Profile of Rumiko Obata (updated March, 2012)

RUMIKO OBATA profile (renewed in March, 2012)

Rumiko Obata was born in Obata Shuzo,
the fifth generation of sake brewing family in Sado island, Niigata prefecture.

I graduated from the KEIO University
majoring in Political Science.

Prior to returning home, my scope of work and expertise has seen her working
for 7 years with a movie company in Tokyo. In 1995,
an instinctive draw and the passion for sake brewing made me move back
to my beloved hometown, to take over and manage the family owned business growing
it and entering the global market.

Founded by Yososaku Obata in 1892, OBATA SHUZO prides itself for using
the traditional hand-made methods for more than a hundred years,
with great appreciation for the abundant nature that surrounds the beautiful island.

Starting with pure, soft groundwater, and world-famous sake rice,
Sado has become known as an excellent place to produce sake.
And since, Obata-shuzo has been making excellent handmade quality sake named Manotsuru.

Manotsuru has a family emblem, “Four Diamonds”, which means the essential factors
for brewing sake…”rice” “water” ”people” and “terroire”.
The combination of these factors make MANOTSURU distinctive, impressive and memorable.

MANOTSURU has won the gold medals at the national sake competition for 6 years in a row,
and it is the longest record in Niigata in this Sake Kingdom.
Also, Manotsuru won the Gold medal at the International Wine Challenge 2007, in London.

I sometimes have talks and sake seminar in University, a speak knowledge of sake brewing and appreciating the heavenly brew. Bringing together food and sake will be the topic of interest in today’s talks.

---USA "Wine & Spirits" Feb, 2009
USA " LA times"


Sake and Terroir

In the world of wine, we often come across the term `terroir`.
The concept of terroir is quite complex to define, however, it may be simplified as `the ecological conditions (climate, soil) surrounding the region where the grape is grown, and the overall effect it has on the wine that is produced.`

As we are living in the age of globalization, new brewing techniques and superior technology have allowed for the mass production of wine to be shipped across the globe.
In order to compete, smaller wineries have taken to concentrating on brewing wine from grapes under the particular conditions of their regions, thus creating unique, one of a kind wines.

For sake, on the other hand, the concept of terroir may not be incorporated as easily as with wine. Rice, the main ingredient in sake production, undergoes a complex fermentation process, heavily altering its nature. Thus, the unique characteristic of the rice does not have as much an impact on the end product when compared to the importance in relationship between the grape and wine.

However, we, sake brewers in the Niigata prefecture, have a long history of being known for producing sake that reflects the unique characteristics of our region.
The sake from Niigata, labeled the `Kingdom of Jizake (regional sake)`, is especially known for having a unique quality known as `tanrei`.
`Tanrei` may be defined as `delicate, gentle and smooth`.

There are many reasons behind the prestigious reputation we have achieved.
For one, our climate has contributed to the availability of fresh water streaming down snow capped mountains, ideal for sake production.
After 15 years of trial and error, we have created a special rice grain, Koshi-Tanrei, specifically for producing Niigata’s sake.
We have built a school in 1984, providing higher education for sake brewers, teaching brewing techniques and familiarizing them with new technology.
In 1997, we established the Niigata Original Control, the first organization in the nation with the sole objective of sake quality maintenance and overseeing brewing conditions to guarantee that only the best sake is produced.
We are also the organizers of an annual sake event, `Sake-no-jin`, where over 50,000 participants from across the nation gather to enjoy pairings of regional cuisine and sake.
We have worked diligently to distinguish and give meaning to sake produced in Niigata. In doing so, we have learned to brew sake that truly reflects our region.
Though it may be difficult to apply the concept of terroir to sake, I believe it is most important to take pride in the sake produced by each unique region, and set out on a never ending journey to perfect it.
Our Niigata’s sake has been developed and growing harmoniously with Niigata, and it has been loved by many people.
Niigata has been nurturing sake and sake memorize Niigata. And then, as it has always been, our sake will speak for Niigata.

Rumiko Obata
From my essay published in Niigata Nippo newspaper
"Sake and Terroir"

Kanpai ! with sake from Niigata

◆◇◆Kanpai ! with sake from Niigata◆◇◆

The pride of Niigata, without a shadow of a doubt, would be its sake.
The 97 sake breweries in Niigata have been working for generations to maintain its title as the Kingdom of Jizake(regional sake).
The majority of the breweries are small, where sake is still produced by hand.
However, the strong demand for their sake has shipped their product to connoisseurs all across the globe.

Along with the strong influence Japanese cuisine has had in many countries, sake has found a solid presence as well.
The word jizake, or regional sake, is being used to distinguish the difference between their mass produced counterparts.
Many tasters have likened the characteristics of sake to that of wine.
There are even a select few who have an appreciation for a particular region.

In the midst of this newfound appreciation for jizake, sake from Niigata has been praised by many as having a gentle, delicate and smooth characteristic known as Tanrei.
it may not be long before Niigata is recognized as a region where quality sake is produced, likened to Bordeaux, Napa and Bourgogne in the world of wine.

Not limited to sake, nature and tested, age old techniques are usually at the center of a finely crafted product.
Niigata is blessed with an ideal climate for sake production, supplying brewers with pure water flowing from streams along snow capped mountains and an abundant supply of high quality sake rice.
The brewers then craft nature`s bounties into high quality sake with their age old brewing techniques.
The whole experience would be further enhanced by pairing this sake with regional cuisine.

Being from Niigata, I sincerely wish for people to appreciate the region along with its sake. It is said that jizake is truly appreciated when one has tasted it in the region where it was produced. It would be an honor if one day, people from across the globe would set foot on Niigata`s soil and enjoy our jizake paired with traditional regional cuisine.
Conveniently located and surrounded by the Sea of Japan, Niigata has the potential of becoming an important city in northeast Asia.
Niigata should not become a city of neon lights and imposing high rises.
It should be appreciated as a city where ears of rice wave gently in the wind, where fertile soil give birth to flavorful vegetables, where you can have a conversation with the stars come nightfall.
Niigata would make for an ideal Garden City, rather than a Metropolis.

It gives me much pride in thinking that this second, a bottle of sake from Niigata is being enjoyed by someone, somewhere in a country far, far away..
Our sake has crossed over the borders of many countries, and have left its tasters with a little tale of Niigata.

To my hope of Niigata gaining international recognition,
I raise my glass of sake.

"Kanpai !"

by Rumiko Obata, from my essay published in the article of Niigata Nippo newspaper