POINTS OF DISTINCTION
Watari Bune, the rice used to make this sake, is one of the only pure strains of sake rice being used today
Huchu Homare means “Pride of Huchu” – to celebrate the history of the town of Ishioka and its water
HUCHU HOMARE BREWERY
The Huchu Homare Brewery is located in the town of Ishioka, in Ibaraki prefecture, just an hour from Tokyo by train. Hundreds of years ago, Ishioka was the capital, or huchu, of Ibaraki. The Huchu’s cherished spring water was called Huchu Rokui. Medium soft and iron-free, it is perfect for brewing sake. When the first generation Yamauchi founded the brewery in 1854, he named it Huchu Homare or “Pride of Huchu” to celebrate the history of Ishioka and its water. Today, the brewery is a national cultural landmark, producing just twelve thousand cases of sake per year.
A SINGLE, PRIZED INGREDIENT
Watari Bune, the rice used to make this sake, is one of the only pure strains of sake rice being used today. It is also the father strain to the most celebrated sake rice, Yamada Nishiki, with Yamadaho as its mother. Most people think Omachi rice was a parent strain to Yamada Nishiki, but it was actually Watari Bune, which had gone out of use for fifty some-odd years, until this brewery revived it.
THE RE-BIRTH OF WATARI BUNE
The owner of the Huchu Homare Brewery, Takaaki Yamauchi learned about Watari Bune from an old farmer who had grown this rice. From the Meiji (1868-1912) to early Showa (1926-1988) periods, Watari Bune was highly valued. However, because the “ear” of the rice plant grew tall and it required late harvest, in late October (most sake rice is harvested in mid-September), Watari Bune could easily be damaged by typhoons before it was ready. The length of the season also made it more susceptible to hungry insects. As a result, Watari Bune fell out of use.
INSPIRATION, VISION AND PRESERVERANCE
After learning about Watari Bune, Yamauchi-san, the 7th generation director of the Huchu Homare Brewery started his hunt for the rice seeds. He ultimately found this rice under preservation at the Ministry of Agriculture’s National Research Institute. He secured fourteen grams of seedlings and, with a team of local farmers, grew his first crop.
Being the toji, or brewmaster, Yamauchi’s education extended from agriculture into brewing. He learned how the rice behaved, what its unique characteristics were and how to achieve different flavors with different types of sake. He shared his learnings with his farmers and they continued to improve their crop.Watari Bune is a story of passion, dedication and joy. Watari Bune is the name of the rice varietal used to make this sake. It is a rice strain that was used with great enthusiasm in the 1920’s and 30’s because of the wonderful sake it made. However, the rice stalks grew very tall and it harvested late in the year, in October. Typhoons destroyed the crops and bugs ate away at the “hanging fruit” before harvesting. Eventually, the farmers and sake brewers got tired of using this rice and stopped. Some sixty years later, Takaaki Yamauchi, 7th generation president and brewer of Huchu Homare brewery in Ibaraki learned of this great rice. He decided to pursue it, and pursue it he did. Eventually, in 1988, he tracked down seedlings that had been preserved, freeze-dried, by the Japanese government at their Agricultural Research Center. He started with 14 grams of seedlings and planted them in 1988. It wasn’t until three seasons later, in 1990, that he was able to brew his first batch of sake and create the Watari Bune brand. From there, it became a cult brand in Japan, with rave reviews in the sake press and the brewing community.
Watari Bune is the name of the rice used to make this sake. The brewery revived this rice strain after it had been extinct for sixty years. It took them three years before they had enough rice to brew their first batch of sake. It is now a cult favorite among sake aficionados.