Our Toji - Master Sake Brewers -
Juichi Hirano - Honorary Toji -
Born in Saraki, Kitakami, in Iwate in March 1929, Juichi Hirano started making sake in 1946 under Sagoro Hirano who was said to be the most talented Nanbu Toji. In 1949 he came to Urakasumi when Sagoro became Urakasumi's Toji. Then after working at a different brewery in Ibaraki for 2 years as a Toji, he became Urakasumi's Toji to carry on Sagoro's sake making and spirit in 1960. After that, Urakasumi won numerous awards in a variety of competitions, and in 1973 Juichi released "Urakasumi Zen", our signature sake, to the world which made the name of Urakasumi famous and also gave him a high reputation as a talented Toji. He supervised Urakasumi's sake brewing as a Toji and also as a manufacturing manager, and he is now engaged in teaching young brewers as an honorary Toji.
With his many years of effort and contribution to the development of sake making, he received a commendation from the Minister of Labor as a superb technician in 1989, and five years later he was decorated with the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Silver Rays.
Juichi says "Good health matters the most in sake making. If you are unfit, you cannot do a good job. The next important thing is creating an environment suitable for sake making. Then, you must work hard all the way through till the end."
Kunio Onodera - Toji at the main brewery -
Kunio Onodera was born in Ichinoseki in Iwate in 1956. After finishing high school in 1974, Onodera went into his family's farming business. He started his first sake brewing work in 1976 as a seasonal worker at a brewery in Kesennuma as there is no farming work in winter. The Toji at the brewery in Kesennuma was a disciple of Sagoro Hirano, so Juichi Hirano asked the brewery if there was anyone who could come help out at Urakasumi. Then Kunio got a chance to help Urakasumi's sake making before the brewing work started at Kesennuma or when rice planting and harvesting work had finished.
Onodera studied "Urakasumi's sake making in the Hirano style", and was qualified as a Nanbu Toji by passing an exam in July 1988. Then he officially joined Urakasumi in November 1993 at Hirano's invitation. He became an assistant Toji 2 years later and became a Toji at the main brewery in May 1997. In September 2006, he moved to the Yamoto brewery, before returning to the main brewery in March 2012. In his three-decade career of sake making, he has worked at Urakasumi for more than 20 years and Urakasumi has won gold prizes for 7 times with him as Toji. He continues his splendid work and passes down "Urakasumi's sake making in the Hirano style" to the brewers.
Isao Akama - Toji at the Yamoto brewery -
Born in Shiogama in Miyagi in 1967, Isao Akama majored in food hygiene at university and studied zymurgy. In the advice of his professor, after graduation, he decided to pursue his career in the field of fermentation, and joined Urakasumi in his home town. He started his job at the main brewery first and moved to the Yamoto brewery when it was built in June 1994.
He studied "Urakasumi's sake making in the Hirano style" and was qualified as a Nanbu Toji in July 2002. In May 2003, he became an assistant Toji and was promoted to Yamoto brewery's Toji in March 2012. He has been dedicated to brewing sake with a stable quality and he aims to brew sake harmoniously with all the brewers. Since he took a position as a Toji, Urakasumi has won gold prizes at the Annual Japan Sake Awards for three consecutive years since 2012. Also at Miyagi's Sake Awards held in 2013, Urakasumi has won an award from the head of Furukawa Agricultural Experiment Station in Junmai-shu (pure rice sake) category using Miyagi rice. Year on year he has built his career and he is now making a new history for Urakasumi.