Katsuyama, Okuechizen, a mountainous
region in the center of Japan's main island.
Some things are unique to this place.
Such as our sake with its juicy dryness
and majesty that fades away like a dream.
We aim to produce mouthfeel
that exists nowhere else in the world.
Our brewery in the city of Katsuyama stands in the shadow of the sacred mountain Hakusan in Okuechizen, to the north-east of Fukui Prefecture.
This ‘snow country’ is known for its particularly heavy snowfall and renowned among sake breweries for producing the large quantity of Gohyakumangoku, a rice specifically developed for brewing sake.
This area once flourished as one of the largest religious centers in the nation.
Over 1300 years ago, an eminent priest known as Taichou chose Mount Hakusan (which translates literally as ‘white mountain’) as a site of worship, and ordered the construction of Heisenji Temple on its slope. The temple flourished from the late 15th century to around the end of the 16th century. The monks there formed a military group of over 8000 men, which gave them influence with the central government and ruling society of samurai.
The Ogasawara family were famous instructors of samurai etiquette, advising noble families all over the country including the Shogun’s own.
They served as feudal lords of Katsuyama for eight generations, from the 17th century until the modern era. The brand name ‘Ippongi’ was named by Lord Ogasawara as the sake for Ogasawara family.
The name Ippongi is taken from the Zen concept of DAI ICHI GITAI, meaning ‘ultimate truth’.
Brewing sake at Ippongi
The Ippongi Sake Brewery was founded in 1902 by Nikichi Kubo, fifth head of the Kubo family. He inherited the sake brand name ‘Ippongi’ from the Kasamatsu family, one of the wealthy families in the area.
His brewery gained a reputation for its 'crisp, dry sake' which still retained the characteristic savoriness Fukui is known for. A mere 20 years after it was established, the brewery became the largest sake producer in Fukui Prefecture.
From the 1960s onward, the brewery adopted a framework based on the Nambu method* of brewing in an attempt to produce a clean and pure profile that went beyond the existing dryness and crisp finish.
However, they faced a serious obstacle.
The Nambu method was developed in a cold, dry climate, whereas the Okuechizen climate was different – cold, but also humid.
And it is this very difference in climate that led to the creation of Ippongi's unique characteristics.
Over a span of six decades, four generations of master brewers at Ippongi have immersed themselves in the Nambu method.
They brewed and learned diligently through the cold, humid winters and passed on the skills they developed.
This fusion of Okuechizen climate and terrain with the Nambu method of brewing allowed them to go beyond the classic light, clear Nambu profile, creating the combination of transparency and softness unique to Ippongi.
*Nambu method of sake brewing
The Nambu method of sake brewing dominates the Pacific Ocean side of the northern part of Japan's main island, an area known as Tohoku. The fundamentals of fermentation in the low temperatures of this dry and cold region, where sake is brewed mainly with soft water, were developed not in pursuit ofvoluminous flavor but instead focused on a smooth and light profile. The Nambu master brewers guild has existed for over 350 years, and is one of the three largest in Japan along with the Niigata and Tamba guilds.
New mouthfeel sensations
unique to this place
Groundwater flowing from Mount Houonji, part of the Hakusan mountain range.
Koshinoshizuku and Sakahomare, sake-specific rice strains perfectly adapted to the local climate and terrain.
Harsh and humid winters, in a basin renowned as one of Japan's famous ‘snow country’ regions.
This climate and terrain created our sake, which evolved alongside local foods.
We want to make sake that embodies the abundance of this fertile land, a sake that could only be brewed here, in Okuechizen.
On the occasion of our 120th anniversary, we continue to pursue mouthfeel sensations that could be created only in this place, rebranding Ippongi as made with sake rice only grown in the Okuechizen region.
Dry, but also juicy.
Sake with majesty that fades away like a dream.
Something that could never come from just anywhere,
a creation unique to this place.