In 1620, Date Masamune, daimyo of present-day Miyagi Prefecture, ordered his retainer Uchigasaki Oribe to build a town one day's march from Sendai, on the road north to Aomori. In 1661, Oribe's son Sakuemon founded the Uchigasaki Sake Brewery, which has continued in production for 343 years and is the oldest brewery in the region. Little is known of those early days, and we can only surmise what the brewery's sakes tasted like then. But today we know exactly what to expect when we see a bottle with the brewery's Hoyo label on it. The sake inside will be gentle, reticent and charming, especially so in the case of ones made from regional rice strains like "Manamusume" and "Kura no Hana," which seem to lend themselves especially well to the brewery's delicately nuanced brewing style.
There are commentators who have called attention to the connection between sake and Buddhism, noting how, after all, it is the tiny microorganisms who do all the work, with human beings acting as mere coaches on the side. Brewmaster Shoji Kano lets them do the work, but ensures that their every need is sincerely and attentively met.
"If sakes were people," one enthusiast commented recently, "Kura no Hana daiginjo would be a young girl playing gaily in a meadow." By aspiring to produce a label that is light, winsome and graceful, the Uchigasaki Sake Brewery has produced one of the very few "crossover" sakes in the United States: Even flinty burgundy-sippers light up with a smile at first sip.