Yaoshin’s Path

In 1877 (10 year of Meiji Era), Shinsaburo Yaoya, who had been adopted by Jinbe Yaoya, the trader of varied businesses working for for Iwakuni Yoshikawa Domain, split up and established “Yaoshin” in a former teahouse, which was the domain head’s villa, near estuary of Nishiki River. Its business back then still can be seen on the hikifuda (advertisement) which exists today. According to the hikifuda, the main business of “Yaoshin” was production of soy sauce but Shinsaburo decided to do sake brewing as his main business. He did multiple businesses while carry on the production of soy sauce. One of his unique businesses was production of ice and he had an ice storage in the site. His venture spirit is seen in the action that he put sake brewing in his main business. Its first brand was “Shingiku,” named after Shinsaburo and his wife Kiku.

Osamu Yaoya, who took over Shinsaburo’ s position as second generation, worked on wholesale of varied liquor such as beer and Western liquor while he shed production of soy sauce, made the sake brewing business successful and made “Shingiku” one of top brands in Iwakuni. The second generation of Yaoshin Shoten was its highlight of all time.

However, the government encouraged brewers to adopt the method to swell sake triple and they were forced to follow the policy. Yaoshin ended up with adopting the method but sold sake of worse quality than other brewers’ because its master brewer had made only junmaishu (sake without added alcohol or sugar) and was not used to the method. It gave “Shingiku” bad reputations and its local market share fell down. On the other hand, the department of wholesales of other types of liquor expanded its business smoothly and became independent as Yaoshin Liquor Trade and Yaoshin Shoten owning the main business of sake brewing became hidden behind Yaoshin Liquor Trade.


The third generation president Tomoji Kobayashi, who studied at Zymology Course of Hiroshima Technical High School (current Hiroshima University, School of Engineering), and then master brewer Harada who just took over the position made efforts and succeeded in making sake of better quality. Tomoji uniquely worked on research of steaming and even acquired a patent for the method of steaming rice using inactive gas to make its inside soft and outside firm. However, rather than regaining its reputation, the market share gaps grew larger between “Shingiku” and the other manufacturers. More and more stock gradually piled up because of the vicious cycle of poor sales against continuous production and the company’s financial condition got tight so that we had to choose whether we continue the production or suspend it. Traditionally, groups of technicians such as toji (master sake brewers) and kurabito (sake brewers), who work seasonal workers, are responsible for sake brewing and suspension of brewing means laying off them. Therefore, they flow into other companies in the same field for their livings. It is extremely difficult to reactivate sake brewing by hiring toji and kurabito after even one year of suspension and it puts companies out of business in most cases. The third generation president cut back significantly on production and pushed through restructuring leaving only toji Harada and one kurabito, who is Harada’s right hand. Because the number of workers needed is the same when making one bottle or when making 100 bottles, the president decided to enormously shorten the term of brewing, have yearly contract workers, who were responsible for bottling and sales, also work as kurabito to solve the problem of shortage of labor. Hisashige Kobayashi, later the fifth generation president who had joined the company around the season, started his career as kurabito at this time. The kurabito, Harada’s right hand, eventually retired and Harada also retired after several years of the system where every employee except Harada in the company had worked as yearly contract workers. On the other hand, the market environment dramatically changed at this time when Yaoshin Shoten acquired know-how of sake brewing by employees. Loosened regulations on liquor trade made local brands of sake around the country flow into anywhere regardless of borders and accelerated collapse in prices of sake. This worsened the financial condition of Yaoshin with weak power of its brand because the company had only local channels of sales and, on top of it, its market share was low. The company managed to catch up with the changing market but it lacked a decisive factor to lead the market.

After the third generation president’s brother had taken over his position for a short term as the fourth generation, Hisashige Kobayashi became the fifth generation president and worked also as toji as he handled management. He started working on innovation of Yaoshin Shuzo. He changed the company’s name from Yaoshin Shoten to Yaoshin Shuzo, discontinued the department of retail of beer and other types of liquor, which had been continued as a side business, and declared within and outside the company that the company would concentrate on its main business of sake brewing. Hisashige, who had already been given many responsibilities under the former toji Harada, succeeded in making one bottle (and sake made from it brewed) that satisfied him for the first time in 2000. That sake, roughly finished but full of potentials, was named “Gangi” to infuse it with the meaning of the return to Yaoshin’s roots and the departure of our vessel and we questioned this world. We only produced 600 one sho (1.8 liter) bottles of junmai (without added sugar or alcohol), no-filtered and raw sake from one bottle brewed. We consistently had the attitude of “We’ll only have people who enjoy our sake drink or sell it” and gradually increased the amount of production and the amount of client stores in no rush. We acquired fans nationwide and had more and more our brand known while the world of Gangi was formed by expanding our line-up as we kept making sake junmai and not filtering it with activated carbon. Eventually, the number of shipments of “Gangi” exceeded the one of then our representative brand “Nishikinohomare”s number and “Gangi” almost dominates the current number.