Page 1

September 2017

Kyushu Shochu Issue

Chef Marc Matsumoto: Bringing Japanese Food and Shochu to an International Audience

Kyushu Distilleries Pour Shochu for the Press and Public at Tokyo’s Famed FCCJ

Shochu Tram: A Train You Hope Reaches its Destination Late

ZIPANGU Kyushu Shochu Issue In recent times, there has been a sudden increase in inbound tourism to Japan from across the world. Every day, they come from airports around the world to land in Japan’s various airports in Tokyo, Kansai and Kyushu etc. In Tokyo, the purpose of this tourism is to experience the atmosphere of a large modern city, and Kansai draws people in with the historical culture of its ancient cities, which showcases traditional Japanese culture. So, what does Kyushu have to offer? One of Kyushu’s proudest traditions is “Nature and the rich

Christopher Pellegrini, Editor and Shingo Yoshino, Producer

food culture resulting from it”. On the island called “the Nine States (Kyu-shu)”, mountains span from north to south, and from east to west mountains and peninsulas shape the land. For this reason, each prefecture, surrounded by mountain and sea, formed its own unique regional culture. We can enjoy the beautiful land and the diverse food cultures of each region of Kyushu. The food and drink of Kyushu are on their way to becoming products worthy of worldwide recognition. When a visitor to Japan first tries them, the Kyushu Shochu Issue September 2017

impression our products leave in their hearts and taste buds will ensure that this goal is realized.

Editor: Christopher Pellegrini Writer: Christopher Pellegrini Sakae Murakami Art Director: Emiko Iijima Web Director: Takeshi Watanabe

Shingo Yoshino Producer, ZIPANGU magazine President, Zipangu Japan

Ryushin Yamada Published by ZIPANGU JAPAN Co., Ltd. 11-1 Kitakashiwadai, Kashiwa City, Chiba Japan Masaharu Shirasugi Kurane Akira Masanori Takiguchi Masahiro Yamazaki Etsuko Mizusawa President & Producer: Shingo Yoshino Inquiries & Subscription Service e-mail: info@zipangu-japan.jp

The panel of Kyushu shochu brands was created to introduce Kyushu shochu at the international forum of Kyushu AIE, an economic organization for local business managers. There are over 300 small and large shochu distilleries throughout the prefectures of Kyushu, and it is said that over 5000 different brands of shochu are produced at these distilleries. This panel features a collage of labels from different shochu bottles.





September 2017

Feature 03 Chef Marc Matsumoto:

Bringing Japanese Food and Shochu to an International Audience


10 10



Kyoya Distillery:

Japanese Tradition Meets Gin


Hombo’s MARS Tsunuki Distillery:



One of Japan’s Foremost Shochu Makers Gets Serious about Whisky and Gin

Kyushu Distilleries Pour Shochu for the Press and Public at Tokyo’s Famed FCCJ

Hamada Distillery: 22 Tradition Meets Innovation


Feature 24 Shochu Tram:

A Train You Hope Reaches its Destination Late

Okuchi Distillery: 27 Reaches for New Markets


The Kyushu Advantage is an online showcase for everything that's great about Kyushu. We profile the companies, organizations, people and places that make Kyushu special. Discover a new face of Japan. http://www.thekyushuadvantage.jp/shochumap/


Chef Marc Matsumoto: Bringing Japanese Food and Shochu to an International Audience The culinary artistry displayed on NoRecipes. com comes from the mind and creativity of Chef Marc Matsumoto. This blog is where he shares the best versions of the food that he comes up with, whether that be his take on a classic Japanese Chicken Teriyaki, or a modern Italian and Mexican mashup. Marc took some time out of his extremely busy schedule of media appearances, writing, and teaching to talk with Zipangu magazine about all things Japanese food and shochu. Also included are a couple of food and cocktail recipes for shochu enthusiasts.

first ISP in our area during college. After

fondest childhood memories involved

graduating, I worked my way around

food; whether it was helping my mom in

Silicon Valley before ending up at a small

the kitchen, going fishing with my grand-

startup called Netflix, which I often joke

father in the rivers and ocean around

was my MBA education. It was a great

my hometown of Kadogawa, or picking

company to work for, but after their suc-

daikon with my great grandmother.

cess, I was recruited to a startup in New York. When I moved to NY I’d only been

When I was in high school, I remember having my first taste of tiramisu. It was one of those eye-opening moments,

there a handful of times before so I

where I was like “WOW, I didn’t know

didn’t really know anyone beyond my

food could taste that good!” I think that’s

co-workers and a few friends of friends.

when I realized that there was this whole

In college, I used to throw dinner parties

world of food out there I hadn’t yet ex-

Zipangu: Thank you so much for

as a way to meet new people, so I used the

plored, and good food went from a given,

talking with us, Marc. Can you tell us a

same tactic in NY and I’d inevitably get

to something that should be sought after

little bit about your life and upbringing

asked how I made a dish. My answer was

and perfected. So when No Recipes took

before you made cooking and

always “there’s no recipe”, because I’m

off and I started getting requests from

education your vocation?

more of an improvisational cook. I ended

private individuals and restaurants to

up turning that into a blog (NoRecipes.

introduce them to my brand of food, the

Marc Matsumoto: Although I was born

com) where I documented some of the

transition from tech to food felt much

in Japan, I spent a fair amount of my child-

best dishes I came up with. To my sur-

more natural than it sounds.

hood travelling between the US, Japan

prise, the blog blew up and I found myself

and Australia. I think food is a bit like

working a 10 hour day in tech, followed by

Zipangu: You have become an

language in that it helps to be exposed to

another 8 hour night in my kitchen.

international influencer and educator of gastronomy and cooking. Can you

a variety of culinary cultures at a young age, and there are few melting pots with

Zipangu: What caused you to choose to

tell us about some of the projects that

a more diverse culinary culture than the

become a chef?

you have been working over the past couple of years?

US and Australia. Growing up, I loved to eat, but I also

Marc: The short answer would be that the

had a passion for technology and I got

success of my blog led to opportunities

Marc: Unfortunately, part of being a

involved with BBSs (a precursor to the

in the food world, but I think the journey

private chef means that my clients value

Internet), before going to work for the

began far earlier than that. Some of my

their privacy, so I can't talk specifics,


but I spend about 60% of my time work-

abroad with a new-found urgency. I’m

Zipangu: What do you see as shochu’s

ing with private clients, whether they be

hoping to use the influence and experi-

biggest selling points?

individuals looking for a few memorable

ence I’ve garnered over the years to help

meals or restaurants looking to revitalize

the Japanese food and beverage industry

Marc: First of all, people love a good story

their menu. Lately I've been consulting

as they expand abroad. I also want to con-

and shochu has a long and colorful legacy

with Japanese food and hospitality busi-

tribute towards solving some of the most

as the distillation process worked its way

nesses looking to stay current on trends

pressing issues of our generation, like

up from Southeast Asia through Okinawa

hitting the US and Europe. Some of these

how we’re going to sustain the nearly 10

and then into Kyushu before spreading all

companies are looking to bring new ideas

billion people that will inhabit the earth

over Japan.

to the Japanese market, while others are

by 2050.

On top of that, the breadth of flavor profiles due to the preservation of

looking for help building buzz for their products abroad. Another 20% of my time

Zipangu: Can we talk about shochu

aromatic compounds, especially when

gets spent on my food blog NoRecipes.

a little bit? Have you conducted any

shochu is vacuum distilled. Shochu is

com, developing completely new dishes,

events or projects specifically related to

sometimes called “Japanese vodka”, but it

as well as tinkering with traditional clas-

shochu or Kyushu cuisine before?

would be more accurate to compare it to vodka, brandy, whiskey, rum, and tequila

sics to make them better. The last 20% is spent on projects that I enjoy participating

Marc: I’m an avid fan of shochu and

in such as making TV appearances and

firmly believe it has a ton of

supporting a farming technology that I

potential on the global premium

believe will revolutionize the agricultural

spirit market. Unlike sake, which

industry over the next 20 years.

has enjoyed mainstream success,

because the flavor can vary so much de-

shochu is still an undiscovered hit

Zipangu: What are you looking forward

and I relish every opportunity I

to over the next few years?

get to introduce new people to it. Recently I partnered with Japan

Marc: The Japanese food and beverage

Sake and Shochu Makers Asso-

industry (and by extension all related

ciation (JSS) to educate Japanese

industries) has long been insulated

cooking instructors about the

from the global market. With the main-

merits of pairing shochu with

streaming of Japanese food abroad and

food, so that they can spread the

the declining population in Japan, these

word to their visiting students

industries are looking for opportunities

from around the world.



shochu as a flavorful base spirit for

diluting it just enough to take the sharp

cocktails. Since shochu is often diluted

edge off. Sometimes when it’s very cold

down to 25% ABV, it can be a bit tricky for

outside, I enjoy having my shochu oyu-

mixologists to add into their repertoire,

wari, which means it’s cut with hot water.

but low ABV shochu can still be mixed,

The hot water warms up the shochu,

and undiluted shochu (genshu), would fit

releasing its aromatic compounds. This

right in alongside vodka and rum.

is a great way to enjoy fragrant varieties

Also, with the nearly universal re-

of shochu such as imo (sweet potato) or

spect that Japanese whiskey has been

kokutou (brown sugar), and it will warm

getting lately, I think there’s a receptive-

you up from the inside out.

ness to other Japanese spirits that wasn’t

Shochu pairs so well with food be-

pending on the ingredients that are added

there before. Twenty years ago, no one

cause it’s potent enough that it makes for

to the primary and secondary mash.

had heard of mezcal, and bourbon was a

a great palate cleanser, especially with

drink for drunkards and rednecks, but

oily foods, yet it’s not so strong as to cover

food because its alcohol content hits a

now they’re top-shelf staples, with arti-

up the flavor of the food. Shochu is also a

sweet spot which allows it to cleanse the

sanal brands popping up all over North

relatively neutral spirit, so unlike wine it’s

palate without numbing your taste buds.

America. With its Japanese lineage and

almost impossible to make a bad pair-

broad palette of flavors I think shochu is

ing, yet like all food and alcohol pairings,

Zipangu: What are some of the

perfectly poised to become the next hot

when you do a good job pairing the nu-

challenges that shochu faces as it

premium spirit.

ances of the shochu with the nuances in

And of course shochu pairs well with

the food, it makes both the food and drink

tries to create or enter new markets overseas?

Zipangu: What are your favorite ways

taste better.

to enjoy shochu? Zipangu: Thank you so much for your

Marc: Well, I think it’s the usual David and Goliath dilemma. On one side you

Marc: My favorite way to enjoy shochu is

time, Marc. And thank you for helping

have a lot of small producers of shochu

on the rocks. This chills the shochu while

to spread shochu’s story overseas!

with very little experience on the international stage trying to promote a new genre of spirit, and on the other, you have a lot of entrenched competition representing better known spirits with massive marketing budgets. It’s nothing that can’t be overcome, but you add in the language barrier and cultural differences and it’s an uphill battle for sure.

Zipangu: In your view, what are some possible ways that shochu could make inroads in the North American market? Marc: The craft cocktail scene is going mainstream in North America, so I think there’s a huge opportunity to promote 06

Chicken Tsukune • 2 tablespoons sugar • 2 tablespoons mirin • 2 tablespoons soy sauce • 2 tablespoons sake (for sauce) • 410 grams boneless chicken-thigh (cut into small pieces) • 20 grams scallions - white part (chopped) • 1 tablespoon sake (for chicken) • 1 teaspoon potato starch • 1/4 teaspoon salt • 1 small dried shiitake mushroom • 2 egg yolks

To make the sauce, add the sugar, mirin, soy sauce, and sake to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Continue to boil until the sauce becomes thick. Put the chicken thighs, scallions, sake, potato starch and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Use a grater to grate the dried shiitake into the food processor. Process the chicken until it’s finely chopped but not so much that it turns into a uniform paste. You will need to start and stop it scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times. Heat a frying pan over medium heat until hot and then add a bit of oil. Shape the chicken into 6 oblong patties, adding them to the pan as you go. Fry the patties until golden brown on one side and then flip and fry the other side until golden brown. Using tongs to hold each patty and, pass two bamboo skewers through the center of each one. Place them on a grill or under a broiler and cook until the chicken registers 71 degrees Celsius on a thermometer. Brush plenty of sauce on both sides of the chicken and return to the grill to caramelize the glaze. Be careful as the sugar will burn quickly. Serve the tsukune with shichimi togarashi and a raw egg yolk.



Niku Miso Dip • 120 ml yellow miso • 2 tablespoons hatcho miso (black miso) • 2 egg yolks • 80 ml sugar • 120 ml cup sake • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil • 60 grams fresh shiitake (finely minced) • 20 grams scallion – white part (finely minced) • 15 grams ginger (finely minced) • 150 grams lean ground pork • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Put the yellow miso, hatcho miso, egg yolks, sugar, and sake into a blender or small food processor and run until smooth. Add the oil to a frying pan over medium heat and sauté the shiitake, scallion, and ginger until they’re well browned and starting to caramelize. Add the ground pork and stir-fry, using a spatula to break up the meat into small crumbs. When the meat is mostly cooked, add the miso sauce and turn down the heat to low. Cook, stirring constantly until the miso is thick enough so that when you run a spatula across the pan, the miso doesn’t flow back into the gap created by the spatula. Serve the Niku Miso with fresh vegetables or as a condiment for white rice.


Shochu Mojito • 4 sprigs mint (leaves only) • 1 tablespoon sugar • 1/2 lime (1 tablespoon juice) • 1/2 cup brown sugar shochu • Ice

• Club soda

Put the mint, sugar and lime juice into a 14-16 ounce highball glass. Use a muddler to bruise the mint, but do not pulverize it. Add the shochu and give it a stir. Fill the glass with large ice cubes and then top it off with club soda. Garnish with a sprig of mint and serve.

Grape Escape Cocktail • 4 pink peppercorns • 70 grams Concord Grapes (~8-10 large grapes) • 1/2 teaspoon honey (to taste) • 1/4 cup sweet potato shochu

Crush the pink peppercorns in the bottom of a shaker with a muddler. Add the grapes and honey and muddle them until there are no large chunks of grape left. Add the sweet potato shochu and a few large ice cubes and shake until chilled. Pour the grape escape into a chilled 4 ounce coupe glass through a tea strainer and garnish with grapes.



Kyoya Distillery:

Japanese Tradition Meets Gin Shinichiro Watanabe helps lead and innovate within a nascent category of spirit, Japanese Gin. As the head of one of Kyushu’s oldest distilleries, Watanabe wants Kyoya Distillery in Miyazaki Prefecture to stay true to its premium shochu roots while pushing the envelope of what can be achieved with the traditional beverage’s sophisticated flavor profile. His mission is to entice customers with new products which highlight the darling of Southern Kyushu, sweet potato shochu.

Lack of International Shochu Knowledge Blocking Growth

of the firm’s annual shipments. The story from most companies ship-

aroma is both unmistakable and remarkable given the fact that this gin is bottled

ping shochu internationally is that sales

at 94 proof. One would expect there to be

have pretty much stayed steady over the

a much stronger alcohol presence on the

past decade, neither rising nor falling

nose, but Kyoya has found a way to tame it

significantly from one year to the next.

with a careful blend of the botanical notes

the shochu industry is the lack of infor-

The question is how to break through this

weaned out of the mostly Miyazaki-grown

mation about its products overseas. It’s

stagnancy. Kyoya Distillery in Nichinan,

ingredients. For instance, additional tang

understandably difficult to sell shochu to

Miyazaki Prefecture, has a clever way

is provided by the use of Hyuga Natsu

people that have never heard of it before.

of inspiring curiosity about shochu, and

Mikan and hebesu, both local specialties

And for those who have, there’s a dearth

that’s by using it to make gin.

from the citrus family.

One of the biggest challenges facing

of information about the products and what makes them unique. For distilleries that jump through the hoops to sell their products overseas, the payoff is sales that typically equate to less than one percent

Finding the right mix of ingredients

The Birth of Japanese Gin Enter “Yuzugin,” a multi-year passion

to add shiitake mushrooms, but it threw the balance off. So we decided not to include them in the blend.” Indeed, Yuzugin strikes an excellent synergy between the

potato shochu to non-Japanese drink-

requisite juniper notes and some of the

ers while revolutionizing the thinking

less expected ingredients that will lead

on what can be done with a drink that is

people to call this a truly Japanese gin. One of the most interesting com-

comes to blending with ingredients other

ponents of the flavor profile is the clear

than water or soda.

sansho presence which underlines the

Yuzugin is a citrusy iteration of the


nabe, remarked that “We actually wanted

project that is helping introduce sweet

normally understood to be finicky when it

The season’s first batch of rice koji.

was not easy. Company president, Wata-

citrus. Sansho is a Japanese species of

drink that pulls the majority of its flavor

Sichuan pepper, and it adds a refreshing

from, you guessed it, yuzu (citron). The

prickly counterweight to the fruity sweet-

The small still used to make “Yuzugin” near the distillery entrance.

Mr. Watanabe proudly displays his Japanese gin, “Yuzugin.”

ness of the gin. Additional complexity is found in the use of cloves, ginger, and coriander. It is the delicate blend of these diverse flavors that helps to keep the

Creating an Unforgettable Japanese Spirit

admittedly high alcohol level from taking control. One noted quality of Yuzugin is

But let’s not forget the most interest-

that it doesn’t punch like most spirits in

ing part of Kyoya’s newest creation. This

the upper 40s. It doesn’t have the same,

gin is made with a sweet potato shochu

pronounced burn.

base. 40% of Yuzugin’s blend is a combina-

Kyoya’s main pot still which is used to make its many shochu brands. 2017


Kyoya Distillery: Japanese Tradition Meets Gin

Old clay pots wait their turn to cradle the fermenting shochu mash.

Mr. Watanabe explains the intricacies of the “Yuzugin” bottle and design.

Shochu as the Vehicle for Something New and Delicious Mr. Watanabe explained that Kyoya Distillery hopes to help start the conversation about shochu by creating a dynamic and delicious product that will naturally cause people to inquire as to how it is made. He said that he’s seen how this process might work through firsthand experience. “We participated in an event in Hollywood recently, and we’re part of a team of Miyazaki shochu makers that does tastings in New York at the beginning of the year,” he said. tion of Kyoya’s revered “Kame no Shizu-

The botanicals used to make Yuzugin

“Yuzugin can’t be labeled as shochu

ku” brand and its “Sora & Kaze & Daichi”

are fermented and distilled separately,

because it uses unpermitted ingredients

offering. That means that koji is in the

a time-consuming process that affords

such as fruit, and the alcohol percentage

mix as well, adding even more palate

more control over the resulting flavors

is too high, but we believe that we may be

variables to the flavor profile. Many have

through deliberate adjustments to fer-

able to introduce something that consum-

commented that sweet potato shochu is

mentation and distillation duration and

ers don’t know, shochu, via something

too earthy and fragrant to be used as a

temperature. And Kyoya Distillery has

that they do [gin].”

base for such a complex class of spirit, but

opted to stick with a small 200 liter stain-

Yuzugin may change the calculus there.

less steel Japanese still, unlike its grow-

successful with its bigger goal of bring-

The lovely array of aromas and flavors

ing number of peers that have imported

ing premium shochu to a wider audience.

built into this drink should turn heads

shiny Italian or German stills to help

One thing, however, is certain: Yuzugin is

abroad and create new opportunities for

mold their new, more western concoc-

a delicious libation that is certain to help

cocktail mixing.


establish a new category—Japanese Gin.


Only time will tell if Kyoya can be

Kyoya Distillery is said to have been founded in 1834 in the home of shochu: Aburatsu, Miyazaki Prefecture. While honoring tradition, Kyoya Distillery has always continued to seek out new challenges, and released a "Japanese-style gin" that uses their original potato shochu to create a new flavor sensation. It is called " 油 津 吟 / Yuzugin." In this name, which combines Aburatsu, the name of the land on which the distillery rests, with "yuzu" (citron), we have instilled our reverence for the land which always provides us with abundant blessings, and our pride at being able to bring a product to the world that is a worthy of these blessings. The potato shochu used is a blend of our flagship product, "Kame Shizuku" and "Sora & Kaze & Daichi." The mellow taste created by our large jar process, which neither applies nor denies heat forcibly, along with the umami of Miyazaki Prefecture "beni kei imo" sweet potatoes provides a depth of flavor not found in conventional gin. Botanically, we have made use of ingredients intimate to the world of Japanese cuisine, such as yuzu (citron), sansho (Japanese pepper), hebesu and hyuganatsu (local Miyazaki citrus fruits). Together with the juniper berries that are indispensible to gin, the bright Western aroma and elegant Japanese fragrance each display their individual characters to create a magnificent harmony that will tickle your nose. We recommend mixing a gin and tonic. By all means, please enjoy this flavor that can be delicately opened up with bubbles of carbonation. This is a gin from the country of harmony.

Kyoya Distiller & Brewer Co., Ltd. (contains 750ml, packaged in a decorative box)

2-3-2, Aburatsu, Nichinan-shi Miyazaki 887-0001, JAPAN Phone: 0987-22-2002 Fax: 0987-23-2314 Mail: info@kyo-ya.com URL: http://www.kyo-ya.com

Hombo’s MARS Tsunuki Distillery:

One of Japan’s Foremost Shochu Makers Gets Serious about Whisky and Gin

The distillery floor team responsible for the spirits at MARS Tsunuki Distillery.


Award-winning Kagoshima-based Hombo Distillery is well-regarded for its range of delectable beverages. The family firm is best known domestically as a fine producer of premium shochu with four distilleries in Kagoshima Prefecture. More recently, however, Hombo has begun pouring its extensive energy and resources into producing some of the most exciting whisky products now available in Japan. Add to that a new gin brand, and Hombo Distillery can easily claim to be one of the most innovative distilleries in the country.

MARS Tsunuki Distillery: Hombo’s Newest Whisky Distillery

opening. With Nagano’s cooler climate, the whisky there tends to be mellower after years of cask aging. Tsunuki’s comparatively warmer and more humid summers are creating a firmer flavor

Hombo has been making whisky

profile in the whisky stored there. The

since 1949, but the Tsunuki Distillery

jury is still out on the “new make” whis-

has only been in operation since 2016.

ky resting in the Yakushima warehouse

MARS Shinshu Distillery has been

because aging just recently began

producing all of Hombo’s whisky prod-

there, but the strong winds coming off

ucts since 1985, but now the increased

the coast promise to impart something

and Hombo’s whisky is no exception.

capacity is creating new opportunities

altogether fresh and unlike anything

Its “Mars Maltage 3 Plus 25 28 Years,”

for the company. In addition to the two

the company has made before.

a blended malt whisky, was crowned

The pot portion of Hombo’s new hybrid still.

new alembic whisky stills in the produc-

world’s best at the 2013 World Whiskies

tion facility, increased warehouse space

Awards, and that accolade was but-

means that there is potential for aging whisky from the Shinshu plant in Nagano Prefecture. Along with the new storage facil-

Strong Demand for MARS Whisky both at Home and Abroad

of the Year at the 2017 Icons of Whisky awards hosted by Whisky Magazine. As the awards pile up, so does demand, and most of the Hombo’s foreign exports are

ity on Yakushima Island southeast of the Kagoshima mainland, that makes

tressed by being named Craft Producer

Japanese whisky has seen a rapid

whisky rather than the premium shochu

three aging facilities in distinctly varied

rise in its international reputation after

that accounts for the lion’s share of its

climates. The results promise to be eye-

winning several competitions recently,

domestic sales.

Imported Stills and Malt Meet Hombo’s Craftsmanship Tsunuki is the heart of Hombo’s family business, so it’s appropriate that the company elected to locate its newest whisky distillery there. Inside are two custom-made gleaming European copper pot stills, sitting side by side waiting to distill one batch at a time. While Whisky casks stacked neatly inside the warehouse.

Hombo’s aging facilities are open to the public. Look for the see-through casks which let you see what’s going on inside the barrel.

there is some experimentation under 2017


Hombo’s MARS Tsunuki Distillery: One of Japan’s Foremost Shochu Makers Gets Serious about Whisky and Gin

Bottles of Kishogura shochu, available exclusively at MARS Tsunuki, line a shelf in the Ho¯jo¯ shop.

undiluted gin distillate is 70% ABV after running through the hybrid still, but “Wa Bi Gin” is bottled at 45%. In addition to being a lovely addition to the Belly up to the gorgeous bar to try some of Hombo’s legendary spirits.

way with malt produced in Japan, the

exception of the juniper berries which

Tsunuki Distillery currently uses malt

are sourced from Eastern Europe, the

imported from the United Kingdom.

botanicals are grown in Kagoshima

The mash ferments for three to four

Prefecture. The 10 main ingredients are

days before reaching an alcohol content

steeped in rice spirit in three groups.

of about 7%. The first pot still creates

The first includes juniper, ginger, shiso,

a spirit that is 20% alcohol by volume

and tea. The citrusy botanicals, lemon,

(ABV ), and that is fed immediately into

cumquat, yuzu, and hetsuka daidai,

a second pot still which pumps out a 70%

make up the second group, and the third

ABV “new make” spirit that, after dilu-

is shell ginger and cinnamon tree leaf.

tion down to 60%, is ready to be aged in

These three macerations are com-

large casks. The new Tsunuki Distillery

bined and distilled with a rice shochu

will allow Hombo to expand its impres-

that has been double-distilled, techni-

sive range of whisky offerings over the

cally turning it into a rice spirit. Cru-

coming years, something that fans both

cially, this means that koji is involved

in Japan and overseas are eagerly look-

in the distillation and it adds a delicious

ing forward to.

depth of flavor to the final product. The

growing class of Japanese gin, its name can also be translated as “Japanese Beauty,” a very apt description.

Visit the Idyllic Ho¯jo¯ Café Bar after an Informative Distillery Tour Following a distillery tour, guests are welcome to take a load off in the impeccably restored family home that Tsunekichi Hombo, the second company president, lived in with his family. The classic wooden interior evokes memories of its birth more than 80 years ago, and the dark wood motif extends to the new bar and outdoor deck with space to sit and enjoy a glass or two of

Hombo’s Newest Creation: Wa Bi Gin

Hombo’s famous liquors. During cooler months, try to grab a seat outside under the large white parasols which affords

A new hybrid still arrived by ship

a view of the beautifully manicured

from Italy during the summer of 2016.

garden. Back inside the Ho¯ jo¯ Café Bar

It’s a beautiful copper and silver-colored

you’ll find a small retail space where

combination of batch and column distil-

you can pick up a bottle of your favorite

lation technology that Hombo wasted no

new whisky or the fresh-on-the scene

time in using to make a new Japanese

“Wa Bi Gin” that will soon find its way

gin: “Wa Bi Gin” is a delightful blend of

onto shelves at finer cocktail bars the

citrus, spice, koji, and juniper. With the

world over. Hombo’s new “Wa Bi Gin” is a delightful blend of Japanese botanicals and juniper berries.


Shochu Night 2017 Distilleries Beniotome Sanwa Shurui Fukuoka

Nishiyoshida Saga

Oita Nagasaki


Takahashi Miyazaki

Okuchi Kagoshima

Kirishima Kyoya


Hombo Tsunuki



Kyushu Distilleries Pour Shochu for the Press and Public at Tokyo’s Famed FCCJ For the second year in a row, Zipangu partnered with several enthusiastic Kyushu distilleries to host a shochu tasting at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo’s Yurakucho District. The event served as a chance for some of Kyushu’s finest and most influential distilleries to communicate directly with the foreign-language press and non-Japanese residents of the capital city.



The FCCJ: an Exclusive Setting for an Evening of Good Food and Great Spirits One of the oldest press clubs in the

to North America, however, and beer

spicy dishes, and even dessert. Two of

or wine is the tipple of choice. Spirits

the distilleries were also kind enough to

and liqueurs are generally reserved

bring along some after-dinner drinks as

for cocktails before dinner, or digestifs

well. Kyoya and Hombo both poured their


new gin products which were released

Enter Marc Matsumoto, an accom-

earlier in 2017, and the latter also exhib-

continued to play a crucial role as a hub

plished chef and the featured guest at the

ited some of its MARS brand whiskey for

for both domestic and international jour-

FCCJ shochu event on September 22nd.

guests to sample.

nalism. This was especially true in 1995

Matsumoto has been toying with interna-

when journalists flew in to Tokyo from all

tional culinary traditions for years and is

over the globe to cover the Great Hanshin

adept at improving upon classic recipes.

Earthquake and sarin gas attacks, and

This creativity extends to cocktails as

again in 2011 after TEPCO’s nuclear

well, and he sees a Kyushu-sized opening

power plants in Fukushima melted down

for shochu and awamori to assert them-

tional for those in attendance. Pellegrini

following the giant earthquake and tsu-

selves in the world of cocktail mixing. He

and Matsumoto kicked the event off by

nami in March of that year.

also sees no reason why Japan’s spirits

introducing the 10 distilleries and talk-

can’t become a viable mealtime option,

ing about shochu’s potential overseas.

benefits including an event calendar

especially since the drink is so frequently

Guests were also challenged to win a

packed with entertaining and artistic

cut with water or soda.

prize by guessing shochu types correctly

world, the FCCJ was born in 1945 and has

FCCJ members enjoy a number of

More than just a Shochu Tasting The event also proved to be educa-

events in addition to having access to vis-

Helping to prove Matsumoto right

in a blind tasting. But most importantly,

iting celebrities, dignitaries, and thought

were the Kyushu distilleries that provided

those in attendance were able to interact

leaders from Japan and overseas. Anchor-

several types of shochu to go along with

and ask questions of the good people that

ing the weekend on September 22nd, 2017

the catered meal. Nishiyoshida Distillery

make Japan’s best-selling spirits.

was an event titled “The Best of Kyushu

from Fukuoka Prefecture and Sanwa

Shochu” hosted by Zipangu and emceed

Shurui Distillery from Oita Prefecture

eter for distillery personnel who were able

by Tokyo-based shochu expert, Christo-

brought along several brands of barley

to witness firsthand how non-Japanese

pher Pellegrini. The evening featured a

shochu which Matsumoto says go well

residents react to their products and

catered buffet-style meal in the middle of

with vegetable dishes and chicken. Fu-

talking points. Such opportunities are

a large banquet hall ringed by 10 tables.

kuoka Prefecture’s Beniotome Distillery

rare within Japan and almost non-existent

Those 10 tables functioned as the pouring

is famous for its sesame shochu, a drink

abroad, so hopefully the FCCJ event

stations for the participating Kyushu sho-

that complements noodle dishes such

helped to inspire increased outreach on

chu distilleries, as well as meeting points

as soupless ramen. Takahashi Distillery

the part of the distilleries moving for-

for the makers and drinkers of Japan’s

from Kumamoto Prefecture presented


indigenous spirits.

several brands of its rice shochu, a type

Shochu as “Shokuchushu” When looking at whether or not the

This also served as a useful barom-

The event concluded with a lottery for

that Matsumoto urges people to try along-

bottles of shochu and other industry-re-

side rice dishes, pasta with cream sauce,

lated gifts which saw several guests leave

and seafood.

with bags filled with souvenirs. Guests

Last but not least, there was a large

who had posted to social media using the

people in a given country are open to

contingent of sweet potato shochu makers

#shochunight hashtag were also reward-

drinking a spirit with their meals, rather

from Miyazaki and Kagoshima Prefec-

ed for helping to spread the word about

obvious cultural and regional differences

tures. Okuchi, Hamada, Hombo, and Tai-

the featured distilleries and the delicious

come into focus. Nations like South Korea

kai Distilleries, all Kagoshima stalwarts,

drinks that they brought with them from

and China have their own spirits that are

were joined by Kyoya and Kirishima

Kyushu. By combining the efforts of the

often consumed with dinner, so selling

Distilleries from Miyazaki, and all six

distilleries and various regional shochu

the idea of Japanese shochu as “shoku-

brought multiple brands of their shochu

associations it is hoped that similar events

chushu,” or a drink to have with food, is

products. Chef Matsumoto recommends

will take place around the world in the

relatively easy. Switch the conversation

sweet potato shochu with fatty meats,

near future.


The start to a mild, fragrant night

Winner of the first place“Trophy”award (shochu category) at the world’ s most prestigious alcoholic beverage competition held in London each year, the IWSC. 【 Judges Tasting Notes 】

Complex, broad and savory on the nose with a balanced oak presence bringing a spicy vanilla note that complements rather than masks the base spirit. Subtle and smooth on the palate, with an amazing roundness that reveals chocolatey toasty

30% Alcohol by Volume

Ingredients: Barley Koji (Malt), Barley

Sanwa Shurui Co., Ltd. 2231-1 Yamamoto, Usa City, Oita

Alcohol is for after you come of age. Please drink responsibility. Pregnant and nursing mothers should avoid alcohol because of the risk of birth defects. Do not drink and drive.

Hamada Distillery:

Tradition Meets Innovation Hamada Distillery is one of Kyushu’s largest and produces dozens of brands between its three production facilities, each with its own personality. All three are situated in and around Ichikikushikino City on Kagoshima Prefecture’s northwestern coast: Denbee Distillery is closest to Ichiki train station; Denzouingura Distillery is over on the flats between Mt. Kanmuri and the East China Sea; and Kinzangura Distillery is literally inside a mountain a little further inland.

Denbee Distillery: A More Hands-On Approach to Making Shochu Denbee is the original Hamada Distillery, and it has stayed true to its handmade shochu traditions. First established in 1868, it is an excellent place for visitors to learn about how Japanese shochu has been made for centuries. They still use a traditional wooden koji room and fermentation takes place in large earthenware pots sunk up to their necks in the concrete distillery floor. Denbee produces its “Den” and “Nanako” brands here, among several others. In addition to pot aging, it’s not hard to find cask-aged shochu stacked up to the ceiling if you’re nosy enough.

Denzouingura Distillery: State of the Art Automation If Denbee represents shochu’s past, then Denzouingura is its future. This is the largest distillery in Kagoshima Prefecture and dates from 2000. This is where the ubiquitous red-bottled “Kaido” brand is made, and the plant accounts for the lion’s share of Hamada’s annual sales. The multi-hectare faciliMaster Distiller Goki Ishigami slowly stirs a pot of aging shochu at Denbee Distillery.


Natsuki Nomoto, Master Distiller at Kinzangura Distillery, displays the pride of the tunnels in front of large pots of aging shochu.

ties can literally distill 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with three selfcleaning 10 kiloliter stills controllable by computer in an adjacent room. A four hour run through one of the pot stills creates three kiloliters of genshu which is pumped into primary fermentation tanks next door and then secondary fermentation tanks outside a little less than a week later. Each one of the secondary fermentation tanks is filled with 10 tons of fermented koji, 50 tons of sweet potato, and 40 tons

hosted Hamada Distillery’s newest sho-

of fresh water. Such a large operation

chu distillery. The small batch distillery

naturally yields an impressive volume of

is tucked in the belly of the mountain,

shochu. At full capacity, Denzouingura

nearly one kilometer from the entrance

is capable of bottling tens of thousands

and a beautiful wood-floored shop and

of liters of shochu per day.

café. Visitors are welcome to hop on the

Kinzangura Distillery: Liquid Gold Created Deep Within a Mountain Kinzan was once Japan’s biggest source of gold and for generations fueled the Satsuma Domain’s influence and power. But since 2005, the 120 km of subterranean railway tunnels have

old train that escorts the distillery staff in and out of the mountain every day

Steamed sweet potatoes cooling on a wide snail-paced conveyor.

with the journey taking roughly 10 minutes each way. The female master distill-

former samurai during the Meiji Resto-

ers spend their entire day underground,

ration who is about to be the featured

and they stay busy with the seven earth-

character in an upcoming serial drama

enware pots used for fermentation while

on NHK. “Segodon no Yume” is brewed

also keeping a watchful eye on the aging

using wine yeast and should prove to

shochu lining the many jagged stone cor-

be an exciting new avenue for Hamada

ridors excavated over hundreds of years.

Distillery. Hamada has innovated in other ways

150th Anniversary of the Meiji Restoration 2018 should be an exciting year in

as well. The Denbee Distillery has a small craft brewery tucked inside of it, and Denbee Beer is served at Hamada-sponsored parties throughout the summer. Kinzangura hosts Kagoshima Prefecture’s only

the shochu industry as many Kyushu

nihonshu production facility. Although

distilleries will reveal new products to

it’s not situated inside the old mine shafts,

celebrate the 150th anniversary of the

the sake has been rewarded at the na-

end of feudal rule in Japan. But the anni-

tional tasting competition.

versary is extra special for Hamada Dis-

Hamada Distillery continues to find

tillery as the firm will officially turn 150

delicious ways to combine the best of

years old next year. To celebrate, the

the past with the possibilities of the

company has some new products in the

future. We’re sure that Saigo Takamori

pipeline. First and foremost is “Segodon

would drink to that.

no Yume,” an ode to Kagoshima’s native son, Saigo Takamori, an instrumental Eisaku Ozono, Production Chief at Denzouingura Distillery, hoists a bottle of Hamada’s best-selling product, “Kaido.”

www.hamadasyuzou.co.jp/en/ 2017


Shochu Tram:

A Train You Hope Reaches This year’s edition of the Shochu Tram, an annual staple of the Kagoshima summer, departed on its first journey August 22nd and the shochu-filled excursions embarked every night for a week. Most journeys were hosted by a single distillery, but the night of the 22nd featured a consortium of shochu makers and most guests were from overseas.

A Special Kind of Streetcar

Everyone on the guest list boarded at

conditioning and mics at both ends with a

the tram stop directly in front of Kagoshi-

decent speaker system, so everyone was

ma Chuo Station which is the terminus

perfectly comfortable and well-informed

been circling downtown since 1912. The

of the Kyushu Shinkansen bullet train

on an obscenely humid Kagoshima sum-

newest members of the fleet are hyper

line. Regular tram passengers were

mer evening.

modern and more spacious, but several of

puzzled to see a team in traditional pink

the trams have been in service for decades

happi (festival) coats swarm off the train

and still sport traditional wooden floors.

and gather only a small number of those

One of the older streetcars was retrofit

waiting in line. The confusion ended

with counters and stools, a perfect combi-

quickly as it was clearly announced that

nation for food- and drink-themed events.

this was a “Shochu Train” and that the

ing night of this year’s Shochu Train

A narrow aisle down the center of the tram

next one would arrive in moments. The

was Okuchi Distillery, makers of “Kuro

allows for relatively free movement from

tram departed almost as quickly as it had

Isanishiki,” the best-selling sweet potato

one end to the other, and is the conduit for

arrived as guests busied themselves find-

shochu in Kagoshima Prefecture. Okuchi

delivering shochu to thirsty customers.

ing their seats. The old streetcar had air

Distillery representatives were joined by

Kagoshima City’s fleet of trams have


Premium Shochu Served with a Smile The main organizer of the open-

its Destination Late

executives from the prefecture’s largest shochu distributor to pour drinks for 24 lucky international guests hailing from nations such as Myanmar, Korea, China, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the

Japan’s Traditional Spirit Meets Kagoshima’s International Residents All of the guests were Kagoshima

advertising for such an event. A further goal was to conduct the tasting in such a way that they would be very likely to tell others about. That’s where the tram came in. However, recruiting 24

United States. Although Okuchi Distillery

residents, mostly from within the capi-

foreign residents to fill the entire car

was the main organizer of the evening’s

tal city itself or nearby Kokubu City.

was no mean feat. Okuchi Distillery

festivities, shochu from more than a

Several also happened to be graduate

was able to work it’s connections to

dozen distilleries were freely available to

students at Kagoshima National Uni-

find enough eager guests, none of

all in attendance. It was a veritable all-

versity. The goal of the evening was

whom were aware that the event even

you-can-drink experience, an incredibly

to bring a shochu tasting experience

existed. The other “Shochu Train”

common occurrence in Japan. All the

directly to a group of non-Japanese

nights are so popular that tickets sell

guests needed to do was ask a pink happi-

folks who would likely be interested

out months in advance, so the guests

clad staff member for a recommendation,

in learning more about Japan’s indig-

on Tuesday evening were likely luckier

and a fresh drink would soon arrive.

enous spirit but might not be privy to

than they will ever realize. 2017


Shochu Tram: A Train You Hope Reaches its Destination Late

With Shochu Sipping Comes Shochu Education

One of the event’s American guests,

back in. Toward the end of the event, the

Chris Tow of San Francisco, CA, com-

organizers conducted a lottery in which

mented after the event that “I had a great

they gave away several bottles of shochu,

time riding the tram from Kagoshima

t-shirts, and other gifts for guests to take

mada led a short introductory seminar on

Chuo Station to the main parts of down-

home. A gift bag was also provided to

the origins and uniqueness of Japanese

town and back as the sun was setting in

every guest, guaranteeing that no one left

shochu. Using large laminated posters

the city. It felt like a uniquely Kagoshima


created by Kyushu University’s Sakagu-

experience drinking shochu on an old

chi Sensei, he quizzed the guests about

school cafe style tram.”

Okuchi Distillery CEO Koichi Ya-

a series of numbers and facts related to

The tram made two complete circuits

This event is one of the most creative ways yet to introduce people to shochu. As shochu is such a complex and varied

shochu’s development in Kyushu. The

of the central loop lasting almost exactly

drink, many are aware that the only real

guests shouted out their guesses as Mr.

two hours. The trams are too small to

way to create more fans is to get them to

Yamada’s short presentation inspired a

have an onboard restroom, so a break

try it. There are probably few more excit-

jovial atmosphere that led to laughter,

was scheduled for midway through the

ing ways to accomplish such a feat than

conversation, more shochu, and in several

journey, and the organizers made sure to

with an antique streetcar that has been

cases friendship.

get a group photo before everyone piled

converted into a “Shochu Train.”


Okuchi Distillery:

Reaches for New Markets Okuchi Distillery CEO Koichi Yamada has been working overtime to find and develop new markets for the company’s many premium shochu products. He spends a lot of time flying between Kagoshima and Hong Kong, but these days he has his eyes squarely fixed on Taiwan.

Every Market Presents a New Challenge Exporting internationally presents some obvious obstacles, but others are a bit trickier to predict. Okuchi Distillery once developed a shochu product specifically for the Chinese market but has since ceased production. When Zipangu asked him why, Mr. Yamada commented, “Our customers here in Japan got jealous and demanded that we sell it here, too.” So they stopped bottling it altogether. That is the firm’s only true example of creating or altering a product or advertising campaign to fit a particular target market. Shipping to the US requires bottling in 750 ml bottles rather than the 720 and 900 ml bottles more commonly found in Japan, but that’s not a calculated adjustment to appeal to a new audience. Okuchi continues to ship its products mostly as is, minor label alterations notwithstanding.

Mr. Yamada holds a weekend’s supply of “Kuro Isanishiki.”

A large traditional kuro joka (black kettle) used to heat shochu over an open flame. 2017


Okuchi Distillery: Reaches for New Markets

It goes without saying that new markets will require a tailored message to help educate non-Japanese customers about the world of premium shochu. Mr. Yamada and his team are keenly aware of that, and not just because overseas sales have remained relatively constant since Okuchi Distillery started international shipping more than a decade ago. Marketing the company’s flagship brand, “Kuro Isanishiki,” in the United States and Thailand naturally involves two different breeds of finesse. “Creating interest in shochu and

An assortment of Okuchi’s most famous brands.

increasing the amount of foreignlanguage information available on the

streetcar was something that the guests

a graduate school professor at Kyushu

Internet are the industry’s biggest chal-

were more than happy to write home

University in Fukuoka. His presenta-

lenges at this point,” he said.


tion highlighted the ways that shochu

A similar approach can be found in

Seeding Shochu Interest Abroad

is being featured at events around the

how Okuchi Distillery finds new export

country and also included information

opportunities. Mr. Yamada helps orga-

about what major companies worldwide

nize and participates in shochu tastings

are doing to expand their businesses. A

and events that are likely to generate

brainstorming discussion followed and

media attention which will eventually

Mr. Yamada plans on continuing the

On August 22nd he helped organize a

be picked up by news outlets abroad.

meetings to coax new ideas from the

“Shochu Train” in downtown Kagoshi-

Requests for more information about the

people that he employs.

ma City where non-Japanese residents

company’s products routinely reach him

could enjoy shochu from several distill-

via email, and new leads often follow.

Mr. Yamada has some ideas though.

success, and more domestic events are in the planning stages. He hopes to

Tapping the Shochu Minds at Home

together this fall. Teaming up with like-minded competitors was a constant theme during our discussion. Indeed, teamwork strategy is likely to pay divi-

leverage non-Japanese residents’ excitement to help transmit information about

distilleries to charter a ferry and pack about 500 guests on it to drink shochu

eries while touring around the city in an old-school tram. The event was a huge

He’s also teaming up with 13 other

However, the energetic and con-

dends because transmitting shochu’s

shochu to their families and friends

stantly traveling CEO is also a fan of

story, even to places with a strong affin-

abroad, and getting tipsy on an antique

generating ideas organically from his

ity for all things Japan like Taiwan, will

office and distillery floor

be a real slog for companies attempting

Professor Sakaguchi talks about shochu promotion and innovation at Okuchi Distillery.


staff. He has started a se-

to develop new markets on their own.

ries of free-form meetings

“Taiwan is an attractive market

where staff are encouraged

because the people there are very inter-

to share their ideas about

ested in Japanese culture and products.

new products, marketing,

But all of us, the industry together, we

and event concepts. One

need to do better,” he explained. “Over-

such meeting took place

seas marketing is just 1% of our costs

on August 23rd and fea-

right now. My goal is to boost that to

tured Koichi Sakaguchi,

10% soon.”

これが、 鹿 児 島の 芋焼酎。

Profile for The Kyushu Advanatage

Zipangu 2017 Kyushu Shochu Issue  

On the 22nd of September, 2017 we held an event, the “Shochu Event,” to showcase Kyushu liquor. ZIPANGU Kyushu Shochu Issue was published a...

Zipangu 2017 Kyushu Shochu Issue  

On the 22nd of September, 2017 we held an event, the “Shochu Event,” to showcase Kyushu liquor. ZIPANGU Kyushu Shochu Issue was published a...