If you’ve ever dined at Yardbird, chances are that you’ve spotted a 360ml bottle of Sunday’s Junmai or Sunday’s Junmai Nigori. Perhaps you’ve even shared one of these bottles with a friend, sipping from our custom-made ochoko cups. And while some people assume that they’re just standard house sakes with labels slapped on, there are important reasons why we carry these bottles. Yardbird is proud to serve Sunday’s Sake because of our close relationship with the brewery that produces it and the craftsmanship of the brewers who work day in and day out.
The sake brewery where Sunday’s Junmai and Junmai Nigori is made is located in Akashi, Hyogo. It’s named Ibaraki Shuzo, which we sometimes refer to as “Rairaku Brewery” because of their sake series called “Rairaku,” which is also sold at Yardbird, RŌNIN, and sundaygrocery.com. Rairaku Brewery is owned and operated by a man named Mikihito Ibaraki. The company was established in 1848 in the Edo Period and is still very much a family business. Mikihito, or Miki-san as he is affectionately referred to, is the ninth generation owner and his father, the eighth generation, is still involved in the company as their business leader.
There is one thing that’s truly undeniable about Miki-san and that is how humble he is when it comes to his craft, even in a country where humility is already a virtue. Miki-san always describes himself as a novice and someone who still has much to learn about sake production, despite owning a sake brewery that has been in his family for generations and personally having 15 years of brewing experience under his belt. He continues to study and is eager to gain more knowledge about sake and sake brewing. It’s one of the reasons why we love him, aside from his positive attitude, the fact that he’s always smiling, and of course, the high-quality sake he makes.
What makes Sunday’s Sake so good? First, it’s the quality of ingredients – the famously clear water in the region, the carefully selected strains of yeast, and the local rice. Miki-san uses rice grown in Hyogo, some even grown on the rice paddy right in front of the brewery. Much of it is grown organically, though not officially, as it is difficult for farmers to get organic certification.
The second reason is Miki-san and his team’s dedication to their craft. The Yardbird crew has witnessed first-hand the sake making process at Rairaku Brewery and the amount of energy and care that goes into every single step. This begins at the very first step of washing and soaking rice to steam the next morning – a step that you might not think is the most exciting or important when making alcohol. Yet, the Yardbird crew watched Miki-san and his very small team of workers diligently time how long each bag soaked for and weigh all of them, while closely inspecting a small cup of sample rice in water.
So, the next time you knock back a shot of Sunday’s Junmai or Junmai Nigori, you can rest assured that you are drinking great sake made by great people who have a strong passion for what they do.