In Topics, we will deliver not only the taste of sake but also the story and thoughts behind it through interviews with the sake producers handled by the sake select shop Mirai Nihonshuten .
For our second installment, we interviewed Mr. Fujii of Fujii Sake Brewery in Hiroshima Prefecture . He talked about his overseas experiences as a student and about Fujii Sake Brewery's commitment to sake. From this time, we will deliver all four times.
The starting point is Los Angeles. Awareness of Japanese culture felt overseas
-Thank you for your time today.
-First of all, I think there is a major premise that sake brewing has been a family business for generations.
To be honest, when I was in high school, I had no intention of taking over. The future of the sake industry itself was not bright, and the image of sake was not young at the time, so I didn't feel much attraction or future potential.
So, rather than saying what made me want to try sake, it's more of a cliche, but when I went abroad for university, I realized that as a Japanese person, I didn't know anything about Japan. There was something I felt by interacting with people.
-You lived in Hiroshima up until high school.
Did you go abroad soon after that?
yes. I went to college in Los Angeles.
-So there was some kind of foreshadowing from that time. We met when we were students.
yes. After all, foreigners know a lot about their own countries. So, when foreigners ask me what my country is like, I have no idea. On the contrary, it seems that people overseas know better.
It's not really embarrassing, but I really feel like my cultural level is low. While thinking about such things, I realized that our industry is a place where people from overseas are doing traditional culture and traditional industries. So, if you think about it like that, is it okay to end what has been going on in your own generation? Let's connect to the idea and try Japanese sake! Like.
-I see. How old were you when you graduated and returned to your family home?
I am 30 years old. I was a student until I was 26 (laughs).
After that, I worked at an IT company for four years.
-Are there any moments during those four years that made you feel like you were making the most of your current sake brewing?
I don't know if I can still make use of it, but from a big point of view, it's the way the company is run. There are places like that because it's old that it's good, and because it's old it has strange customs. My previous job was a venture company that was constantly incorporating new things, so when I look back on it now, it feels amazing. Just because you're going to incorporate it, you have to make that much soil.
So it's about making soil and making corporate culture. I want to model that kind of thing.
-At that time, it was like an employee and the president, but the more I get closer to that, the more I realize how hard it would be to be the president.
I agree. Somehow, at the time, I often thought, ``This might not be possible,'' but when I think about it now, I often think that it was amazing.
-What prompted you to return to the brewery at the age of 30?
I had decided that it was about that, and at that time it was a turning point for the company.
Without that turning point, there was no place for me to return to. Thanks to that, I was able to return home, and there is now Fujii Sake Brewery.
-If it weren't for the fact that you went abroad and realized the value of Japanese traditions, and the turning point you just mentioned, you might have done a completely different job.
I agree. So I went around and came back at the age of 30, and now it's finally my second year. So Abe-san (Note: Abe Sake Brewery 6th Generation Brewery, who appeared in the first interview) and Don Pisha. Together with Takinogawa's training.
-How do you live your studies at Takinogawa in terms of construction?
There aren't many things that have influenced Ryusei's sake brewing system, but Takinogawa taught me things that were too basic to teach anyone else, so I'm glad.
-Do you keep in touch with the creators of the Takinogawa era?
It happens sometimes. It was great to have that kind of connection.
A group of 16 people from various regions.
-It's a small elite group. Did the Takino River disappear now?
Beginner and Intermediate/Advanced classes have been integrated into Hiroshima.
For the trainees, it took about half the fun (laughs).
What it means to “manage” a brewery
-During your father's generation and your own generation, do you have a direction or policy that you would like to bring out in terms of the sake itself and the operation?
In terms of construction, I think it's fine as it is now. It's not that I don't have to change anything.
That's because breweries of the same generation often focus on making popular sake and completely change things that have existed until now. It's a management decision, so I don't think I should intervene. I think you can't drink alcohol. It's like having the same direction and the same axis, inheriting what you've been aiming for from your predecessor and sublimating it further. Tradition, isn't it? As for the taste, I want to take over that aspect.
However, when it comes to running the company, I want to change everything (laughs).
-I see, it's interesting (laughs)
For a while, we were under the umbrella of a listed company. At that time, we established a basic management method and a data collection system for the first time. For over 100 years, we have not been able to do what we have been doing as a matter of course in a company that has been in business for more than 10 years. It's still not enough. To put it simply, even the data on how many products are released in which countries and at what pace per year is perfunctory.
In a sense, I really feel that there is a part of the management system that has not evolved due to tradition and history. In terms of systems for employees, seniority is the norm, and salaries are the same regardless of whether you do it or not. It's the same with the evaluation method, but it's just a simple calculation of how many years you've been working, how much your base salary is, and how much your bonus is. In that case, even if the number of people who want to work in the sake industry increases at first, if it continues after that, I don't want to do it.
In that sense, we have to take a serious look at the management of the company. I hope that in the future, even after I'm gone, I'll continue to create various systems and systems that are suitable for the current era.
My biggest challenge right now is to say that we have to build systems such as treatment that make working people want to continue working.
Until now, Fujii Sake Brewery has divided the brewing and sales parts between brothers and family members.
Mr. Fujii will also become the representative at some point in the future, so if Mr. Fujii prioritizes management reform, do you have an image of what kind of person other than your brother will be the chief brewer?
I think it's linked to the taste of the first brewing, but it's the same quality of sake that we've cultivated. tall person. It doesn't have anything to do with being a family member, as long as it's someone who sympathizes with the direction we want to aim for, and who thinks and acts on their own in that direction, it's all right.
-Would you prefer someone who has worked as a toji at another brewery, or someone who is energetic and motivated and has no experience as a toji, given that there is no need to bring in other breweries? May I?
Then it's the latter.
It's difficult at the moment, but the ideal is for people who come in as new graduates to join our brewery, learn how to make sake, get a good look at the outside world, and then come to like our sake. The ideal person is someone who wants to work from the beginning to the end, as if he wants to do something better.
-Someone who comes in midway is like a free agent in a way, and there is a possibility that it will be dry. There is a possibility that there will be some kind of disadvantages that are not family.
There is no reason to deny someone who has entered the company halfway through, and of course they are colleagues who work together. However, when it comes to sake brewing, I want to make sure that people who come in halfway through the brewery just come in just for the sake of their treatment and end up not liking our sake so much that they suddenly change the quality of the sake.
-I see. thank you.