Rooted in the people,
Land and climate
Shrines of the Okitama region, Japanese sake, and art come together for the OMIKI Project.
For the fifth installation, Nagai City’s Suzuki Brewery Shop in Nagai and illustrator Yu Nagaba collaborate.
They valued the connection with the people and relationship with the community, and created an earnestly brewed sake and honest bottle.
An Honest and Earnest Bottle of Sake
for the People
Suzuki Brewery Shop started a long time ago in Namie, Fukushima. The brewery can be traced back to the Edo Period when they were a shipping agent business. There are records of them receiving permission from the Soma Domain to make doburoku (unrefined) sake and producing sake between 1830 – 1843. There were many people who lived in the shipping trade region of Ukedo who relied heavily on the luck of the sea. The work they pursued was dangerous. Suzuki’s Brewery’s representative brand ‘Iwaki Kotobuki’ was loved for its name and flavor. It was known as sailor’s sake and celebratory sake.
That all suddenly changed in March of 2011. The establishment was swept away by The Great East Japan Earthquake. Due to it being only 7 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant after the accident that area was designated as a temporary hazard zone. Being forced to evacuate, Chief Brewer and CEO Suzuki Daisuke left for his family in Yonezawa. He pained everyday over the loss of his brewery and the rice farmers who lived there. “The sudden loss of people close to me and the time I had with them left me with a feeling of despair. I didn’t want to think about brewing sake for a while,” reflected Mr. Suzuki. With the memories of lost ones in heart, he decided to push forward.
Mr. Suzuki began to feel his passion for sake making resurface when he learned that the yeast he used in his old brewery was at a research center in Fukushima. Yamagata Prefecture’s Sake Makers Association introduced Nagai City’s Toyo Brewery to Mr. Suzuki. He purchased a sake brewery from them and established Suzuki Brewery Shop in Nagai. A new chapter began.
Using Clean, Soft Water
And Local Rice
At Suzuki Brewery Shop in Nagai, they use water that flows deep underground, and locally produced sake rice from Nagai. Excluding midsummer, they brew sake three seasons of the year, Careful minute preparations make the best use of water and rice. “I have always felt that Nagai’s water is wonderful,” says Suzuki. “Using local rice and water is the best for brewing sake.” ‘IWAKIKOTOBUKI JUNMAIDAIGINNJO’, which was born from this project, uses natural yeast as well as shizukudori methods to produce a high-quality daiginjo. Shizukudori is a method to filter the sake from the fermentation mash that has been put into a sack. The sack is tied up to allow the sake to drip and filter through the fabric. Depending on the preservation conditions, the sake can be stored for 5 to 10 years. In that way, it is like a vintage wine. This one bottle harbors the ideals of Mr. Suzuki. “While honestly expressing the pure quality of the water and rice, we will pursue the potential of sake,”
A Story told by a Single Line
Suzuki Brewery Shop in Nagai and Nagaba Yu’s collaboration was held online due to the effects of Covid-19. The process of the artist going to the brewery, experiencing the atmosphere, and sharing drinks with the chief brewery was not possible, so they had to rely on their imagination and conversations to make sure they did not lose each other in their ideas.
Mr. Nagaba created a label from the conversations he had with Mr. Suzuki. The label for ‘IWAKIKOTOBUKI JUNMAIDAIGINJO’ was inspired by a tale of grief called ‘The Legend of Unohana Princess’ told in Nagai City. The label expanded on the imagery of this legend. “I thought it’d be more interesting if the label made you think, ’Is she sad? Is she thinking? What is she feeling?’ So, she has this complicated expression,” says Mr. Nagaba. Just as he says, the striking label uses simple linework to portray a woman with a hard-to-read expression. “If she was smiling, then it would just be taken at face value. But I thought if I drew her with no expression, then the people looking would be lured to her.”
In regards to the unique bottle of sake, Mr. Suzuki expresses his gratitude, “The label is very like Mr. Nagaba. I think he took a good look at Nagai. In the legend, the body of the princess was thrown into the river. That river is now our source of water. The rice, the water.. everything is connected. I’m glad the illustration gives a sense of the story.”
Yu Nagaba Gallery
Artist. Born in Tokyo in 1976. Graduated from Tokyo Zokei University, Department of Design. Activities stretch over a wide range of fields, including magazines, books, advertisements, and collaborations with various brands. Previous works include collaborations with UNIQLO, ASICS, G-SHOCK, BEAMS, as well as illustrations for various clients such as Magazine House, RIMOWA, Technics, Spotify, Universal Music, and Monocle, both domestically and internationally.
About the OMIKI Project
At the Yamagata Arcadia Tourism Bureau, as part of the Toyo Arcadia Project for developing omiyage (souvenirs) for the Yamagata area, we aim to promote the local area to the world through the uniquely Japanese culture, sake. Local breweries and world acknowledged graphic artists pair together to pray for the success of sake making, and develop original Japanese sake. We promote the “OMIKI Project” by selling omiyage. The project is to sell, develop, and promote “OMIKI” as high-brand “SAKE” to the world.