The story of the founding of the Tsukasa-Botan brewery, begins at the dawn of the Edo era, in 1603 (the 8th year of the Keichō era), when Kazutoyo Yamauchi was given 240,000 Goku (a way of measuring land based on production value) of land in Tosa, on Shikoku island, as spoils of war, gifted from his lord, the first shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Tokugawa Ieyasu. Following this, Shigeyosi Izuminokami Fukao was appointed chief retainer of the domain, and ruled over the 10,000 Goku of Sakawa city. Close by the brewery today still stands the residence of its founders, the Takemura family. Now designated an Important Cultural Property of Japan it was, in its heyday of the mid-Edo period a luxurious mansion. Sakawa is located in a river basin that feeds into the clearest stream in Japan, the Niyodo River. Surrounded by beautiful, high mountains, an abundance of water and snowy winters when temperatures often fall below freezing, it is the perfect locale for brewing. It was in the service of the Fukao family that the present day Tsukasa-Botan company started business as a sake shop, although it would be a long time before that name was used. 

In 1917 all of the area’s brewing families consolidated their efforts, becoming the Sakawa Sake Brewery Co., Ltd and later, in 1932, the name was changed to the Tsukasa-Botan Sake Brewery Co., Ltd. In that year the real patriarch of the brewery, Genjūrō Takemura, was appointed as president and in an effort to revive the company, he began developing Tsukasa-Botan Sake Brewery on a national scale. After being taken in as son-in-law to the Takemura family, Genjūrō had gone on a pilgrimage to famous brewing locations around Japan, in 1926. As a result of a five-year-long journey, Genjūrō determined that the soft water brewing method of the master brewers of Hiroshima was perfect for the soft water of Kōchi. He managed to convince the Hiroshima master brewer, Kawanishi Kinbei, to become a partner. Working together under their slogan “quality supremacy”, Genjūrō and Kinbei won a number of awards and created what is the shining legacy of Tsukasa-Botan. This “quality supremacy” continued on at the brewery even through the Second World War, under the leadership of Genjūrō’s son Ichiro and his grandson Isao, passing down generations of master brewers. 

The present head of the brewery, Akihiko, is the great grandchild of Genjūrō and was born in 1962 – a memorable date for the brewery, it being the first year that Tsukasa-Botan’s production volume exceeded 10,000 koku (1,800,000 liters). After graduating Gakushūin University, Akihiko began gaining business experience in the fashion and merchandise industries, entering the family company later, in 1990. Not two years after doing so he created the current mission statement of the brewery: “Origins, harmony, creation, devotion”. In 1999, at the young age of 37, he was made president and set out to brew, with a goal of maintaining authenticity, Tosa uniqueness and ecological brewing methods.

Up to that point it had always been thought that Yamada-Nishiki rice was difficult to grow in Kōchi. The stem and ear length are long, so during the picking season in the typhoon alley of Kōchi all of the stems would blow over and the grains of the ones left standing would fall and germinate. However, in 1995 after a fateful meeting with agriculturalist Terukichi Nagata, Akihiko decided to take on the challenge of growing Yamada-Nishiki locally, using the Nagata Farming Method. This method brings out the maximum strength of the plant by growing it in a nutritionally drained state, making it more resilient to the effects of wind and soil. To increase unit yields, farms in Japan often use nitrogen fertilizer, which causes the roots of plants to grow shallow, making many vegetables and grains lose natural vitality. At times, due to the large amount of nitrogen fertilizer, gas rises out of the field, causing plant disease, insect damage and the rotting of roots. The Nagata Farming Method improves the quality of the soil, returning it to its natural condition, and chooses the perfect land, considering the exposure of the rice plants to sunshine, wind and the flow of nearby streams. This method encourages the ears of rice to grow thick, densely packed, fine roots. The leaves of the plant are given no nutrients, appearing dried and dead while all of the nutrients consumed by the plant are left over for the next generation stored in the grain of the rice. 

Testing of this method began in 1996, harvesting in 1997, but the following year, due to damage from torrential rains, 70% of the rice harvest was classified Togai-mai (a government rice grain inspection classification of a failing grade of rice). In spite of the set back, through painstaking efforts this method of cultivation eventually succeeded in producing Yamada-Nishiki that can stand up to typhoon winds. As a result, the rice strain is now grown in Kōchi’s Sakawa city and the town Shimanto. The method even led to the rice’s low protein content and the emergence of a family that grew a high quality Yamada-Nishiki strain comparable to that grown in Hyōgo.

Elliot Faber

establishment and key dates

1603 Established

September 2005 Tsukasabotan Heisei Kura built

Water source

Underflow water of Niyodogawa (soft water with a German Hardness of 4)Taking water from a 7m deep well

Rice varieties

Yamada-Nishiki (Kochi, Hyōgo), Gin-no-Yume (Kochi), Matsuyama-Mii (Ehime), Tosa-Nishiki (Kochi), Akitsuho (Kochi), Kita-Nishiki (Hyōgo), Ohseto (Kagawa)

Koji type

Higuchi Matsunosuke Shoten, Koji-Ya San Zaemon, Akita Konno Shoten

Yeast type

Sake Yeast Kyokai No. 7, an original in house culture of yeast derived from the Kumamoto yeast strain, and 5–6 different types of Kōchi yeast

Aging process

Nama-Shu, Ginjo Sake, Junmai Sake (in partial), Junmai Daiginjo Sake, Honjozo (in partial): bottle aged (below 0oC, 1–8 months)All others: tank aged (1–10 months), Yamahai brew (more than 1 year storage)


The Annual Japan Sake Awards: Gold Award winner 28 consecutive times, 1956–2012 (1964 and before unverified)

Shikoku Refined Sake Review Competition: 1st Award 1999

Shikoku Refined Sake Review Competition: 1st Award, 2000 

Kochi Prefectural Master Brewers Union Review Competition 1st Award, 2000

Kochi Prefectural Brewing Union Review Competition 1st Award, 2000

Specialty of brewery

Tsukasabotan, Senchu Hassaku

annual production

5000 koku (900,000 liters)

Contact details

1299 Sakawa-cho, Takaoka-gun,Kochi 789 1201

T: +81 889 22 1211, F: +81 889 22 4116