The Three Great Toji of Japan: Learn About Nanbu Toji and Try Its Sake

What Are Toji and Toji Groups?

The term Toji refers to the person in charge of the production of sake at a sake brewery, who supervises and controls the sake brewing staff. Toji is the person responsible for the production of sake, while kuramoto is the owner or manager of the brewery.

The modern Toji system is thought to have been established in the Edo period (1603-1868). Until that time, sake brewing was the responsibility of women who worked in the government offices called miki no tsukasa, which were responsible for brewing sake for the imperial court. However, as sake became more popular in the Edo period, it became necessary to brew large quantities of sake at a time. The industrialization of sake meant that the brewing of sake became more of a labour-intensive task, and men took over. There was a time when women were forbidden from brewing sake, in order to maintain public morals in the brewery, but today it is not uncommon to find women toji and brewers.

The Toji system eventually led to the formation of Toji groups. The purpose of these groups was to hold competitions and workshops, to exchange information and to improve their brewing techniques. Toji groups exist all over Japan, but the most famous are known as the "Three Great Toji of Japan". The three most famous are the Tamba Toji in Hyogo, the Echigo Toji in Niigata and the Nanbu Toji in Iwate.

Nanbu Toji and Their Sake Characteristics

Nanbu Toji is a group of toji (master brewers) who originated in the town of Ishidoriya in Iwate Prefecture. It has the largest number of members in Japan, with 3,200 members at its peak in 1965. The excellence of Nanbu Toji techniques has become famous through out of Japan, and many of them has been invited to sake breweries all over Japan as sake brewing masters. The essence of their techniques is creating well-defined aroma with sharp finish in its sake with lower temperature and longer-term fermentation techniques using the merit of cold Northern weather in Iwate.

One of the sake breweries that has inherited the traditions and techniques of the Nanbu Toji is Asabiraki Sake Brewery, founded in 1871. Asabiraki's Nanburyu Series is a series of sake brewed with rice, water and people from Iwate Prefecture. Asabiraki Nanburyu Denshozukuri Daiginjo is a sake that allows you to experience all the skill of the Nanbu Toji.

The best time of year for sake brewing is the cold season, and this sake is carefully brewed using the techniques handed down by the Nanbu Toji. This Daiginjo has a gorgeous aroma that spreads in the mouth and a crisp, dry taste that is in perfect harmony. Enjoy it cold or at room temperature.

Next time, we will be introducing Tamba Toji in Hyogo, so stay tuned for more info!

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