The Seven Spearsmen
Shichi Hon Yari is named after the seven spearsmen who became legends at the battle of Shizugatake fought just outside the town of Kinomoto in 1583. In this battle, these seven warriors crushed their enemy and brought victory to their leader, the warlord, Hideyoshi. One battle later, Hideyoshi defeated the Nobunaga clan and secured his dominance over Japan. When the Tomita’s started shipping their saké to the new capital of Tokyo, in the Edo Period, they named their sake after these great warriors and created the “saké of victory.”
Shichi Hon Yari Saké
Shichi Hon Yari saké is primarily made with Tamazakae rice, Shiga-ken’s indigenous sakamai. The Tomita’s and their farmers use mineral water which runs from the nearby Ibuki mountains down to their village. This water is so suited for saké making that they use it as is, without being filtered. Shichi Hon Yari saké can best be described as light, approachable and well-balanced.
Shichi Hon Yari
Founded in the 1540’s in the small town of Kinomoto, with its production limited to just over 5,000 cases per year, the Tomita Shuzou is one of the oldest and smallest breweries in Japan. With one toji and three brewers producing every bottle, this saké is truly te-zukuri, or “handmade.” It is also a saké that is steeped in history, its name coming from seven brave spearsmen who are legends in Japanese history, and the Japanese characters for the saké being made by one of Japan’s greatest artists. Today, the Tomita Brewery is filled with the energy of a new generation, as it lays a new foundation for many more years to come.
Years later, at the turn of the twentieth century, when he was still a young craftsman, exchanging food and lodging for his work, the great artist, Rosanjin stayed with the Tomita’s and became friends with Yasunobu’s great-grandfather. During his stay, Rosanjin created a wood block etching of the characters for Shichi Hon Yari in honor of his hosts and these great warriors. This etching still hangs above the brewery entrance and graces every bottle of this saké.
A New Era
Today, the Tomita Shuzou is filled with new energy and passion. The young Yasunobu, his sister and his mother, Ayako are collaborating on ecologically safe rice with local farmers and reviving sakés made with historic red and black rice. Youth and passion extend to their toji, Shizuo Naka, who was the youngest brewmaster to join the Noto Toji guild. As a sign of Naka-san's skill, in 2005, Shichi Hon Yari won a gold medal at the Japanese National New Saké Competition, a great achievement for a brewery of this size.