We have been making fine sake here since 1842. The brewery was founded by the fifth generation heir of the Kinoshita family, Zenbei, evidently to make use of the rice harvested from roughly thirty hectares (seventy-five acres) of family-owned paddies and the spring water which bubbles unceasingly from the mountain behind the brewery. The sixth and seventh generations each took the hereditary name of Kinoshita Zenbei, and I am the eleventh in line, following the eighth generation (Sentaro), then my grandfather Zenichiro and my father, Juichi.
The name Tamagawa means "Jewel River", and has been our trademark unchanged for 170 years. The Kawakamitani River flows next to the brewery, and it is said that it was lined with fine pebbles in the old days [the word for pebbles in Japanese contains the character for tama]. Rivers, lakes and water are held to be sacred in traditional belief, and so the name plays on two associations of the word tama, suggesting both a clear river and the spiritual sense of a holy jewel.
After I became the eleventh generation kuramoto, I ran the brewery in tandem with Master Brewer Nakai Akio, who had been working here since before I was born. With his characteristic diligence, he sustained Tamagawa quality unwaveringly: his contribution to the company was enormous. After first coming to the brewery at age sixteen, he was a pillar of the firm until his death, forty-eight years later. In 2007, he was succeeded as Master Brewer by Briton Philip Harper. Though still in his forties, he has over twenty years of sake brewing experience, and with his Spontaneous Fermentation series (made without using pure yeast cultures), products made using methods from three centuries ago, and other adventurous projects, he has built up a new fan base for Tamagawa.
As part of the process of revitalizing Tamagawa, in addition to signing on a new Master Brewer, I also changed our symbol from the traditional calligraphy format. This was thanks to renowned artist Sakane Katsusuke (who happens to be my brother-in-law as well as a member of the judging panel of the prestigious Japan Fine Arts Exhibition).
He created a series of powerful label designs centred on the now familiar circular logo showing the characters for Tamagawa in stylized woodblock print style. Our mission is to take the fine rice grown so lovingly by the farmers and turn it into delicious sake. Our work is to bring a smile to the face of the delighted customer, and to help the customer enjoy the power of sake to cheer and relax to the full.
Our aim is to make great sake with integrity, heart, and soul, and we all do our utmost to brew sake that will delight and inspire.
When I consider that it is our job to make people happy, I think that there can be no finer work.