The Kikkawa Jozo brewery is located in a national park near the Tanazawa Oyama mountain in Kanagawa, Japan. Long ago this mountain was called Afuri mountain and was considered a holy site due to the summit often being covered in a hazy fog, even on the clearest of days. Worshippers and farmers would travel to the Afuri mountain shrine to pray to the gods for rain. The mountain rains fall on the forest trees and soaks into the ground. Over many years, the raindrops will slowly percolate from the summit to the foot of the mountain and into an aquifer that naturally filters and purify the waters. This eons-old process has been filtering the blessed rain from the sacred mountain for generations. Even as the world changes this process is a source of consistency and permanence.
The Kikkawa Jozo (Brewery) has been around for over 100 years, located in Isehara city of Godo area which means “Door of the Gods”. At Kikkawa Jozo, we brew our sake by pumping naturally purified hard water from Afuri mountain from our carefully controlled 3 on-site wells. We use this water both for washing rice and brewing sake. It is common for rice to be shipped across the country for use in sake production, but the same cannot be said for the unique waters used for making sake. That is why water is known as a gift in the world of sake brewing.
In modern sake brewing, soft water is commonly thought to be the best for sake brewing, but we at Kikkawa Jozo brewery believe differently. In reality, hard water promotes yeast fermentation which enables sake to be brewed at very low temperatures. “Hard water” is water that contains a lot of minerals such as magnesium and calcium. Kikkawa’s well water has a hardness of 150-160, which is incredibly rare in Japan. This high mineral content is a direct result of the long journey the water takes as it filters from the door of the gods at the mountaintop to the natural stone aquifer at the base of Afuri mountain. By using the high mineral content water from Afuri mountain we can produce a uniquely refreshing sake with a distinct terroir.
In modern sake production is to common polish the rice, often times polishing away more than half of the rice grain. This is done because it is ‘safer’, that is to say, polishing away all the amino acids and fats in the brown rice outer layer reduces the risk of off-putting flavors being produced in the final sake. It takes a highly skilled brewmaster to work with these volatile compounds and produce good sake. By removing the majority of potentially problematic base components, brewers are often taking the safe path to ensure that their sake is acceptable. While this method is safe, it often results in high-polished sake being fairly similar, almost uniform with only minor differences from the sake yeast to contribute ethereal flavor suggestions. At Kikkawa Jozo, however, we have taken on the challenge of making “unpolished sake” (90% rice polishing rate). By using the Afuri mountain hard water we can brew at lower temperatures over a longer period of time to produce sake that is full of character. This process takes twice as much time, a tremendous amount of skill, and an absolute mountain of effort. The result is a beautiful-tasting sake that cannot be obtained anywhere else.