Iwate sake brewer making comeback
Down but not out.
The only sake brewery in Otsuchicho, Iwate Prefecture, irreparably damaged in the March 11 disaster, has been reinvented by its owner as a liqueur maker, a business that requires less capital and equipment.
Hidemine Furudate, president of Akabu Shuzo K.K., lost his home, brewery and many employees in the earthquake and tsunami and once considered closing his company, but decided to make a fresh start in Morioka, about 70 kilometers away.
“This is the end, I thought, but I somehow managed to start again,” Furudate, 46, said, wiping sweat from his brow as he bottled liqueur in a warehouse in Morioka on Aug. 10. “I want to deliver this liqueur to people in my hometown.”
Established 115 years ago, Akabu Shuzo was shipping about 50,000 1.8-liter bottles of sake a year before the disaster. Its refined sake–Hamamusume–was very popular among Otsuchicho residents.
The March 11 earthquake and tsunami destroyed the company’s head office and sake storehouse, forcing Furudate to close. He laid off his surviving employees and went to a Hello Work job-placement office to seek employment.
However, he changed his mind and decided to restart his business after visiting customers to tell them he was going to close his company. They encouraged him to carry on. One customer said, “I want to drink Akabu sake again.” Another said, “I’ll remain a customer if you restart [the business].”