Yonezawa Sake Brewery, Nagano

Imanishiki front

Brewery History

Yonezawa Brewery hails from Nakagawa Village in Nagano, where they have been brewing sake with only locally-sourced rice and water from the Southern Alps of Japan since 1907. The founder, Yasotarou Yonezawa was a sumo wrestler who competed in local sumo tournaments under the name of “Ima-nishiki”. With the name used as their main brand of sake ever since. For over a century, their brewing process has remained unchanged. Their Ima-nishiki sake range has been beloved by the local people from the very beginning, but as domestic consumption of sake continues to decline, many local breweries like Yonezawa struggle to find a market.

In 2014, Ina Food Industry (an agar and food manufacturer in the area) lent a helping hand to Yonezawa Brewery in order to help maintain the culture of sake brewing amidst the natural scenery of Nakagawa Village. This support has allowed the locals and the brewery to preserve their traditions, from the rice planting, cultivation, and harvesting, all the way through to the brewing itself.

Since stepping in, IFI have modernised all of Yonezawa Brewery’s facilities, opting to keep only the “fune” (a traditional sake press) to process both their premium and everyday sake ranges. While the traditional sake pressing method is very time and labour-intensive, it delivers a more elegant aroma and richer taste to the sake by applying less pressure compared to modern automated pressing equipment.

Step by step, valuing tradition and innovation, their goal now is to continue brewing the same, or even better, quality sake using local rice and clean mountain water for another 100 years to come.

Yonezawa Central Alps




Sake characteristic

Brewed with Miyama-nishiki sake rice, grown in Nakagawa Village in Nagano and the surrounding areas, subterranean water from the Southern Alps of Japan, and yeasts including locally-developed Nagano sake yeast. All Ima-nishiki sake is pressed using the traditional “fune” method.

This most-traditional method of sake pressing is both time and labour-intensive but creates a light and vibrant taste that has been winning awards both domestically and internationally at the International Wine Challenge, Sake Selection, and Kura Master competitions.

Yonezawa Iinuma Rice Terrace

Location & Climate

Situated in the middle of Southern Nagano, Nakagawa Village is skirted by the Tenryu River. One of the most picturesque villages in Japan, with clear views of the Central and Southern Alps of Japan, the terrain surrounding Nakagawa Village is a fluvial terrace that was formed as a result of gradual erosion from the Tenryu River. Most of the area around Nakagawa Village is used as rice fields or orchards. Its relatively warm climate provides many natural benefits to the village, especially in sake rice cultivation.

Home to the ”Iinuma Rice Terrace”, which now occupies ground that was once abandoned farmland, Yonezawa Brewery revived the fortunes of these fertile terraces through dedicated cultivation of Miyama-nishiki sake rice for their brewing. In fact, the majority of the rice used to produce their sake is harvested in Nakagawa Village, thus helping to preserve its distinctive scenery and local traditions by creating sake enjoyed not only by locals but enthusiasts around the world.