Fukushima wins fame in sake contest(全国新酒鑑評会で金賞4年連続日本一)

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Shinya Hoshi, right, and wife Rie of the Kitanohanasyuzoujyou Limited Partnership pose with their award-winning sake at their brewery in Kitakata, Fukushima Prefecture.(10年ぶりの金賞に喜びをかみ締める星慎也さん(右)、里英さん夫妻=喜多方市・喜多の華酒造場)

 FUKUSHIMA -- Fukushima Prefecture has won acclaim for its high-quality sake in a nationwide contest, becoming home to the largest number of brands -- 18 -- to win top prizes four years in a row.
  It was the first time for Fukushima to be the most prolific winner for so many consecutive years.
 The result of the Annual Japan Sake Awards 2016 (see below) released by the National Research Institute of Brewing (NRIB) last month saw increases in the quality of sake brewed in Fukushima, with the sake becoming more well known both inside and outside the prefecture. It is the sixth time the prefecture has held the distinction of most winning brands.

 酒類総合研究所は18日、2015酒造年度(15年7月~16年6月)の清酒の品質を競う全国新酒鑑評会の審査結果を発表した。本県からは都道府県別で最多の18銘柄が金賞に輝き、金賞銘柄の数で4年連続6度目の日本一に輝いた。本県の4年連続日本一は初めてで、県産日本酒の質の高さを改めて示し、全国へのアピール度を一段と高めた。

 Brewers from across the country competed against each other with sake made in the 2015 brewing year, which started from July 2015. Among 854 entries, 413 brands received prizes, with 227 winning the top Gold Prizes.
 From Fukushima Prefecture, 26 brands won prizes from among 41 entries, an increase of two entries from the previous year. In the 2015 contest, 24 brands won the Gold Prizes, a record high. In 2014, Fukushima tied with Yamagata Prefecture at 17 winning brands.

 全国から854銘柄が出品、入賞は413銘柄、うち金賞は227銘柄だった。本県からは昨年より2銘柄多い41銘柄の出品があり、うち入賞は金賞を含めて26銘柄だった。昨年の金賞数は24銘柄で過去最多、一昨年は山形県と並ぶ17銘柄だった。

 Members of the Fukushima Prefecture Sake Brewers Cooperative and other local sake manufacturers have been honored with the top prize, despite consumer concern about radioactive contamination from the nuclear plant accident following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.
 The cooperative actively promotes information about their products to consumers outside the prefecture.
 Since the 2005 brewing year -- when Fukushima Prefecture had the largest number of Gold Prize winners for the first time -- the prefecture has been ranked first or second in terms of the number of top prize winners.

 県酒造組合を中心とした県内の酒蔵は、東日本大震災以降、原発事故の風評被害の影響もいまだ根強い中で、金賞を取り続け、県外でも積極的に情報を発信し続けている。本県が初めて金賞受賞銘柄数日本一となった05酒造年度以降は、常に金賞受賞銘柄数が2位以上の好位置を維持している。

 "We are the prefecture that won the most Gold Prizes for four consecutive years. Concerns [about radioactive contamination] still remain among consumers, but we want to take this opportunity to overcome the situation," said Inokichi Shinjo, chairman of the local cooperative.
 "We're now drawing great attention from people. It is time for each company to continue steady efforts to increase consumers of each product. Middle-ranked manufacturers should work especially hard."

 県酒造組合の新城猪之吉会長は「4年連続で金賞数日本一を達成できた。風評は相変わらず厳しいが、はね返す力にしたい。話題性のある中だからこそ一社一社が地道にファンを獲得しなければならず、特に中堅どころが頑張ってくれないといけない」と語った。

 "This four-year period is included in the five years since the disaster. Agricultural products of Fukushima are still suffering from a heavy burden -- consumer fear," said Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori. "Our prefecture overcame tough circumstances so that we could be No. 1 for four consecutive years. We can attribute this achievement to 'Fukushima Pride.'"

 内堀雅雄知事は「この4年間は、震災の5年間と重なる。県産の農産品は、風評という重い課題に苦しんでいる。逆境を乗り越えて4年連続日本一を達成でき、まさに『ふくしまプライド』だと思う」とコメントした。

 The Fukushima Prefecture Sake Brewers Cooperative was also awarded this year's Furusato Sosei (hometown vitalization) Prize of the 26th Minyu Fukushima Citizen Awards, which honors local sake manufacturers. The annual award organized by The Fukushima Minyu recognized their powerful achievement to spread the popularity of local sake all around the nation.

 福島民友新聞社は、勢いある本県日本酒の全国での実績をたたえて「ふくしまの酒蔵」(県酒造組合、新城猪之吉会長)を「第26回みんゆう県民大賞」の「ふるさと創生賞」に選んだ。

 Delighted brewers
 The local sake industry, including members of the Fukushima Prefecture Sake Brewers Cooperative and other brewers in Fukushima Prefecture, were filled with joy last month when the results of the Annual Japan Sake Awards were released. They made a pledge to promote Fukushima's sake and their passion on making the traditional drink. "We want more people to enjoy sake," said one member.

 喜びに沸く関係者
 酒類総合研究所の審査結果が発表された18日、県酒造組合や蔵元などの関係者は喜びに沸いた。「もっと多くの人に飲んでほしい」。酒造りに込められた熱意。関係者は県産日本酒の魅力を広めることを誓った。 

 Kitanohanasyuzoujyou Limited Partnership made a comeback with Daiginjyou Kitanohana, the Kitakata-based brewery's brand that received the first Gold Prize in the competition in a decade. Kitanohanasyuzoujyou survived a tough period when it was almost shut down.
 "Luckily we won the Gold Prize. Maybe it's beginner's luck," said Shinya Hoshi, 35, sharing the joy with his wife Rie, 32. Hoshi is the manufacturer's executive director and the couple is in charge of producing Daiginjyou Kitanohana.

 喜多の華酒造場(喜多方市)は廃業の危機を乗り越え「大吟醸きたのはな」で10年ぶりの金賞に返り咲いた。「金賞に拾ってもらえた。ビギナーズラックかな」。酒造りを担当する専務の星慎也さん(35)、里英さん(32)夫妻は喜びをかみ締めた。

 Keishi, the 66-year-old president, said he once considered closing his brewery because of his concern about securing successors as his three children are all women. Amid this situation, his eldest daughter Rie married Shinya in the autumn of 2013 when they were working at a printing company in Tokyo. They eventually decided to become brewers at Kitanohanasyuzoujyou.
 The couple recalled that they did not know what to do when they took the first step to become toji professional sake brewers, so they went to NRIB and the Fukushima Prefecture Sake Academy to learn the basics.

 社長の敬志さん(66)は3人の子どもに恵まれたが、いずれも女性で、後継者問題から蔵を畳むことも考えたという。そんな中、都内の印刷会社で一緒に働いていた慎也さんと敬志さんの長女里英さんが2013(平成25)年秋に入籍、同酒造場で酒造りをすることになった。「右も左も分からない状態だった」と振り返るが、酒類総合研究所や県清酒アカデミー職業能力開発校で基礎を学び、杜氏(とうじ)への道を歩み始めた。

 Brewing daiginjo, a quality sake made from rice from which at least 50 percent of the grain has been polished away, was a first for Shinya and Rie. It was also the first time they had used Yamadanishiki, the rice used to make sake.
 Shinya and Rie's sake, which was made through trial and error, missed out on the Gold Prize in the spring competition organized by the prefecture's cooperative, but obtained a score almost as high as the prize winners.

 大吟醸の仕込みは2人にとって今回が初めて。酒米「山田錦」も初めて扱った。試行錯誤した酒は、3月に開かれた県酒造組合の春季鑑評会で、金賞こそ逃したものの、当落線上の採点となった。

 "It probably won't be that easy, but something might happen" -- this expectation turned out to be true and they received phone calls to celebrate their honor at the Annual Japan Sake Awards. "I want to attract people who don't drink sake by treasuring the originality of our brewery," said Shinya.

 「甘いものじゃないが、もしかしたら」。そんな期待が現実となった。金賞の受賞に祝福の電話が寄せられた。慎也さんは「蔵の個性を大切にして日本酒を飲まない層を取り込みたい」と意欲を見せた。

Fukushima's Gold Prize winning sake
・Hirotogawa
・Odayaka
・Abukuma
・Miharukoma
・Okunomatsu
・Aizuchujo
・Nagurayama
・Kaeikura Daiginjyo
・Yauemon
・Aizuhomare
・Kokken
・Eishiro
・Aizu Sakaegawa
・Gensai
・Bandaihou
・Gakujuro
・Issyouseisyun
・Daiginjyou Kitanohana

本県の金賞銘柄
・廣戸川
・穏
・あぶくま
・三春駒
・奥の松
・会津中将
・名倉山
・嘉永蔵大吟醸
・弥右衛門
・会津ほまれ
・國権
・榮四郎
・会津栄川
・玄宰
・萬代芳
・學十郎
・一生青春
・大吟醸きたのはな

 Annual Japan Sake Awards
 A nationwide sake competition that began in 1911. The contest has been held every year with the aim of improving the manufacturing technology and quality of sake. The brands recognized as the very best among the prize winners may be awarded the Gold Prize. Hiroshima Prefecture has a record five-year consecutive title of the prefecture that has won the most Gold Prizes, according to the Fukushima Prefectural government.

( Translated by The Japan News )

 全国新酒鑑評会
 1911(明治44)年に始まった全国規模の清酒鑑評会。清酒の製造技術や品質の向上などを目的に毎年行われており、入賞酒のうち特に優秀と認められた銘柄は「金賞」が贈られる。金賞受賞数日本一の連続記録は県によると、広島県の5年連続。

 【 2016年5月19日・本紙掲載 】