Volunteer Efforts May Help Save Historic Yuki Sake Brewery

Volunteer Efforts May Help Save Historic Yuki Sake Brewery

Want more UJ? Get our FREE newsletter 

Need a preview? See our archives

The historic Yuki Sake Brewery
After a fire devastated Yuki Sake Brewery, a historic Japanese cultural landmark, volunteer efforts commence to aid its revival.

One week ago, Japan lost another landmark to a devastating fire. Both buildings of the famous Yuki Shuzo sake brewery in Ibaraki, Japan, caught fire at around 2:45 PM on May 11, 2022. The 10-engine fire spread from the boiler to the sake brewery, both of which were cultural landmarks. According to Urasato Masaaki, president of Yuki Shuzo, “The fire spread everywhere all at once. We tried to extinguish it ourselves, but it quickly got out of hand, so we contacted the fire department.” Firefighting efforts took over four hours, finally extinguishing the blaze at around 7:10 PM. Police and fire departments are still investigating the cause of the fire. Luckily, there were no casualties or injuries. [1][2]

Yuki Sake Brewery: A Historic Ibaraki Landmark

Yuki Shuzo (結城酒造), built at the end of the Edo Period (1603-1868), has a history spanning 400 years. It sits in the center of Yuki City, just north of JR Yuki Station. The two-story brewery, Anseizo, was built in 1859, and the newer storehouse in the 1860s. The 10-meter brick chimney was a more recent addition in 1903, during the Meiji Period. All three are National Tangible Cultural Properties as of the year 2000, and are symbolic of the local landscape. Yuki Sake Brewery is most famous for its “Musubi Yui,” a mild, traditional sake made with fresh water from the underground Kinugawa River system. [2][3]

Screenshot from the Yuki Sake homepage. The copy on the right reads “connected people, sake, and township.”

Yuki Sake Brewery Fire Calls Attention to At-Risk Landmarks

Sadly, it’s all too common to hear of old, historical buildings meeting a tragic end due to fire or natural disaster. You may recall the tragic loss of Japan’s landmark Shurijo Castle in Okinawa several years back. Many of these buildings retain old, wooden architecture, making them severely prone to fires.

The Yuki Shuzo disaster prompted an emergency inspection of several other historic buildings earlier this week on May 17 by the Hitachi City fire department, including the Okubo Castle Ruins. The inspection involved checking that fire extinguishers were installed and that fire alarms were working. Amagai Keita of the Hitachi City Fire Department states, “If we want to continue passing down these historic buildings into the future, we need to take appropriate steps, such as daily preparedness and fire safety measures.” [4]

Shuri Castle
Okinawa’s Shuri Castle, which sadly burned down in 2019.

Volunteer Efforts Commence to Revive Yuki Sake Brewery

Unfortunately, as both structures are beyond repair, the brewery would need a complete reconstruction. However, as the Sake Times reports, fans and supporters are more than eager to support that cause. [5]

Okuzawa Takeji, Chairman of the Yuki Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says, “There are many fans not only in the local area but also in areas like Tokyo who have greatly contributed to the town development of Yuki City. They’re all expressing willingness to cooperate for the revival.” Yuki Sake Brewery also acted as the venue for the annual Yuki City music festival, Yuki no Oto. As such, a number of past performers and musical guests are also extending a hand. [6]

Saving the Day with Sake

Miraculously, a few thousand unlabeled bottles of Yuki Shuzo’s famous sake also survived the fire, making them something of an endangered species. Over the past week, several volunteers from other liquor stores and breweries cooperated with the president of Yuki Shuzo to help manually label the bottle and prepare them to sell. The Yuki City Chamber of Commerce provided a new replacement label printer, and printing commenced of the makeshift monochrome labels. Along with these bottles of sake, the historic brick chimney also survived. [7]

Advertisements

Now one week later, as demolition comes into full swing, shipments of the rescued sake bottles are beginning. Various liquor stores and restaurants are purchasing and selling bottles in order to raise funds. Fujimura Toshifumi, branch manager and president of Raifuku Shuzo brewery in Chikusei City, says, “We’re getting a lot of response from ordinary people and restaurants alike. Some people even want to support from overseas!” Although he, and clearly many supporters, believe that Yuki Shuzo can definitely come back to life, president Urasato keeps a realistic view. “The future is still unclear. For now, I’m just focusing on the shipping work that’s in front of me.” [8]

However, although there is no official talk of reconstruction yet, these volunteer efforts certainly represent a positive step forward.

Resources

[1] 江戸時代の酒蔵全焼の結城酒造 酒を買って応援相次ぐ 茨城. NHK News Web

[2] 「結城酒造」で火災 国登録有形文化財の酒蔵2棟全焼 茨城 結城. NHK

[3] 結城酒造(結城市). Ibaraki Guide

[4] 茨城 消防が歴史的建物など緊急点検 江戸時代の酒蔵火事を受け. NHK

[5] 結城酒造(茨城県)の蔵2棟が火災によって全焼—復旧を支援する義援金募集のお知らせ. Sake Times.

[6]  登録文化財の酒蔵など全焼「結城酒造」に支援の動き広がる. NHK News Web

[7] ラベル貼り、再建へ一歩 茨城・結城酒造火災 業務の一部再開. Yahoo Japan

[8] 老舗酒蔵火災1週間 結城酒造、再建へ「希望の光」 難逃れた酒出荷 茨城. Ibaraki News

yuki sake brewery

Want more UJ? Get our FREE newsletter 

Need a preview? See our archives

Krys Suzuki

Krys is a Japanese-fluent, English native speaker currently based in the US. A former Tokyo English teacher, Krys now works full time as a J-to-E translator, writer, and artist, with a focus on subjects related to Japanese language and culture. JLPT Level N1. Shares info about Japanese language, culture, and the JLPT on Twitter (SunDogGen).

Japan in Translation

Subscribe to our free newsletter for a weekly digest of our best work across platforms (Web, Twitter, YouTube). Your support helps us spread the word about the Japan you don’t learn about in anime.

Want a preview? Read our archives

You’ll get one to two emails from us weekly. For more details, see our privacy policy