Ota Sake Brewery was founded in 1892 (Meiji 25) and is surrounded by rich countryside. It is located near the center of the Iga valley, where white egrets can frequently be seen flying in the sky above the rice fields. Primarily using locally grown rice from the Iga area of Mie Prefecture, the Hanzo brand sake is carefully handcrafted.
The Hattori family was believed to have headed the famous Iga ninja for many generations. Hattori Masashige
(later known as Hanzo) was born in 1542, and his father, Yasunaga, served the Lords Ashikaga, Matsudaira,
Tokugawa. After Yasunaga’s death, Hanzo served Tokugawa Ieyasu, the ruler of Japan, as the leader of the Iga
samurai. He frequently led the Iga and Koga ninja to success on the battlefield. The Hanzomon, or Hanzo
Edo Castle (currently the Imperial Palace) was named after Hattori Hanzo.
Sake Rice, Water, Yeast, Master Brewer
These are the four components that determine the delicious flavor of local sake.
Over 4 million years ago, the current Iga basin was part of the bottom of Biwa Lake, and as such, the soil of Iga is abundant with rich nutrients. The mountains encompassing Iga cause a significant temperature drop from daytime to evening, thereby preserving the nutrients in the rice. Thanks to these conditions, top quality sake rice can be produced. A local brand of rice, Kami No Ho, was developed in this favorable environment and now grows alongside the sake rice brewers’ standard, Yamada Nishiki. Ota Sake Brewery exclusively purchases its sake rice from local rice farmers with abundant knowledge and experience.
The kind of water used directly affects the flavor of the sake. As such, the ideal water for producing sake should have low levels of iron and manganese yet contain the other minerals required to support the yeast in alcohol fermentation.
Water flowing down from the surrounding mountains of Iga produces a stream of soft, nutrient-rich groundwater. Ota Sake Brewery uses this water, which is a perfect match for sake production.
During the production process, when the koji-kin, or “friendly fungus,” is added to the steamed sake rice, it converts the starch into a kind of sugar.
The resulting rice and sugar become a starter known as shubo, to which yeast is then added to ferment the sugar into alcohol.
Since the kind of yeast used determines the fragrance and flavor of the sake, it differs according to the kind of sake being produced.
Ota Sake Brewery primarily uses yeast developed in Mie Prefecture, including one that enhances the fragrance in ginjo sake called MK-3, and another that draws out the flavor in junmai sake called MK-1.
At Ota Sake Brewery, the 7th generation master brewer, Yuki Ota, has headed a dedicated young team of sake makers since the winter of 2019. At the 2019 Annual Japan Sake Awards, his daiginjo sake Shizuku received an award, and his junmai daiginjo
sake Hanzo “And" received the gold prize at the 2019 Milano Sake Challenge, the top award at the 2020 Mie Sake Awards, Junmai Sake Category, and a gold medal at the International Wine Challenge (IWC) for the Ginjo and Junmai Sake Categories. As the youngest master brewer in Mie Prefecture, Yuki Ota has consistently received praise and awards for his products. With the aim to create innovative products, he makes no compromises, constantly making
improvements through trial and error while still maintaining traditional sake making techniques.
In June 2020, Mie Prefecture received the designation of Geographical Indication (GI) for its regional brand of sake. In order to receive this designation, the sake must be made with domestic rice and water collected from Mie, and be produced, stored, and bottled in Mie. After the Mie Sake Brewers Association confirms the sake is worthy of this designation, the GI logo mark can be put on the label to indicate the designation. Ota Sake Brewery is dedicated to using distinctive Mie sourced ingredients for sake production, and as a result, nine kinds of Hanzo brand sake have received the GI certification.