Meet the Family Behind Japan's Oldest Sake Distillery
For the Sudo family, making sake isn't just a livelihood—it's a long-standing tradition. The clan lives in Obara, Japan, where they run the country's oldest sake distillery, Sudohonke Inc. According to the short video above, published by Eater, Sudohonke has been in operation for more than 850 years, and its current president, Genuemon Sudo, is the 55th generation of his lineage to run the business.
Over the centuries, Sudohonke has survived natural disasters, war, famine, and more. However, nothing could have prepared the distillery for the major earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in 2011 and triggered a nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.
“Water is key to our products,” Sudo told The Japan Times in a 2012 interview. “We were ready to close down if our sake was found to be contaminated by radiation.”
Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. While the quake caused some structural damage to the distillery, a radioactivity analysis of the property showed that it wasn’t tainted by the nuclear meltdown.
Sudohonke’s sake remained safe to drink, but the disaster still caused overseas sales to fall dramatically. However, the family-run business miraculously continues to thrive.
The video above, produced by Great Big Story, describes the distillery’s proud legacy, and explains why the company’s sweet rice wine is so important in Japan.
"Sake is rooted in our daily life in Japanese culture," Sudo says. "The aspects of our heritage are reflected in it. Sake embodies our sensibilities that we experience throughout our daily lives."