“Make a fabulous product from the raw material you generate, and make it enjoyable.”
Who can make the basics of manufacturing simpler than this. The brand “Inazo” started with this simple statement.
Started in 2004 and rebranded a few years ago, Inazo has been special for Tomonobu Mitobe, the CEO of Mitobe Sake Brewery. Sake is made from rice, and most breweries procure it from market. Mitobe Sake Brewery was obviously one of them. However, Tomonobu wanted to do it differently.
“We cannot control the quality of rice if we rely on market or rice farmers, but we can if we make rice by ourselves,” said Tomonobu. “That way, we can brew better and consistent sake.”
Tomonobu is fairly simple-minded when it comes to what sake he would like to brew. “I want everyone to enjoy my sake,” said Tomonobu. “I do not take sake as difficult. Sake can delight people all over the world.” To embody this vision, he put a short phrase on the back of the label – 「人生は、遊びだ。」, meaning “life is pleasure.” Also, rare enough for a sake bottle, there is no word on the front label but only a drawing of an elephant holding paddy (“Ina” in Inazo means paddy and “Zo” means elephant in Japanese).
Of course, things have continued to challenge his aspiration. It cannot be so easy to grow rice; otherwise there should not be so many abandoned rice farms throughout the country. Unsurprisingly, their first year turned out to be red ink. However, this did not let down Tomonobu and his team.
Now, Inazo is brewed only out of the Yamagata-origin sake rice – Dewa Sansan – that is grown at his farm. What is even more notable is that it is the sake brewers (kurabito) of Mitobe Sake Brewery who work to grow rice. Historically, sake breweries hire a lot of rice farmers just for winter when breweries are the busiest. Mitobe Sake Brewery does both sake brewing and rice farming by itself.
Inazo is a great example of the effort toward SDGs. When sake is brewed, sake lee (sake kasu) come out of it. Instead of throwing it away, Mitobe Sake Brewery sells it to a livestock farm so that it can be fed to cows. Then, they buy from the livestock farm the farmyard manure to toss to the rice farms. That way, nothing is wasted.
In Tendo, Yamagata, Tomonobu works with his colleagues every day to craft sake of his own. Here, he waits for you to touch his sake story. Enjoy his sake in the region where it is brewed.