Fighting Spirit

« I am categorically opposed to war, it destroys culture ».

In the mid sixties, noticing how certain young adults are turning their back to nihonshu, Yoshimasa Ogawahara endeavours to resuscitate Junmai sake (pure rice, i.e. without any addition of alcohol). It has disappeared from shelves, in line with various regulations whose implementation started during the War. The National Tax Administration starts by blocking the sale of the product, however Ogawahara san eventually wins the case, together with a few peers, in 1967~1968. In 1987, Shinkame (Saitama Prefecture; the name is made of the characters for “deity” and “turtle”) becomes the first sakagura to produce 100% of Junmai sake. Against the trend as well, he keeps advocating warm sake (with exceptions, but this applies to his daiginjos), a tradition then battered in large cities, with the emergence of aromatic ginjo-shu. Warm sake is now coming back in fashion, with a growing number of places or events hosted by kanzakeshi (warm sake sommeliers). Last but not least, Yogimasa Ogawahara ages a large proportion of his sake during a few years before releasing them (“Hikomago” brand, which means great grand child, see picture), without calling them “koshu”, ie aged sake. “That is how sake should be …”. Despite a fragile condition, Ogawahara san took some time to receive me with Alexandre Jean, “flying” wine sommelier, for an exchange and a tasting session. It was an exciting moment to meet this amazing character who moved nihonshu forward looking at the rearview mirror. He concluded the meeting with the strong statement that opened this article. Please take good care of yourself Mr. Ogawahara!


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