Urakasumi, located in the town of Shiogama, Miyagi prefecture, on Japan's North East coast, translates in English as “Misty Bay” (ura is “bay” and kasumi is “mist”), simply capturing its picturesque seaside surroundings.
At a glance:
195 year old, 13th generation family-run brewery
Painstakingly rebuilt after being devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011
37 Gold Prizes in Annual Japan Sake Awards & won more Gold Prizes than any other sake producer
Medalled every year in the International Wine Challenge since 2007
The brewery started production in 1724 and the current president of Urakasumi, Kôichi Saura, is the 13th generation (Thirteenth!) president from the Saura family.
Urakasumi sake is actually produced at two breweries; the historic main Shiogama brewery, as well as a modern brewery in Higashi-Matsushima city, which produces the volume necessary to make Urakasumi a sake-exporting powerhouse. Together, the two have propelled the company’s reputation of creating exceptional sake to the point that Urakasumi has become heavily decorated in competitions.
Urakasumi’s Shiogama brewery has earned a record 37 Gold Prizes in the Zenkoku Shinshu Kampyôkai (Annual Japan Sake Awards). When that number is combined with the 15 golds from the Yamoto brewery, the company has won more Gold Prizes than any other sake producer in Japan.
The sake is equally dominant overseas. Urakasumi has been awarded a Gold, Silver, or Bronze medal every single year in the IWC (International Wine Challenge) since 2007, the year a sake category was added. The contest is judged by a panel of Japanese and non-Japanese industry experts based on quality and taste. Furthermore, the U.S. National Sake Appraisal saw so many Urakasumi Shiogama brewery victories that in 2018 Urakasumi was presented with the Emerald Award, awarded annually to the brewery with the largest number of cumulative awards (the brewery also cannot have received the award previously). The list of other local, regional, and national contest victories in Japan are far too numerous to mention here.
Born in Ichinoseki in Iwate in 1956, Kunio Onodera studied "Urakasumi's sake making in the Hirano style", and was qualified as a Nanbu Toji by passing the examination in July 1988. He officially joined Urakasumi in November 1993 at Hirano's invitation. He became an assistant Toji 2 years later to later become Toji at the main brewery in May 1997.
Born in Shiogama in Miyagi in 1967, Isao Akama has spent much of his life studying or practicing Zymurgy - the science of fermentation. He started his job at the main brewery first and moved to the Yamoto brewery when it was finished in June 1994.
He qualified as a Nanbu Toji in July 2002 and in May 2003, he became assistant Toji and was finally promoted to become Toji of the Yamoto brewery in March 2012. He has been dedicated to stable quality sake brewing and he aims to brew sake harmoniously with all the brewers.
Since he took the Toji position, Urakasumi has won gold prizes at the Annual Japan Sake Awards five times for the 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018 editions.