Preserved traditions.
Continuously refined techniques.

Traditional distillation techniques received from faraway lands that have been passed down unbroken from generation to generation.
Brands whose distinct flavour is determined by the touji master distillers’ tastes and skills.
In order to craft such delicious shochu, these techniques and flavours are constantly being refined and evolved.

Celebrating 500 Years of Kuma Shochu Culture and History

In the Hitoyoshi Kuma area, the creation of rice shochu began around 500 years ago (during the Muromachi period). It is said that the introduction of a distillation method might have spawned shochu creation in the area as Lord Sagara, who governed this area at that time, had actively traded with Southeast Asia and the Asian continent. People found the liquor alluring and shochu instantly spread around the area. The shochu production technique acquired from the distinctive culture of the Hitoyoshi Kuma area, where there are still 27 distilleries found throughout the valley region, has been passed down for nearly 500 years. They have kept the traditional method and diverse tastes of shochu. The taste of each shochu brand largely depends on the touji, or master distiller. The distinct taste of each distillery is passed on among the touji from generation to generation and each touji aims to diligently continue the production of Kuma Shochu while exploring new perspectives on making shochu, a culture of which this region is proud.

Rice Shochu: Japan's Oldest Type of Shochu

The Kuma Shochu Historical Timeline

Muromachi Period
First half of the 16th CenturyShochu production begins in the Kuma and Satsuma areas.
1546Portuguese merchants inform Francis Xavier of “a drink made from rice (rice shochu) called Oraka that people of all castes drink”.
1559 An inscription on the Sagara clan’s famous Koriyama-Hachiman shrine is the oldest written record of the term ‘Shochu’, stating: “My master is stingy and never let me drink shochu while working. What an annoyance.”
Azuchi-Momoyama Period
1592~1598Bunroku era (1592-1596) and second Japanese invasion of Korea (1597): The Sagara clan served Hideyoshi in his campaign into the Korean peninsula, where they imprisoned Korean shochu distillers and brought them back to Japan.
Edo Period
1657The production of alcohol becomes officially regulated, and kabu “stock” licenses become necessary for the selling of alcoholic beverages (for those in the service of Hitoyoshi castle). A different kind of license was required for those outside the service of Hitoyoshi castle. No licenses were required for home use.
Only 20 distilleries were approved licenses for the production of rice shochu.
The peasantry crafted shochu from various grains, such as barley, while rice shochu was considered highly valuable.
1705年The cultivation of sweet potato began in Kagoshima prefecture (followed by the production of sweet potato shochu in 1782)
Meiji Period
1871The official alcohol regulation system is abolished and permission to craft alcohol is given to anyone who applies. 60 new distilleries are established.
1875According to the Higo (presently Kumamoto Prefecture) Kuma district magazine, sake production is 1.3 times that of shochu.
1898Home production of shochu is officially banned .
1902The official full-scale selling of shochu begins. Each distillery begins branding and distributing their products.
Taisho Period
The use of white rice begins (as opposed to brown rice); the Niji Shikomi method (“second moromi fermentation”) is implemented (the Donburi, “big bowl” method had been used up to this point).)
192353 registered producers, producing 1723kl worth of shochu.
Showa Period
1940The use of black koji begins (yellow koji had been used up to this point).
1945Due to a shortage of rice, regulated rice shochu production was put on hold for 5 years. Potato and barley shochu production continued.
1950The use of white koji begins (after 1970 almost 100% of production is done with white koji).
1972Vacuum distillation stills are introduced.

監修:公益財団法人 地方経済総合研究所