An island well suited to distilling shochu.
The beginning of sweet potato cultivation in Japan is said to have begun in 1698, when the lord of Tanegashima received a gift of sweet potatoes from the Ryukyu Islands. On this island of sweet potatoes, our distillery started as a small operation distilling shochu in 1903.
30 years ago, we built this factory and moved to this part of the island looking for higher quality water. Since we are right in the middle of the fields, we can get sweet potatoes directly from the farm and I think this land here is quite fortunate to have such fresh ingredients. On top of that, we are in an elevated area looking out over the ocean, so it's easier for us to control the temperature. We use a two-stage system that is a must for authentic shochu. We take rice malt (a mixture of steamed rice that has had koji-mold and yeast added to it) and blend that with steamed and mashed sweet potatoes. Our production process is the traditional approach with just a single distillation in a pot still.
Shochu is one and the same with its area of production. That's how I feel.
Takasaki-syuzo makes a distinctive shochu by using different sweet potatoes, from Tanegashima's signature Annou sweet potato, to koganesengan, murasaki imo, and other varieties. The sweet potato raw ingredients come solely from locally contracted farmers who grow and deliver exactly the amount that we need. The final shochu product is taste tested first by locals in this area. We use local ingredients, local production, and local consumption. Our employees are locals as well. The shochu we produce is one and the same with this area. That's how I feel. In my opinion, drinking shochu made with ingredients from Tanegashima, served with side dishes from this area, and enjoyed right here on the island is the most delicious way to consume this spirit.
In the future, we would like to put more effort into off-island promotions of our shochu. For that goal, we really must be fastidious about the flavor. I want to work with more devotion and make great tasting shochu using all of the techniques we can muster, while putting our whole heart into it.
■ Favorite things about Tanegashima
I think it's the people.
There are so many friendly people. Even people who move here from off island say, one and all, that we have a welcoming atmosphere. I think that people are one of the wonderful aspects of this island.