Japan’s first female brewer with the first-grade license, Ms. Kazuko SHIITANI
August 06, 2020
Japan’s first female brewer with the first-grade license once worked for ICHISHIMA SHUZO, located in Shibata city, Niigata prefecture. She was taking an interview at ICHISHIMA SHUZO when I visited there. We are lucky to share her interview on our website.
Contents of Ms. Kazuko SHIITANI’s interview are as follows:
Getting married with a farmer, I was engaged in farming when I was asked by an acquaint to work in the kitchen of ICHISHIMA SHUZO because they were looking for kitchen workers then.
The job was to cook meals for kurabito, craft workers there who were engaged in sake production from autumn to next spring. As there were big pots in the kitchen, kurabito often came to get hot water. Working in the kitchen, I was watching them doing their work. Their diligent working style looked cool and attractive to me. So, I asked to the company following autumn to allow me to join in sake production team. Then, simply they accepted me. There were several female workers bottling sake and assisting sake production before me and I started working with them. Our job was mainly physical labor but it didn’t bother me at all because my regular work was farming. The joy of becoming a kurabito was much greater.
Another turning point came to me while I was doing assistant work of sake production. It was Sake Brewing Proficiency Test which started in 1974. Our toji, brew master and vice-toji took the test in the year. Their earnest attitude of preparing for the test looked awesome and the test itself seemed interesting to me. So, I asked our toji to allow me to take the test. He said to me, “If you have decided to try any, take the first-grade.” Then in the following year, 1975, I studied so hard at home after work that my daily sleeping time was three hours or so. Later in the year I took the test and the result turned out to be a PASS. It surprised me a lot because my motivation for the test came from simple admiration. Of course, I studied very hard to pass the test. But I was even more surprised when I heard that I was the only female test-taker who passed either the first-grade or the second-grade test.
After that I got more engaged in sake production work, such as sake analyzing, squeezing sake, making shubo(yeast mash), and making koji(sake yeast) in muro(koji making room). Luckily, I was able to do the same work as male workers did. When I retired from the company, I realized that I truly liked people: working people, studying people…. I met a lot of people in ICHISHIMA SHUZO where I happened to have a chance to work. They were wonderful people who engaged themselves carefully and earnestly in making sake knowing that it is to enter human bodies. That is why I could continue to work there for such a long time of 39 years. Every day was full of joy.
The end of the interview.
Her interview made me realize how tradition is handed over. I am pleased to be able to share her interview on our website.
ICHISHIMA SHUZO’s official website
ICHISHIMA SHUZO’s page on Sake-tour. jp website