In Yoshida county, Eiheiji is a town in the northern region of Fukui prefecture that spreads out to the south of the Kuzuryū River. The Kuzuryū is a primary headwater river that is the border between Fukui and Gifu prefectures and the catchment area, including tributaries of the river, makes up 70 percent of the entire land area of Fukui. Kuzuryū River was called “Kokuryu” long ago and is also known as the “Kuzuregawa”, meaning “a river that breaks down its basin” due to its tendency to flood. The river also gave its old name to the Kokuryu brewery.


Around the time of the founding of the Matsuoka clan in 1650, the Sabae Ishida village Ishidaya family allegedly began brewing in this land and it was the branching off from the main family by Nizaemon Ishidaya, who founded his business in 1804, that was the beginning of the present day Kokuryu brewery. The current company president, Naoto Mizuno is the eighth owner. From the era of the founders to the present day the brewery has conformed to the times, continuing under the principle of “making a fine sake”. To the family, the word “principle” means, “the correct road meant to be taken as a human being” and pairing this with a pioneering spirit, the current owner’s sixth-generation grandfather made ginjo sake (below 60 percent polishing ratio) beginning in the latter half of the 1960s. Naoto’s father started making the even lower polishing ratio daiginjo (below 50 percent) sake earlier than most kura around the country. Ginjo brewing is essentially a technique that uses low-temperature fermentation of sake brewed from polished rice. It would be later on when the polishing ratio was used to define class through the weight ratio of polished rice.

Compared to the character of Niigata’s Tanrei dry and Fushimi’s mellow taste, what is the defining characteristic of Fukui? According to Naoto, his ideal sake is “beautifully refined sake that you never get tired of drinking, and that matches well with a variety of cuisines.” It is an image of not only a sharp tasting sake but a mellowness of the alcohol that makes a refined combination with food. Japanese food culture is known for its characteristic delicate tastes from its ingredients and seasonal garnishing, employing light tastes such as kelp and Bonito sauce. The sake that balances well with that kind of cuisine is the “Tan-aji: ephemeral light tasting” sake. Fukui prefecture is widely known for its “Echizen-gani”, a type of crab that differs from rock-crab and lobster with a sweetness that captivates food connoisseurs. When it came down to finding a sake that matches with the crab’s sweetness, and with white fish, Naoto was not satisfied with the Tanrei sake.

Since his father’s time as the owner, Naoto has traveled around the chateaux of France and Germany, researching the aging process for wine. Currently at the kura, in each storage and thermal tank room, they make full use of five different temperature zones in their temperature-controlled aging. They control the temperature precisely, choosing from -10°C to -5°C (14–23°F), or 0°C, 5°C, 10°C or 15°C (32°F, 41°F, 50°F or 59°F) based on whether it is the fermentation, straining, storage or aging stage. If the sake is ice stored, it is aged for up to 10 years. In order to age for a long period without causing “hineka” (a Chinese rice wine-like smell resulting from room temperature aging) they chose to age the sake at below freezing temperatures. Through bringing out the unique fragrance of ginjo sake they aim to make a brew with a light alcoholic feel to it


Around the area of the Grand Shrine of Ise, sake is brewed from rice that is grown by the Shinto priests themselves. The sake they brew is dedicated to the gods, and called “Omiki” (God sake). It is an expensive and much-valued product. People use the sake, after it has been offered to the gods, in “Okiyome” (the purification of filth) and as a medicine to disinfect wounds. It is by no means an everyday, run-of-the-mill table wine sake, but a special drink to be used only on auspicious days. The sake that Naoto aspires to brew is elegant, the fragrance is delicate while bringing out the taste of base ingredients in cuisine. It resets the palate in order to fully enjoy the next course of food, and it is a special sake that makes people want to take another sip. With hints of lychee, mango and pineapple, it has a strong taste and sweetness, making it a juicy beverage. The drink works well with various types of cuisine, but especially with a sauce that carries a punch. Kokuryu is a “Tan-aji” type of sake that comparatively flatters the ingredients in many different dishes. Speaking from a Japanese sense of color, it is not pink, but a pale rose, the thin pale color of the fleeting sakura blossoms before they fall, or just like the short life of a snowflake that lands on an extended hand, and a sake with a delicate alcoholic feeling. The kura also has a line of products that match well with French and Chinese cuisine. 

The toji from all over Japan have various styles, but this brewery has currently inherited techniques from the master brewers of Echizen, the Echigo Toji, Nanbu Toji, Noto Toji and other major toji groups from around the country, resulting in the reconstruction of their own master brewers’ hybrid technique. As of 2014, the brewery was 13th in the country for winning the Gold award with their record of 26 times (Urakasumi brewery of Miyagi prefecture being the top winner of 33 times). Kokuryu continues to reconstruct their sake that is in the realm of “Omiki”, a sake fit to offer the gods.  

establishment and key dates

1804 Founded after the first kura president

        Nizaemon Ishidaya made the “Ishidaya” store name.

1894 Began business as the Mizuno Sake Brewery

1948 Established the Mizuno Shuzo Co., Ltd.

1963 Changed organization to the Kokuryu Brewery Co., Ltd.  

1994 New brewing kura “Ryusho Kura”

1995 Started their employee brewing system 

1997 Completed brewing department lab 

2000 Kura workers housing renovation 

2005 Built a facility for Kenjojima Sake brewing.

        Made thorough temperature controlled aging of unprocessed sake and products a possibility 

2008 Clean room with bottling line newly built.

        Incorporated use of original 720 ml bottle

2012 Kenjojima Sake Kura addition of storage facilities

Water source

Hakusan mountain range subsoil water, Kuzuryu River system, 75 m well, soft water (hardness 23).

Low impurities, a completely clear water but in the tank it glows blue

Rice varieties

Yamada-Nishiki (Hyōgo), Gohyaku-Mangoku (Fukui)

Koji type


Yeast type

In kura stored yeast

Aging process

Cold storage aging (10–15°C), Ice storage aging (0– -10°C)


The Annual Japan Sake Awards: Gold Award 

26 times (1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1972–1974, 1976, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2009–2012, 2014)

Specialty of brewery

Kokuryu, Kuzuryu, Ishidaya, Nizaemon

annual production

5,000 koku (900,000 liters)

Contact details

1–38 Matsuoka-kasuga, Eiheiji-cho, Yoshida-gun, Fukui 910 1133

T: +81 776 61 6110, F: +81 776 61 6111