TANAKA ROKUJUGO is brewed in Itoshima city, Fukuoka.

Where the name TANAKA ROKUJUGO came from

Itoshima City is located in the west of Fukuoka Prefecture.  The city is well known for its natural beauty, with the Genkai Sea to the north and the Sefuri Mountains to the south, including Mt. Raizan (955m).  Yamada-nishiki, a rice suitable for sake brewing, is produced in Itoshima which is ranked as one of the top five rice producers in Japan.

The Shiraito Sake Brewery is surrounded by the rice fields of Yamada Nishiki.  The “田 (Ta)” of "Tanaka(田中)" means “rice field” and “中 (Naka)” expresses “in the middle”.  You may notice that the character of “田” visually represents compartmentalized arable land.

“Tanaka (田中)” is also the family name of the brewery.  Running the brewery is the president and 7th generation head, Nobuhiko Tanaka, and his three sons. The name "TANAKA ROKUJUGO" was derived from both the location and their family name.

「Rokujugo(六五)」 meaning “sixty-five" explains that it is made from Itoshima-grown Yamada Nishiki rice polished to 65%.  President Tanaka says, "By polishing the rice to 65%, the taste of Junmai comes out directly.”

“Haneki-shibori” seen only here

In order to discuss Shiraito Sake Brewery's sake, one can't ignore the unique "haneki-shibori" method.

In the final stage of sake brewing, the fermented mash is separated into sake kasu (sake cake) and the liquid resulting from fermentation.  This process is called shibori or pressing.  The most common method of pressing is the "yabuta" method using machines, in which pressure is applied from one side and the fermented mash is pressed evenly.

On the other hand, “haneki-shibori” uses the principle of leverage.  A single stone weighing between 40 and 110 kilograms is added to the sake bag containing moromi (fermented mash) to apply pressure and press it.

While a machine can press a large amount of mash in one day, it takes two days to press a single tank of sake in the haneki pressing method.  “It takes a longer time and gets a smaller amount, but the sake squeezed under “haneki-shibori” results in a purer tasting sake, says President Tanaka.

The 8-meter-long oak tree used in the process is a sight to behold, and the stone that serves as its weight is also massive and powerful.  It takes two craftsmen to lift even a light one, and four to lift a large one.  At times, the total weight of the stone exceeds one ton, and the pressure is applied by gradually increasing the weight.

All of Shiraito Sake Brewery's sake, including TANAKA ROKUJUGO, is pressed in this way.

Line-up of Shiraito Sake Brewery

In addition to TANAKA ROKUJUGO, the SHIRAITO series is listed as Shiraito Sake Brewery's representative and traditional brand.

Near the brewery, in the middle of Hagane Mountain, is the famous Shiraito Falls*1.  The "SHIRAITO" series is brewed with subterranean water from the waterfall as brewing water.

While "TANAKA ROKUJUGO" is made as a sake that is sent out from Fukuoka to the whole country, the "SHIRAITO" series is limited to the Kyushu area.  It is not categorized as Junmai Daiginjo or Daiginjo, but as "SHIRAITO 35," "SHIRAITO 45," "SHIRAITO 55," and "SHIRAITO 70," depending on the rice polishing ratio - a unique and fashionable take on sake naming.

In 2021, "SHIRAITO 35" won the gold medal at the National New Sake Competition for the 2020 sake brewing year.  I would love to see it outside Kyushu as well.

Note 1:Shiraito Falls is a scenic beauty designated by Fukuoka Prefecture.

It is located in the middle of Hagane Mountain, 900 meters above sea level, at 24 meters high. It is said that the waterfall was named after the way the water flows down, resembling a white thread (Shiraito) hanging down.  The famous Shiraito Waterfall is also found in Fujinomiya City, Shizuoka Prefecture.  As the government in the early Meiji period ordered that waterfalls be given names, it is said that there was a boom in imitating the name of Fujinomiya Waterfall in many places.

About the label

The label is simple!

In "TANAKA ROKUJUGO", you will only see "田中六五“ written in thick brush strokes on a white background.

In the "SHIRAITO" series, the characters’ forms are subtly blended into the color of the base, so that you may not see them in the dark clearly unless you look closely. 

But when you pick it up and turn it over, it is even simpler.

You will find just a small "SHIRAITO 55" printed in the middle of a white background.  The label is very stylish as it fits well on a wine shelf.

The colors on the label are said to represent the blessings of nature, such as "white for rice" and "blue for water.

All labels are designed by President Tanaka's second son.  His eldest son, Katsunori Tanaka, wrote the "TANAKA ROKUJUGO" calligraphy himself.  The brush stroke was brilliant enough that I believed it was written by a famous calligrapher.

His calligraphy has become so well known that he is now helping other breweries with their sake labels.

About Shiraito Sake Brewery

Shiraito Sake Brewery was founded in 1855 in Itoshima, Fukuoka.  The sake was named after the famous Shiraito Falls.  Since then, the brewery has continued to make sake rooted in the local community, and the current Nobuhiko Tanaka is the seventh generation head of the brewery.

There used to be about ten sake breweries in Itoshima, but the Shiraito Sake Brewery is the only one left. Since then, the brewery has been committed to making sake with the people of Itoshima.

The eldest of the president’s three sons, Katsunori, went to Azumaichi Sake Brewery (Saga) for training, and that encounter led to the birth of TANAKA ROKUJUGO.

In the beginning, they started with manufacturing only a small amount, but as they upgraded the taste and increased the quantity year by year, it gradually spread around Fukuoka. Today, through communication with other breweries as well as with people from various other fields, they are searching for a direction and a way to make sake that suits the times.

Shiraito Sake Brewery

Here is a message from President Tanaka.

We aim to make sake that tastes good no matter who drinks it, sake that doesn't get stuck in your throat.  We want everyone in Fukuoka to drink it.

From November to January, "TANAKA ROKUJUGO" is shipped as a nama-zake (unpasteurized).  It's delicious even when warmed. You may think, "Warming nama-zake?  But I’m sure you'll be surprised by what you find.”

Interview Date:November 15, 2021

Interviewee: Mr. Nobuhiko Tanaka, President and Seventh generation of Shiraito Sake Brewery

Image Data from: Shiraito Sake Brewery Website

Interview Note:When I visited the brewery, which stood in the middle of a spacious area, I felt like taking a deep breath because of its relaxed appearance.

Mr. Tanaka, the president of the company, agreed to be interviewed, and at the end of the interview, he gave me a very detailed tour of the brewery.

The “Haneki” wood and pillars, which are repainted with persimmon tannin every year, were massive enough for me to feel the tradition, but on the other hand, I saw many modern equipment.

Even the device for measuring the alcohol content, which used to be all done manually, was the latest, and Mr Tanaka explained that it turned taking measurements into a matter of seconds.  I could fully feel the Shiraito Sake Brewery's commitment to "keeping tradition alive while introducing new things”. In the middle of the wonderful Japanese garden that can be seen from the room, there was an old white plum tree.  I bought a bottle of "Shiraume no Niwa (White Plum Garden)," named after the tree, on my way home.  I am looking forward to opening the bottle, which is said to be brewed with 10-year old Daiginjo sake.