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Kurabito 蔵人

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Kurabito are the mainstay of a brewery's workforce and form a tight-knit team that will support the master brewer throughout the entire brewing season. Although it varies from place to place, most kurabito are considered apprentices and will gradually progress through a strict hierarchical pecking order of seniority known in Japanese as jyougekankei (上下関係).

Again, each brewery has their own system, but new apprentices are likely to start out with duties such a washing and soaking rice, assisting the toji and the more senior brewers with making koji, and any other general duties that their seniors assign them.  As they progress through the ranks, their duties will likely include tasks such as the vital work of cleaning valuable brewing equipment or preparing the morning's rice steaming. Eventually, their duties will very likely be in much closer proximity to those of the toji, with the most elite taking responsibility for such tasks as the yeast starter (酒母) or the main fermenting mash (もろみ).   

Kashira 頭

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The kashira, or head, in a sake brewery acts as the right-hand to the toji, who for their part will bestow upon them great trust and responsibility. They essentially act as a buffer between the toji and the other brewing staff, and will direct the daily logistics of brewing. Much more than just a mere titular position, the kashira will often be directly consulted by the toji regarding crucial decisions such as the best time to press a batch of sake, or how to organise a particular day's schedule. Ultimately, the toji has unquestionable authority within the walls of the brewery. However, the kashira can often be a vital piece in the dynamics of a good brewing team.

​Toji 杜氏

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Put simply, the toji, or master brewer, is the person who assumes ultimate responsibility for the season's sake production at virtually every brewery across Japan. Referred to as the oyasan, meaning father in Japanese, toji were historically seasonal workers hired by the brewery owner and contracted to work only during the winter months. When the brewing finished in the spring they would return to their home villages along with their team of brewers and switch to work such as farming. Although in some rare cases this system is still in operation today, in recent years, there has been a rise in the number toji who assume more permanent positions at the brewery. More and more, the role of toji is expanding to include more involvment with the promotional side of the business as well.


Kuramoto 蔵元

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The owner of a brewery is known as the kuramoto, often translated into English as company president. Historically, the main role of the kuramoto was to decide on the style of sake that they want to produce and ultimately ensure that it sells through advertisement and promotion. The job of actually brewing was all delegated to the toji, leaving them free to attend to such things as managing the facilities, machinery and cash flow. However, in recent years the role of kuramoto has more frequently crossed over with that of his toji, with some going the full distance and assuming the responsibility of brewing as well. This is no easy feat to take on both positions, but has undoubtedly led to the survival of some breweries who simply didn't have a suitable replacement when their toji decided to retire.

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