A group of five executives from Aarstiderne, a leading Danish company for home delivery of organic vegetables and other food, visited Japan for one week. We arranged a program for them with visits to organic retailers and Radishbo-ya and a tour to the countryside.
Traditional Fermentation Technology in Organic Town-Kozaki
The excursion with the visitors from Denmark, conducted by Eco Tours, included a visit to a traditional sake brewery and an organic farm in Kozaki, a small town located in the northeastern part of Chiba prefecture. What’s special about this little town is that it has exceptionally high-quality groundwater, which leads to the production of superior rice, which then translates to excellent sake. The annual Kozaki Sakagura Matsuri (Kozaki Sake Brewery Festival) attracts more than 30,000 visitors every year.
The best time to visit is during the Kozaki Sakagura Matsuri, held in March. Several breweries in the area open their doors and the sake is free flowing.
Kozaki has an active organic community. Organic rice and soy beans grown at a large farm with 60 ha are processed locally for organic sake, tofu and other products.
One of the more interesting breweries in the area is Terada Honke. Using their own organically grown rice, Terada Honke has been brewing sake for more than 330 years. The sake is made according to the ancient Kimoto method, which relies on natural micro-organisms inhabiting the air to ferment the rice. Sake is mainly brewed in autumn and winter and not in summer when the weather is too hot.
Shinto Shrine near the brewery
Noren with Gonin-musume logo at the shop entrance
Terada Honke Brewery is a long-established brewery started in 1670s. Mr. Terada is the 24th the managing director. He married into the family which had only daughters.
Their representative brand is “Gonin-musume” (Five Daughters) made from only rice and rice malt. They brew nothing but natural sake.
Fermentation room of Koji
Hard working young staff
Mr. Terada explains sake making and sings a traditional song.
Next to the Terada Honke Brewery is an organic restaurant operated by the wife of the owner where we had lunch after the brewery visit.
The visitors enjoyed the guided tour by the owner and were served several types of sake (instead of green tea). The tour ended in the late afternoon with a stroll over the Aozora market with natural and organic products in the basement of Tokyo station.
Organic Sake and other Alcoholic Beverages
On principle, organic sake and other alcoholic beverages cannot obtain the Organic JAS label. The reason for this is that alcohol tax is under the authority of the National Tax Agency, a division of the Ministry of Finance.
If a sake bottle carries an Organic JAS label, this means that only the ingredients (mainly rice) are certified organic, but not the whole production process (as required by regulations).
This is an advantage for foreign producers and exporters. They can sell organic wine, beer and other alcoholic drinks as organic products without the Organic JAS label which is required for other organic food and beverages. This saves substantial costs and time!