Focus on the Hayashi Honten brewery

We've been meaning to tell you about Hayashi Honten for some time now, a brewery located in the heart of Japan, in the inescapable Gifu prefecture. In this blog post, you'll discover the incredible environment surrounding the brewery and how it has succeeded in setting itself apart by developing a unique method for producing its sakes.

Hayashi Honten sake brewery teamThe Hayashi Honten brewery team

Gifu is nestled in the heart of Honshu Island in the Chubu region. It's a jewel of cultural diversity, rich history and natural splendor. Famous for its feudal heritage, the prefecture is home to such treasures as Gujo Hachiman Castle, perched on the eponymous mountain, and Gifu Castle, which dominates the town and offers a panoramic view of the region.

Japan's famous Gifu CastleGifu Castle is just a stone's throw from the Hayashi Honten brewery.

Gifu is also a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The majestic mountains of the Japanese Alps offer many opportunities for hiking and climbing. The Nagara River, which flows through the region, is famous for its crystal-clear waters and, above all, for the Cormorant Festival. This 1,300-year-old traditional practice involves the use of trained cormorants to catch river fish.

Cormorant Festival on the Nagara River in Gifu Prefecture, JapanThe Cormorant Festival on the Nagara River

The fish are attracted by lights hung by the fishermen from their wooden boats. The fish are caught by cormorants wearing snares that prevent them from eating their catch. Many visitors come to observe this tradition, while enjoying the fish for dinner.

Photo of Mount Hakusan from a distanceLandscape of the Gifu region with Mount Hakusan in the background

Gifu's onsen add a relaxing touch to the experience. Visitors can relax in thermal baths while admiring the natural scenery and tasting "Hoba Miso", a local specialty where meat and vegetables are grilled with miso on magnolia leaves.

Hoba Miso, the culinary specialty of the Gifu regionHoba Miso, a culinary specialty from the Gifu region

Hayashi Honten is a family brewery located on the southern edge of Gifu Prefecture. Founded in 1920, it is now run by Eriko Hayashi, representing the 5th generation of owners. The brewery stands out from its neighbors for its mastery of all production techniques, from ancient Yamahai-type methods to the most modern Daïginjo, not forgetting Koshu-type sake.

Representation of the meticulous work of the Hayashi Honten breweryThe painstaking work of Hayashi Honten Brewery

In 2020, the brewery celebrated its centenary and, with it, the development of a unique technique called "mutenka nyusankin hakko" (無添加乳酸菌発酵) or "Additive-Free Lactic Fermentation". This method consists in no longer adding liquid lactic acid at the start of fermentation, as is conventionally done today, but in introducing a population of lactic acid bacteria that will naturally increase concentrations. Halfway between the Yamahaï and Sokujo methods, this technique enhances umami and offers a highly original palette of flavors.

Hayashi Honten brewery technologyAdding rice to the vat before fermentation, Hayashi Honten

The excellence of their work is also reflected in the choice of ingredients: the rice is grown with clear water from the Nagara River, while the water used for sake production comes from underground springs in the Japanese Alps, a water famous for its exceptional sweetness. Thanks to a meticulous approach, refrigeration methods guarantee consistent quality and fresh sake all year round.

The Hyakujuro series was created in 2010 as a tribute to Kabuki actor Hyakujuro Ichikawa. Ninety years ago, he donated 1,200 cherry trees to his hometown to create a magnificent flower alley, which is used today for hanami. The label evokes the distinctive make-up worn by actors called "kumadori".

Kumadori performance in Kabuki theater

Kumadori is a Kabuki theater style of make-up applied in a bold, expressive way to amplify characters' emotions. It inspired the labels of the Hyakujuro series.

Kabuki is a form of traditional Japanese theater that dates back to the 17th century. Initiated by the actress Izumo no Okuni, it was initially mixed, but later evolved to include only male actors.

The Kabuki-za theater in TokyoKabuki-za in Tokyo, the most famous of Kabuki theaters

Kabuki is a rich, multi-dimensional artistic experience featuring a variety of roles, with key elements such as flamboyant costumes, dramatic poses (mie), traditional music, and specific styles such as Araragi, which emphasizes dance, and Nagauta, which is more musically focused. Its plays, classified as Jidaimono (historical) and Sewamono (contemporary), reflect daily life and Japanese history. Kabuki, with its cultural heritage and worldwide influence, remains a masterpiece of theatrical art, captivating audiences with its unique fusion of tradition and artistic expression. Today, Kabuki is opening up to female participation, with the notable presence of the famous actress Terajima Shinobu. If we mention Kabuki in this context, it's because it's linked to the hyakujuro series. As you may have noticed, these bottles feature a kumadori on the label.