for their receptions. It was served as First Class and Business Class drinks in ANA airlines’ international flights. For almost 20 years since its debut, TENKO has attracted and assured its quality for many fans in Japan and overseas, and it is indeed our leading flagship brand.
Series of TENKO Junmai Daiginjo made from Yamada-nishiki rice, “Tenko 50” (rice polishing rate of 50%) was introduced in 2017 and “Tenko 20” (rice polishing rate of 20%) made its premiere appearance successfully in New York in 2018.
Story of Junmai Daiginjo “YOSHINORI OHSUMI – Lessons from Yeast” –
This special limited brand is made as a commemorative sake for Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi, the 2016 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, for his discoveries of mechanism for autophagy. Autophagy, meaning “self eating”, is a mechanism which exists in human cells but little was unknown until in a series of brilliant experiments in the early 1990s, Dr. Ohsumi identified genes essential for autophagy. Dr. Ohsumi used baker’s yeast in his experiments because its cells are relatively easy to study and can be used as a model for human cells. After years of experiments with yeast cells, Dr. Ohsumi discovered that identical mechanisms operate in human cells which could be identified and studied further to prevent disturbances and disorders of autophagy which linked to Parkinson’s diseases, diabetes and other genetic diseases.
“Lessons from Yeast” are humble expressions by Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi for his respect for nature and science. This precious Yoshinori Ohsumi label is beautifully designed after an image of a micro-scoped yeast cell. Sake is also an art of mechanisms of natural yeast, where we have learned and continue to learn lessons from its mystery every day.
Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi, is a professor at the Tokyo Institue of Technology since 2009. This special label was made possible with collaboration with Tokyo Institue of Technology, where it is Kodama Brewery’s President Shin-ichiro Kodama’s alma mater.
For more information on Dr. Ohsumi’s research and the Nobel Prize Award, Please see press release by the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet.
Our Toji the brew master, Osamu Saruta, leads a team of craftsmen at Kodama Brewery.
Toji Saruta has been with the brewery for almost 40 years and has received many awards including annual national sake competitions and gold awards in international competitions during his career.
The Kodama Family Residence – An Important National Cultural Property
The Kodama family has proudly preserved its traditional family home built in 1923. A large residence sits on 4,550 square meters of land located a short walk from the brewery and nearby are the smaller houses built for extended family members. The residence consists of the main house and storages for household furnishings, rice (in the old days) and a bricked garage for cars and tools. A beautifully lush Japanese koke (moss) garden is highlighted by a pond surrounding two sides of the main house with pine trees and flowers. The Kodama residence is now a fine example of late Meiji to Taisho era (late 19th Century to early 20th Century) rural architecture and displays how owners of breweries of early modern Japan’s rural society lived. Five generations of the Kodama family lived here and hosted numerous important guests from in and outside Japan. The Japanese government declared the Residence and its garden as Important National Cultural Property in 2008.