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Hisao TAKETSURU and Toshio TAKETSURU (Taketsuru Sake Brewery)

Like Massan, Hisao entered Osaka University

If you walk for about 15 minutes from JR Takehara station on the Kure Line, you can see a town of tile-roofed houses, which still conveys the atmosphere of the townhouses of old. Hisao TAKETSURU was born into an old family which had run Taketsuru Sake Brewery there since the Edo Period. He was hooked on tennis during junior high school, so much so that he climbed to the top of the prefectural tournament. Following in his father's footsteps, he enrolled in Hiroshima University High School. 

“When I was 4, my father went missing after the atomic bomb attack. My mother always told me to graduate from university and take over our family business as soon as possible.” Although he was interested in other occupations as well, his determination to keep his family’s sake brewery, which had been in family for generations, didn’t falter.

In sake breweries at that time, it was normal that the president studied liberal arts and left sake brewing to master brewers, called toji. However, Hisao thought that the management also needed to gain knowledge in science, so he took the entrance examination for the School of Engineering at Osaka University, which had a Department of Fermentation Engineering. 

Hiroshima University also had a similar department, but he said, "Osaka was a good place to study Japanese sake because Nada and Fushimi, both of which were famous for high quality Japanese sake, were close to Osaka. Masataka studied at OU, which was also somewhere in the back of my mind."

4 years of studying and socializing

“During the 4 years that I lived in a boarding house, I partied all the time,” reminisced Hisao with a smile. “My mother sent me ten bottles of refined sake (1,800 ml/bottle) every month. My friends caught wind of that and came to my boarding house to drink all the time. At the time, the Japanese sake industry was booming, so I lived in extravagant luxury. I asked my mother for 4,500 yen for my semester tuition fee several times a year. (laughs) “

Managing to pass makeup tests, Hisao advanced to the professional programs to learn fermentation engineering. He spoke about one of his reckless episodes at the time: “At a welcoming party, the older students forced me to drink cheap sake in a beaker as substitute for a drinking cup.” But this did allow him to absorb skills and knowledge of sake brewing.

A week-long practice at a sake brewery in Hyogo Prefecture in his fourth year in university sticks out in his mind. He said, “Experiencing the whole process of sake brewing was very helpful later on. But we slept only three hours a day and about 40 people took their meals out of a big pot, so by the time it was our turn to eat, there wasn't much besides the broth left... It was a challenging week.”

He returned to Takehara to take over the family business

During the next year after graduating from OU, he got practical work experience at the National Tax Agency’s National Research Institute of Brewing (NRIB) in Tokyo. “High economic growth started around that time and it was expected that Japan would run out of rice (an ingredient of sake) in the future. So, I was able to be present for cutting-edge experiments for making Japanese sake using California rice in preparation for rice shortages in the future.” 

In May 1964, he joined Taketsuru Sake Brewery as a company official, but he left the entirety of sake brewing to Toji master brewers and didn’t interfere with sake brewery in accordance with the advice from the head of the NRIB. “I focused on management, but when I talked with client companies about the quality of the sake, they appreciated that I had studied fermentation engineering.”

Not getting caught up in the Massan boom

When Hisao returned to Takehara, 4,400 sake breweries had been doing business across the country, but now there are only 1,500. In Takehara, the number of breweries drastically decreased, from 9 to 3. In such a harsh reality in the sake industry, Hisao still takes Masataka’s words to heart -- “Make authentic products, or we cannot survive.” 

"Masataka took a 'product-out approach,' in which the brewing industry produced products that they thought were good, instead of a 'market-in approach,' in which the brewing industry produced products that sold very well. Masataka grew up watching his father Keijiro, who tried to make delicious sake using local indigenous soft water. That’s why the basis of Masataka’s idea lies in Japanese sake brewing. We also strongly feel that we do not make sake, but rather, we just help people enjoy the blessings of nature.”

From 2014 to 2015, due to the unexpected Massan boom, they were swamped with orders. But Hisao said, "We can't cause trouble to the liquor shops and restaurants that have supported us all this time. We know that the sales of alcoholic beverages due to the bandwagon effect will eventually die down, so we turn down all orders from new clients.” Taketsuru Sake Brewery has consistently maintained their stance of cherishing their loyal customers.

With its international acclaim, the future of Japanese sake is bright

Currently, his eldest son Toshio keeps the establishment as president, together with Toji master brewers, including Tatsuya ISHIKAWA. However, Hisao didn’t intend to have Toshio take over his business, because when Toshio was a child, Hisao thought that the brewing industry would not become economically viable by the time Toshio graduated from college. 

Toshio went on to Osaka University where Masataka and Toshio had attended. Toshio chose OU primarily because his father and Masataka attended, but Toshio didn’t think of inheriting the family business, so he majored in condensed matter physics at the School of Engineering Science. However, he became interested in brewing while in school. He studied at the National Research Institute of Brewing in Higashihiroshima City for two years and inherited his family's business.

Even though the consumption of Japanese sake is on the decline in Japan, Hisao says, “Japanese sake has begun to be recognized overseas partly because Japanese cuisine was registered as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In this information age, international reputation directly links to domestic evaluation, so the future of Japanese sake is bright." He firmly says, "We want to assert ourselves even though we are a small brewer.”

Hisao encourages current OU students by saying, “Osaka University’s roots reach back to Tekijuku and the university has many outstanding alumni. I want them to work hard and hold their heads high as students of a university in the merchant city of Osaka." 

Kimoto Junmai (pure rice) sake is made using the kimoto method, which enables the workings of yeast and lactic acid bacteria in the yeast starter. Ginjo sake has a minimum of 60% of rice remaining after polishing.

• Hisao TAKETSURU

Representative Director and Chairman, Taketsuru Sake Brewery. A 1963 graduate from the Department of Fermentation Engineering, School of Engineering, Osaka University. Following the training at the National Tax Agency’s National Research Institute of Brewing (NRIB), he inherited his family business as the 13th head of Taketsuru family. While managing the company as president, he served as Hiroshima Prefectural Assemblyman for three terms from 1995.

• Toshio TAKETSURU

Representative Director and President, Taketsuru Sake Brewery. A 1998 graduate from the Department of Materials Engineering Science, Graduate School of Engineering Science, Osaka University. After training at the National Tax Agency’s National Research Institute of Brewing (NRIB), he inherited his family's business as the 14th head of the Taketsuru family. Currently, he is also a trustee of the Takehara Tourism Association.

Corporate Information

Taketsuru Sake Brewery (Takehara City, Hiroshima)

The family originally produced salt under the name of Ozasa-ya, but it later started brewing as well. The name Taketsuru comes from the fact that a crane (tsuru in Japanese) flew to a bamboo (take in Japanese) grove behind their house to build a nest. The family has continued to brew Japanese sake using a traditional method with the principle of brewing high-quality Japanese sake free of artificial ingredients with a rich and robust flavor using only well-polished rice. It has products under the brand names of Ozasaya Taketsuru and Hiden.

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