“Kamenoo”-The Story of Revived Sake Brewing Rice
Kamenoo (meaning “turtle tail”) rice was found and improved by Kameji Abe, an experienced farmer, in Amarume town (currently known as Shonai town), Yamagata prefecture. Having a good taste and advantages of being more resistant to cold than other varieties and requiring less fertilizer, Kamenoo rice came to be loved by local farmers as general rice or table rice. When it started to be used for sake brewing rice, it became a popular sake brewing rice as well. From the early 1900’s, it became well-known as to be planted not only in Japan but also in Taiwan and Korean Peninsula. On the other hand, as being weak against agricultural chemicals and chemical fertilizer, it was difficult to adapt to modern farming. As time went by, its descendant variety such as Koshihikari stole the spotlight, and Kamenoo rice disappeared.
However, the good quality of sake made from Kamenoo rice had been passed down. In 1970’s, Norimichi Kusumi, the 6th generation president of Kusumi Brewery (Niigata prefecture), started to revive the Kamenoo rice. He got the seeds from Niigata agricultural experiment station in 1980 and released Kamenoo (meaning “old turtle” for this time as the last “o” representing “old man” ), ginjoshu made from Kamenoo rice. A famous Japanese manga comic “Natsuko no Sake” is based on this story. However, it was a coincidence that Junichi Sato, the 10th generation president of Koikawa Brewery in Shonai town (former Amarume town) also thought about reviving Kamenoo rice in 1979. He got the seed rice which had been preserved by a great-grandchild of Kameji Abe, the founding father of Kamenoo rice, and started to plant it from 1981. He successfully revived sake made from Kamenoo rice and released the junmai daiginjoshu in 1984. Now the legendary Kamenoo rice can be grown in various places.