Travel and Adventure

Miura Senzaburō

The father of ginjō sake

Miura Senzaburō

Miura  Senzaburō was a Japanese sake brewer whose “Miura method” of brewing sake with soft water, invented in 1887, laid the foundation for the development of the renowned Hiroshima sake. He’s also known as the father of ginjō sake. In addition to brewing, he also participated in local politics.

Senzaburō was born in 1847 in today’s Akitsu, Higashi-Hiroshima, the eldest son of a successful general merchandise wholesaler. Influenced by his mercantile surroundings, Senzaburō started a sake brewing business in 1876 when he was thirty years old in his hometown. However, every time he made a batch of sake, it would deteriorate and become unfit for sale. This persisted for four years, resulting in tremendous losses. Around 1892, Senzaburō discovered that the cause was the quality of the water. He found that the water in Hiroshima was soft and low in minerals, which nourished the yeast. So he conducted a series of experiments, carefully controlling the temperature and humidity in the brewery. By 1898, he had found the key to brewing with soft water. His method had two main requirements. The first was to cultivate kōji that would penetrate deep into the rice, and the second was to ferment the sake mash slowly at a low temperature.

Rather than keeping the successful method to himself, Senzaburō published the Practical Record of the Modified Brewing Method, and devoted himself to training master brewers to replicate it. His techniques had a great influence on the development of aromatic ginjō sake. Hiroshima breweries were eager to improve their sake brewing methods to produce sake that could compete with the renowned sake from Nada in Hyōgo. Sake produced in Hiroshima using Senzaburō’s method was well received nationwide, and Hiroshima sake took the top honours at the National Sake Competition held in 1907, and the National New Sake Competition that began in 1911. The new method was adopted in many other regions with soft water.

Taketsuru Keijirō, the father of Taketsuru Masataka, was one of the brewers who worked with Senzaburō to improve sake brewing in Hiroshima. Taketsuru Masataka is considered the father of Japanese whisky, and he valued the knowledge of Hiroshima brewers in his distilling business.  

Today, Saijō in Hiroshima stands beside Nada and Fushimi as one of the three most famous brewing regions in Japan. And Miura Senzaburō is still celebrated as the pioneer of modern sake brewing. A fine bronze statue stands of him stands in Sakakiyama Hachiman Shrine in his hometown of Akitsu.


Name in Japanese: 三浦仙三郎

Pronunciation: mee-ura sen-za-boo-rō 

Dates: 1847 to 1908

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