Kagawa is situated in the northeast of Shikoku Island, between the Sanuki Mountains in the south and the island-dotted Seto Inland Sea in the north. It is the smallest prefecture in Japan. It is also the end point of the Shikoku Pilgrimage route, which passes 88 Buddhist temples and is the most famous pilgrimage route in Japan looping some 1200 kms around the island of Shikoku. Kagawa's capital, Takamatsu, is a port city home to the feudal Takamatsu Castle and Ritsurin Garden, a landscaped park built in the Edo period (1603 - 1868).
Maruo Honten was founded in 1885 in Kotohira near the Konpira Shrine (a famous pilgrimage site). The current Kuromoto (brewery owner) is Maruo Tadaoki who has been owner & Toji since 1999. Maruo-san's focus is on rice. He never blends rice from different growers and works the Moto (starter) and Moromi (main fermentation) to reflect the uniqueness in each batch of rice from each grower. Thus he never blends tanks preferring to bottle each tank seperately. This then pushes Maruo-san to have to bottle up to 30 different products each year. Each tank has a maximum of 1000 kgs of rice in each ferment, however the majority are around 600 - 700 kgs (very small amounts compared to many larger brewers). Maruo-san uses several different rice strains. He mainly utilises the locally grown Oseto rice indigenous to Kagawa but also he sources the rare Kameno-o rice from a young grower in Iwate prefecture, purchasing his entire production each year (enough for just one tank!). Other rice types include locally grown Omachi and Yamada Nishiki. The main Sake brand produced at Maruo Honten is called Yorokobi Gaijin. These Sake are incredibly rare to find in Japan as they are revered in the Sake community and sell out almost instantly once they are released. They are so far unavailable outside of Japan as Maruo-san has never exported directly. Since 2013 we have purchased a small allocation from one of the first bottle shops in Tokushima to carry the Yorokobi Gaijin brand. We then ship them to Australia and put them away for ageing until they are ready to drink. A costly exercise but one in which we believe is worth the effort and patience, as the drinker is rewarded with some of the most stunning Sake being produced in Japan today.