The Secret Story of the Maker
The Challenge of Growing Sweet Potatoes
for Sweet Potato Shochu
When we asked President Hirashita why ‘Ike-no-tsuyu’ is not displayed this year, we got a serious answer. In 2008, an outbreak of sweet potato base rot disease was confirmed in Japan, and it has spread throughout the country, making it impossible to secure sweet potatoes for raw materials. The disease, caused by a filamentous fungus withering the leaves and stems causing the potatoes to rot, finally spread to Kumamoto Prefecture in 2020. Even in Kagoshima and Miyazaki, the home of sweet potato shochu, the situation has become serious.
Yet, President Hirashita is undeterred. Looking out over the surrounding area from a hill near the distillery, he says "We are going to turn everything we can see from here into potato fields. From now on, it's all about farming. We are making the switch to growing our own raw materials." President Hirashita studied shochu making at the Tokyo University of Agriculture's Department of Brewing Science, but sweet potato production is a new world for him. He is determined to study hard and focus on farming too so the distillery can grow all of its own sweet potatoes.
In the fall, the sweet potato harvest begins. Although our harvest is still small, we have begun producing sweet potatoes. Unlike rice and barley, it is difficult to keep sweet potatoes on hand long, so they must be distilled while fresh. The distillation process begins immediately after harvesting. President Hirashita will be staying at the brewery for a while!