Manufacturer Plant Tour (Hakusen Shuzo)
Hello, this is Maho Tanabe.
In my column, I have been introducing the traditional Japanese seasoning, “Hon-mirin.” I am writing this column in the hope that it will spark your further interest in Hon-mirin.
Today, I wanted to talk about a manufacturer tour that I attended to help us further understand mirin manufacturing.
I recently had an opportunity to visit a mirin manufacturer, Hakusen Shuzo (白扇酒造). This was the manufacturer that actually inspired me to start baking guilt-free sweets made with locally-produced, fermented seasoning.
Since it is close to my house, I’ve visited them many times before. But every time I set foot in their site, I am impressed by the depth of elements that go into mirin production.
Let me give you an introduction to Hakusen Shuzo and tell you how the tour went.
“A manufacturer that embraces the value of time” – Hakusen Shuzo
“Through years of experience, preserving tradition and what makes us better.”
Mirin, sake, and shochu are all products with a long history which our ancestors perfected through endless efforts.
From the Edo era until now, Hakusen Shuzo has been making its products by taking time, never compromising on its dedication to creating superior products, using the craftsman handmade method that has been passed down through generations, and only using the highest quality ingredients. This mirin and sake manufacturer, Hakusen Shuzo, is located in the center of Japan, in Gifu prefecture.
The exact year when it was established is unknown, but records show that it was already operating as a mirin shop in the late Edo era and it came to be known as a Kato jozo-ten and was patronized by the locals in the Meiji era. Back then, it procured sake kasu (sake lees) from a local sake manufacturer, produced kasu-tori shochu then finally made mirin. Today, even in Japan, mirin has an image as a seasoning. However, in this period it was consumed as an alcoholic beverage. In 1899, the manufacturer also started producing sake, and since then it has been known as a local sake manufacturer that offers mirin and sake. In 1951, it was established as a company, Hakusen Shuzo, Inc.
In recent years, they have received many awards not only in the mirin category but also in the Japanese sake category. Their cooking-sake is also excellent and I have been a long standing customer.
The Plant Tour
In Hakusen Shuzo, they make mirin in the spring and fall seasons. When I visited this spring, I had an
opportunity to see the following steps:
– Their special koji-making method
– Mirin fermentation
First is the koji-making method which is hand-based and adjusted constantly based on any number of given factors including the season, the climate, and even the temperature and humidity, which change daily.
They start this process by first steaming the uruchi rice to make koji from scratch.
Rice-koji is the base ingredient of mirin. This process is done in a room called Koji-muro, and takes about 46 hours.
I was impressed by the sensitive and delicate work which deals with living bacteria, which varies depending on the temperature and humidity of the specific day and time.
Next is the process of shikomi (fermentation).