The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Hyogo Prefecture in the Kansai region produces over one-third of Japan’s sake. To develop global talent and provide local university students with practical experience in marketing and public relations, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) Kansai chapter organized a pilot tour for foreign visitors to Hakutaka Rokusuien, an impressive multipurpose center owned by Hakutaka Sake Co.

Mark Kawai, ACCJ Kansai External Affairs Committee chair, and Tomoko Azuma, president of Nishinomiya City’s Community Business Support Network, initiated the project, which aimed to educate foreign visitors about various aspects of sake, from the brewing process to suggested food pairings.

Together they advised and closely supervised the students, who spent countless hours researching and gathering materials to make English handouts for the tour participants. The students also interpreted the tour into English while Sumiko Tatsuuma, vice president of Hakutaka and the general manager of Hakutaka Rokusuien, led the tour of the center and brewery.



Purity and privilege
Hakutaka, which began brewing sake in Nishinomiya in 1862, is considered a relative newcomer to the sake industry. The company’s philosophy includes combining pure, mineral-rich water (known as miyamizu, and drawn from a well in Nishinomiya City) with a premium variety of rice grown specifically for sake production.

Together with its sourcing of the best materials for the equipment it uses, this has resulted in the birth of a sake that is considered fine enough to be offered daily to the gods at Japan’s most sacred Shinto shrine, the Ise Grand Shrine in Mie Prefecture.

Hakutaka has been the sole purveyor to the shrine for over 90 years; a large stone from a river near the site has been engraved and presented to the brewery in honor of its donations of ritual sake.

As Hakutaka uses traditional methods to make limited quantities of sake, visits to the brewery are only possible in winter, and there is often a waiting list. The ACCJ group was very privileged to be shown the production room and the storage place for the sake destined for Ise shrine, in addition to tasting the day’s batch of unprocessed sake.


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Tatsuuma points to the cedar ball that signals that a batch of sake has been made.

Heart and soul
As a fifth-generation brewery owner, Tatsuuma is just as passionate about her family’s history and the preservation of Japanese culture as she is about sake brewing.

She and her late father spent 10 years on the planning and design of Hakutaka Rokusuien, a structure based on original architectural drawings for the family’s living quarters and compound. She also supervised the construction of the facility, and it is evident she put her heart and soul into the project.

To recreate the feel of the late Edo era, building materials were gathered and recycled from old houses around Japan. The bar counter is made from a single piece of giant cedar.

In addition to a gift shop, sake bar, and restaurant, the multipurpose center features a gallery and event space, and often holds lectures and cultural performances.

Many of the family items in the gallery were taken from a warehouse that survived the fires and destruction of World War II.

The ACCJ tour group admired three impressive sets of hina dolls on display for Hina Matsuri, the traditional Girls’ Festival or Doll Festival. Each set of dolls was collected from a different generation of the family, and all were custom-ordered to include fine details such as the family crest on a doll’s sword.

Hakutaka Rokusuien is open throughout the year, and cultural displays rotate to reflect the seasons. Most memorable was a panel of black and white family portraits, in which it was easy to see the resemblance between Tatsuuma and some of her female forebears.

Helen Hwang, principal commercial officer of the U.S. Consulate General, Osaka-Kobe, shared her impressions about the event:

“What an honor it was to be among the first pilot group of international participants to take a tour of the visitors’ center of Hakutaka Sake Co. The tour was beyond my expectations, as we learned not only about sake making, but also about facets of Japanese culture and history that have been preserved through time. The on-site historical museum archives and maintains the old ways of making sake as seen through the eyes of the Tatsuuma family, master sake brewers for five generations.

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Tour participants sampled the day’s batch of unprocessed sake.

“In addition, the impressive rebuilt architecture based on original designs in the gift shop, sake tasting area, and event rooms blended modern Japan with the image of traditional Japan international visitors may have in mind when they think of this country.

“I very much appreciated the research undertaken and effort made by the university students to launch this first tour for non-Japanese speakers, and the ACCJ-Kansai External Affairs and Living in Kansai committees for organizing this special tour. It is a must-see for visitors to the Kansai area, and I plan to share this boutique treasure in the Nishinomiya area with my own international visitors.”

Hakutaka Rokusuien
5-1 Kurakake-cho
Nishinomiya City, Hyogo 662-0926
Tel: 0798-39-0235

www.hakutaka-shop.jp

Gallery and museum: admission free
Open 11am–6:30pm;
closed first and third Wednesdays

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Rose Tanasugarn serves on the ACCJ Kansai Business Programs, Women in Business, and Community Service committees.

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Hakutaka has been the sole [sake] purveyor to Ise shrine for over 90 years.