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Sake with a Rebellious Edge

A small-town brewer sets a course for innovation in a tradition-bound industry

Mine City, Yamaguchi Prefecture - Chugoku



Travel to the westernmost corner of the island of Honshu to find Yamaguchi Prefecture, a region of varied coastlines and endless rolling hills. It is from this land, abounding in nature, that some of the world’s top sake brands have emerged, including Asahi Shuzo and Toyo Bijin.


In 2010, Ohmine Shuzou joined the ranks of Yamaguchi brewers, and since then the innovative brand, based in the town of Mine, has been busy carving out a spot for itself in a growing market. Displaying a unique combination of respect for and defiance against the traditional world of sake, Ohmine Shuzou aims to bring the age-old drink to a new generation of connoisseurs in the making.


The Fresh Face of Sake


Sake is usually completely clear, but there are cloudy and even milky varieties.


Sake (often called nihonshu in Japan, although sake refers to alcohol in general and includes nihonshu, shochu, and others) is a rice-based alcoholic drink made by fermentation and filtration. Although it was once the drink of choice, sake experienced a long-term decline in popularity that has only recently begun to reverse. Responsible for this reversal are breweries like Ohmine Shuzou, run by innovative, hands-on owners keen to clear a new path for their brands in a tradition-bound industry.


In a world of tradition, Ohmine’s Shuzou contemporary bottle designs stand out.


Indeed, Ohmine Shuzou’s image is closely tied to its breakaway from certain concepts heretofore considered central to sake brewing. As it spreads its wings, the brewery is finding a happy home in the cups of young people and women in particular.


Ohmine Shuzou uses Yamada Nishiki rice, a prized sake rice.


Sake Reborn



For a young brand, Ohmine Shuzou has a long history. It starts in 1822, when the brewery in Mine first opened, then ends in 1955. Ohmine Shuzou refers to this midcentury closing of the brewery as its death.


The brewery would have remained a relic of bygone days were it not for a son of Mine who dreamed of its resurrection. In 2010, Akiyama Takeshi made his dream a reality by reopening the old brewery and reviving local sake production. Ohmine is the brand he created.


In April 2018, a new brewhouse was built and has become something of a tourist spot owing to both the growing popularity of the Ohmine brand and the brewery’s polished look. Indeed, the brewery has found an audience on social media, where posts of the snow-white walls of the brewhouse, reminiscent of rice, and the brewery’s sleek packaging are popping up on Twitter and Instagram.



The polished new look came with a new attitude—and a battle cry: “Against Sake World.” Vocal in its defiance of certain aspects of the sake world, Ohmine Shuzou respects the industry’s traditions while at the same time refusing to be a slave to fixed concepts. This novel approach to brewing has led the brewery to create a fruity-flavored sake that is unique in every aspect.


The chronology of the brand’s history in neon lights takes pride of place in the brewery’s entryway.


Discover the Taste of Defiance Mixed with the Power of Nature


The nearby Akiyoshidai Plateau, whose limestone plays a role in sake production.


A major difference between sake brewed at Ohmine Shuzou and orthodox sake is the alcohol content. Most sake sits at 15 percent or more, but Ohmine Shuzou’s sake hovers around 14 percent. This lower alcohol content was chosen for good reason—Ohmine Shuzou believes that a perfect balance of sweet, sour, and quintessential Japanese umami flavor can be found at this level. The brewery achieves the low alcohol level with the help of data analysis, which enables it to both control fermentation and ensure uniform quality.



A willingness to go against the grain of the sake industry is one of the secrets of Ohmine Shuzou’s unique brew, but it isn’t the only one. The new brewery is a ten-minute drive from the Akiyoshidai Plateau, a vast karst landscape of green grasses peppered with limestone protrusions, and just five minutes from Beppu Benten Pond, whose crystal-clear, turquoise spring waters are said to promote longevity and effect miracles.


Shikomi-mizu (brewing water) from Beppu Benten Pond.


This blessed water is used by Ohmine Shuzou. The pond’s spring water, which percolates from its source up through the limestone of the nearby Akiyoshidai Plateau, serves as the brewery’s shikomi-mizu (brewing water). Along with any miraculous benefits it may have, the spring water is infused with calcium from its journey through the ground, which has the effect of accelerating the fermentation of alcohol, thus helping to shape the flavor of Ohmine’s sake.


Enjoy a Peek at the Process and a Taste of the Finished Product



Drop by the brewery’s direct-sales office, and you’ll find more than just sake for sale. Visitors are invited to explore the brewery and are welcome to snap photos as they go. Pass through the opening in the mesh wall that separates the office from the brewery, and have a look around. While it’s not possible to enter the inner part of the brewing space, there’s plenty to see as you wander, including views of the action through windows. Most brewing work takes place in the morning, so be sure to plan your visit for shortly after the brewery’s opening at 10:00.



Time your visit for the weekend or a national holiday to take advantage of sake tastings offered at the café, which is open only on those days. For a fee, you’ll be able to sample several of the brewery’s offerings and relish fruity undertones reminiscent of muscat grape and white peach.



A free tasting of the shikomi-mizu from Beppu Benten Pond is also on offer. Try substituting the famed water for the provided yawaragi-mizu (water chaser) as you work through your sake samples, then get a cup of shikomi-mizu drip coffee for a refreshing palette cleanser.


Limited-edition ochoko and tokkuri take the enjoyment of sake to the next level.


Beyond beverages, limited-edition goods, such as ochoko (sake cups), tokkuri (sake serving bottles), and T-shirts, are on sale.


Taking on the World



At the moment, Ohmine Shuzou’s customers are predominantly those in the know about sake, but the brand is steadily growing in prominence. Domestically, Ohmine Shuzou sake can be found at approximately sixty liquor stores nationwide and many restaurants. Abroad, the brand has a presence in Taiwan; Hong Kong; Singapore; Stockholm, Sweden; and New York City, US. From here, the charismatic brand will continue to shake up the traditional world of sake through its flavor, design, and identity—paving the way for a new generation of one of Japan’s oldest drinks.



Contact Information


Ohmine Shuzou

2585-2 Beppu Shuho, Mine, Yamaguchi Prefecture 754-0603



How to Get There


Ohmine Shuzou is located in the city of Mine on Prefectural Road 31, roughly 20 minutes from Mine Interchange on the Chugoku Expressway. The nearest airport is Yamaguchi Ube, which is served by direct flights from Tokyo. From the airport, Mine can be reached by bus (approximately 90 minutes). Buses also run from Shin-Yamaguchi Station on the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen line (approximately 45 minutes). Community buses serve the Mine area. The closest bus station to Ohmine Shuzou is Takadabashi.


Recommended Itineraries


The Mine area overflows with natural wonders. Not far from the brewery, Beppu Benton Pond, Akiyoshidai Plateau, and several limestone caves beckon visitors. The adventurous will find caving, hiking, and cycling to keep them busy during the day. At night, lie back and admire the universe while stargazing. Enjoy camping in the great outdoors at one of two campgrounds, and try your hand at workshops that include woodwork, soba-making, and cooking.


Related Links



Yamaguchi Prefecture Travel Guide (English)

Ohmine Shuzou (English)

​​​​Mine City Tourism Association (English)

​​​​Akiyoshidai Plateau (English)

​​​​Yamaguchi (English)






Featured Cuisine


Sake, often called nihonshu in Japanese, is a rice-based alcoholic beverage made by fermentation and filtration. For over 1,000 years, sake has been brewed across the archipelago. After several decades of decline, the popularity of sake is experiencing a surge both at home and abroad.




    Author: Helen

    Helen hails from a small town in Central Canada. Shortly after completing an honors degree in history, a desire to study karate in its birthplace drew her to Japan. Since arriving in 2006, she has earned her second dan in Goju-ryu karate, fallen head-first into Japanese culture by way of cross-cultural marriage, and written about Japan for a variety of publications. She loves traveling by Shinkansen, curling up under a heated kotatsu blanket, and eating anything with mochi.











All information is correct as of the time of writing.
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