“JOZEN MIZUNO GOTOSHI” is brewed in Minami-uonuma district, Niigata Prefecture.
How the name “JOZEN MIZUNO GOTOSHI” was born
This sake was named after the Chinese philosopher, Lao-Tse’s phrase: The highest excellence (Jozen 上善) is like that of water（Mizu-no-gotoshi 如水）*1. “The highest excellence” means the most ideal way to live. If you want to live that way, you should learn from the way water is, embodied in three characteristics:
Note 1: Reference from “THE TAO TEH KING” translated by James Legge
The first is flexibility. If you put it in a square vessel, it will become a square; if you put it in a round vessel, it will become round. Water does not strive to be contrary, it is in line with the vessel.
The second is humility. Water flows in a lower and lower direction. It never fights and tries to show off its ability or status.
The third is hidden power. It is soft and pliable, yet has hidden power and appears benefiting to all things.
Lao-Tse teaches us that if we can live like this water, we can develop an ideal way of life.
Satoshi Takahashi, the sixth generation head of the Shirataki Co. Ltd. (currently led by Shintaro Takahashi, the seventh generation head), compared the sake made with water from Echigo Yuzawa in Niigata Prefecture to the teachings of Lao-Tse, and launched "JOZEN MIZUNO GOTOSHI" in September 1990 branded with the image of water.
The taste is soft and goes well with anything, and gives you a smooth sensation in the back of the throat.
About the Typeface
When it comes to sake labels, the most common typeface is a flowing brush stroke. Conversely, "JOZEN MIZUNO GOTOSHI" is rendered in an angular font (a type of Mincho font used in word processors of the time) that was eye-catching from the time it was released. It also shows how to read the kanji with Katakana printed on the side.
"The Katakana helped me! I was about to read it aloud incorrectly!" Haven’t you ever had that experience?
This sake was released at a time when there were still remnants of the bubble economy. Young people were flocking to the town of Yuzawa in Niigata Prefecture due to the ski boom, but Japanese sake was not valued highly by them. At that time, there was still a grading system (abolished in 1992) where sake was categorized as special grade or first grade. There were many people who had a bad impression of sake as "old-fashioned," "beverage of drunkards," or "of old men”.
So, the president adopted a completely different typeface, changing the impression of sake to draw the attention of young people, and even added a way of reading the name to make it easier to understand. Everything was based on his strong wish to pave the way to sake for young people.
When you read the name aloud, "JOZEN MIZUNO GOTOSHI," it may sound mature, especially for young people.
About the bottle
Just as in the typeface, they are also conscious about the bottle design.
Sake is usually bottled in brown or green bottles in order to prevent contamination caused by UV rays. However, they decided to use a light blue bottle (at the time of release). The current standard brand "JOZEN MIZUNO GOTOSHI Junmai Ginjo" is bottled in a transparent bottle.
They dared to use a highly transparent bottle, prioritizing the novelty and the image of clear water.
But at the same time, they have not neglected to deal with the problem by reducing the bad effect with the use of a special box for the bottle.
Today, "JOZEN MIZUNO GOTOSHI Junmai Daiginjo" comes in a blue bottle, while the autumn-only "Hiyaoroshi no JOZEN MIZUNO GOTOSHI" comes in a red bottle.
The deep color of the bottles makes you want to pick them up and enjoy the richness of sake as well as the taste.
While “JOZEN MIZUNO GOTOSHI” is clothed in a more formal style, “UONUMA” is recommended by the Shirataki as a sake for everyday use. It is a perfect sake for drinking at night or when you need to take a breather.
Echigo Yuzawa, where the Shirataki Co. Ltd. is located, is in the Uonuma region, famous for its rice.
“UONUMA" was born out of the desire for people to be able to taste it while picturing the scenery of the Uonuma countryside. Of course, the rice, the water, and the people who brew it all come from Uonuma.
What is charming is the shape of the label. Did you notice that the top part is cut into a curve?
This represents the mountains of the Uonuma region. Taste it while imagining the clean air of the mountains of Uonuma .
The typeface is as original and novel as that of "JOZEN MIZUNO GOTOSHI". The lines are very thin for a sake brand. It was written by a calligrapher using a Montblanc fountain pen instead of a brush. The thinness of the lines is both uncommon and impressive.
The dark color of the label and the white typeface suggest the image of snow in a wintry country.
About Shirataki Co. Ltd.
The company was founded in 1855. At the time of its establishment, the company name was "Minatoya”. Its main business was at the time to simply make sake and serve it to travelers. It wasn't until 1894 that the company began to make sake in earnest.
The third generation head of the family, Tozaburo Minatoya, changed his family name to Takahashi, and in the same year, the company changed its name to Shirataki Jozo Honpo（白瀧醸造本舗）, which was the prototype of the current Shirataki Co. Ltd.（白瀧酒造株式会社）.
Shirataki Jozo Honpo used to brew sake in the style of Izumi-ryu (a group of master brewers in the Nozumi region of Niigata Prefecture). It is said that the name of the brewery, Shirataki（白瀧） Jozo Honpo was named after the Chinese character for "white（白）", which was used in the name of the brewery by brewers of the Izumi style.
The "waterfall（瀧）" character in Shirataki （白瀧） came from the water from the "Fudo Waterfall（不動瀧）" in Echigo Yuzawa which flowed into the Minatoya.
In 1951, the company changed its name from Shirataki Jozo Honpo to Shirataki Shuzo （Shirataki Co. Ltd.）which it remains known as today.
Mr. Shingo Yamaguchi, Director,Shirataki Co. Ltd.
Ms. Maiko Matsumura, Sales Department III, Shirataki Co. Ltd.
September 15, 2021
Image data presented by : Shirataki Co. Ltd.
Post interview : I would like to express my gratitude to Mr. Yamaguchi and Ms. Matsumura for their considerable cooperation in preparing for the interview in advance and also preparing their actual products on the day of the interview.
It was impressive that while Mr. Yamaguchi talked passionately about the products, Mr. Matsumura softly and with perfect timing followed him on the contents.
A few days later after I heard good stories, I happened to meet a “UONUMA” in a nearby store. I couldn't help but say loudly, "Wow, this is it!”. Needless to say, I bought it without hesitation. .
I will keep a close eye on both "JOZEN MIZUNO GOTOSHI" and "UONUMA" in the future.