Reviving an old school as a sake brewery and using sake to connect Sado with the world
Sado, a place that has seen a diverse community since ancient times and where many cultural heritages still remain, is said to be "a microcosm of Japan" because of its complex landform and range of climate between the northern and southern parts. Rumiko Obata is the fifth-generation owner of Obata Shuzo, a sake brewery that was established over 120 years ago. She moved to Tokyo and worked as a producer in film promotion, but then realized the beauty of Sado and had the urge to “promote my family sake to the world”. At age 29, Obata returned to Sado where she started exporting the family sake.
“Through trial and error, we established a way to directly deal with the overseas local companies. Japanese sake brewery is a business that is passed on for many generations. By building a relationship of trust with face-to-face interactions, we hope to continue to grow together with our partners.”
In 2014, Obata took an abolished elementary school and turned it into Gakko-gura, or “school brewery”, where sake is brewed and people come to learn or interact. High school students to elderly people take part in the “special class” held once a year, where lively discussions are exchanged about various themes such as regional revitalization. “I hope to connect Sado with the world through sake. While having a global mindset, I am focused on what is in front of me and on bring excitement to my local area.”
Rumiko Obata was born in 1965 as the 2nd daughter of the fourth-generation owner of Obata Shuzo sake brewery, known for its Manotsuru sake. After graduating with a degree in Law from Keio University, Obata married in 1995 and returned to her hometown to take over the family business. She’s worked on joint projects with the University of Tokyo on natural energy and Shibaura Institute of Technology on design and construction.
2. The Gakko-gura that uses the building that was Nishigawa Elementary School until 2010. It is on a small hill overlooking the Sea of Japan.
3. TABI-LUMINE’s original label “Gakko-gura 2017” (300ml, 850yen excl. tax). The design represents “The elementary school with Japan’s most beautiful sunset”. Sold at NEWoMan Shinjuku’s Koko LUMINE store.
4. Sado rice is used to make the sake.
5. The storage tank in the Gakko-gura classroom. During sake brewing seasons, applications for sake brewing experiences are accepted through the website (www.obata-shuzo.com).