Sake Matsuri 2018 Masterclass: Regionality of Niigata - The Burgundy of Japan
Born and raised in Shibata City, Kenji Ichishima grew up around the brewery that had been run by his forefathers for generations. However, when he moved to Tokyo for high school, he acquired a taste for freedom that led him to spend four years abroad. Encouraged by his grandfather, Kenji went to the United States and spent time in Atlanta, Georgia and Albany, New York. His time in America rekindled Kenji’s awareness of his identity and reminded him of the importance of his family business, and after returning to Japan he decided to enter the sake industry. First at another brewery and then as a delivery boy at his family’s own, Kenji learnt the business of sake from the bottom up. Since becoming President of Ichishima Shuzo, he has achieved success in developing new products, improving quality, reducing inefficiencies, and discontinuing low-profit business components such as beer wholesaling. In addition to managing his brewery, Kenji is also deeply involved in the larger world of sake. As chairperson of the public relations committee of the Niigata Brewer’s Association, he has run the Niigata Sake Festival for the past four years. He is also very involved with the younger generation of brewers both in Niigata and throughout Japan as a chairperson of both the Shinseikai and the Japan Brewery Junior Council.
Having grown up in a brewery with a rich history that stretches back to more than 200 years, Kenji is new blood who respects tradition and culture but is also willing to consider and implement new methods, leading today’s sake industry with fresh and innovative ideas.