Sake brewer overcomes disaster

Typhoon Faxai was one of the most devastating storms in recent memory, causing widespread destruction in eastern Japan. Communities throughout the region are still reckoning with the damage. For one business, the storm came at the worst possible time.

Master sake brewer Hayato Shoji always looks forward to seeing the first bottles of the brewing season, but this time there was an extra feeling of relief.

His Kidoizumi brewery in Chiba Prefecture was right in the path of Typhoon Faxai, the record-breaking storm that tore through the region in September.

The typhoon toppled Kidoizumi's 20-meter chimney, an icon of the brewery that had stood for 60 years. It also ripped panels from the building's outer wall. And it happened just as they were about to begin brewing season.

the iconic chimney of the Kidoizumi brewery
The iconic chimney of the Kidoizumi brewery was destroyed by Typhoon Faxai.

Kidoizumi is known in the sake world for its back-to-basics brewing, eschewing industrial methods. Shoji favors a traditional technique that uses natural yeasts and lactic bacteria in the air. It takes more time and care than modern techniques.

Brewery staff cool the steamed rice.
Watch Video: 02:05

Like most craft brewers, he can only make sake in the colder months, when it's easier to control brewing and the cold air curbs the spread of unwanted bacteria.

This season, he had to write off one of those months as he repaired his brewery.

The team finally got started in November. One month late. That meant they missed the busiest sales period, when sake flows freely at year-end parties, and people send bottles as seasonal gifts.
"Every time we got calls from customers asking about the new sake, I felt sorry that we couldn't offer any to our customers at the right time," Shoji says.

freshly brewed sake
Freshly brewed sake finally fills the tank in December.

But on Christmas Day, Kidoizumi's sake finally hit the shelves. It was a great Christmas gift for them, and their fans... the taste of overcoming difficulties.