Sake is made through one of the world’s most complex processes. Therefore, with the increase in the scale of Sake industry since the Edo Period, job divisions and hierarchies were adopted at sake brewery, which are still present in today’s Sake industry.

吉乃川酒造見学                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               吉乃川酒造見学 / Norio.NAKAYAMA


What is ‘Sake Brewery’ in Japanese?

Sake Brewery is called Saka-gura (酒蔵). People working at Saka-gura, or Sake brewery in general are called Kura-bito (蔵人).

Each of Kura-bito, or brewery workers are named differently, depending on their position in the Sake brewery’s hierarchy.


1. Kuramoto (蔵元): Owner of Sake Brewery

豊島屋酒造さん見学                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           豊島屋酒造さん見学 / Norio.NAKAYAMA

The owner of a Sake brewery is called Kuramoto. He is in charge of management of the brewery, such as managing capital, facilities, machinery and raw materials, promotion (e.g. advertising and public relation), sales and branding. The most important of all these duties is clarifying what kind of Sake they will make. If this policy was ambiguous, the production manager of the brewery, or Toji (杜氏) – who we will explain next- would not be clear about what he should value in the production stage.


2. Toji (杜氏): Production Manager

吉乃川酒造見学                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                吉乃川酒造見学 / Norio.NAKAYAMA

If a Sake brewery were to be a soccer club, Kuramoto is the club owner, and Toji is the team coach. Toji supervises all the production stages at the Sake brewery. Not only is he required to be well versed with all the production stages, but also he must possess excellent leadership, decision making skills and management skills.


3. Kashira (頭): Production Manager Assistant

early-morning sake brewery                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 early-morning sake brewery / isado

Kashira literally means ‘head’. He receives instructions from Touji and convey them to each worker. He is also in charge of supervising water prepared for brewing.



4. Kouji-Ya (麹屋): Koji Division Chief

麹                                                                                          麹 / iyoupapa

Literally meaning Kouji person, this position supervises the division of Koji (a type of mold) making.


5. Moto-Ya (酛屋): Shubo Division Chief

sake brewery                                                                                       sake brewery / isado
This position involves supervising the Shubo making. Shubo is a mixture of Koji, steamed rice, yeasts, water and lactic acid. This mixture will be fermented in the next process to become Sake.


6. Kama-Ya (窯屋): Rice-washing / Rice-steaming Division Chief

豊島屋酒造さん見学                                                                              豊島屋酒造さん見学 / Norio.NAKAYAMA
This division is in charge of washing rice grains and steaming them, before the steamed rice will be added to Shubo. Kama-ya supervises this division.


7. Sentou (船頭): Pressing Division Chief

IMG_1176                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           IMG_1176 / hslo
Upon completion of fermentation, the Sake mixture goes through a pressing machine to squeeze out Sake, removing the Sake lees. Sentou literally means ‘Ship captain,’ this is because the traditional pressing equipment is called Fune (槽), which means ‘ship’.


8. Sumi-Ya (炭屋): Filtering Division Chief

男山酒造                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         男山酒造 / othree
After pressing, the Sake mixture will be filtered to remove finer lees that have not been removed in the pressing process. Sumi-ya is the person taking charge of this process.


9. Do-gu Mawashi (道具廻): Equipment Caretaker

Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum / Hyougushi
This position takes care of and cleans the equipments used for Sake making, washes rice grains, carries water and steamed rice from one division to another.


10. Oi-Mawashi (追廻): Chores

early-morning sake brewery                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                early-morning sake brewery / isado
This position does such chores as washing, cleaning, carrying water, etc.