In terms of the amount of sake shipped, Niigata ranks third in Japan, following Hyogo and Kyoto. There is a reason why Niigata has come to be known as one of the best sake producing districts. Located on the side of the Japan Sea, summer days are usually hot, which is suitable for growing rice. The length of sunlight in the summer also favorably affects rice production. Moreover, it is proven that the soil is fertile in the Niigata Plain, which is determined by the amount of ammonium. Dry soil contains twice as much ammonium as the average soil in the nation. With the enthusiasm of our ancestors toward developing new rice paddies, Niigata has become a ‘chosen place to grow rice.’
Niigata is known to receive one of the heaviest amounts of snow in the country, over 4 meters as recorded in some places. Heavy snow has a negative impact on our lifestyles. However, people in Niigata Prefecture have overcome it, taken advantage of it, and befriended it in various forms using our ancestors’ wisdom. One example of that is sake making. ‘The natural refrigerator’ made of snow is ideal for stable low temperatures.
For sake brewing, snow is a gift from heaven. As snow brings down the dust from the air, ‘The air becomes perfectly clear.’ The clearer the air, the better it is for the sake warehouses. Amount of tension is high at all the stages of sake production, right from washing rice, seeping, steaming, making koji, preparation, and squeezing. The Toji brewers aim at making sake with harmonious flavors by controlling the temperature. Whilst considering the water temperature, the temperatures of rice and koji, various data are collected and controlled based on the brewer’s experience and intuition. For Tojis who put their heart and soul into this during the winter, the change of the seasons raises the barometer of their delight. Thick snow gradually starts to melt, buds sprout on trees and spring is in the air; it is the time for sake to go out into the world.