Feature Interview

March 2024

Revival of a 1,300-Year-Old Recipe: The Global Strategy for Japanese Sake that Transcends Categories

Entering the World of Brewery Management from Completely Different Fields
Taking on the World with the Unconventional Sake, Prince Nagaya

"I went to pitch our company's products and ended up buying a brewery." This is how the journey began for Yoshinao Kurita, CEO of Kurita Machinery Mfg. Co., Ltd. and owner of Nakamoto Sake Brewery Co., Ltd. He forms an unconventional tag-team with his cousin and President of Marketing Excellence, Co., Ltd., Yasuhiro Kurita, to open up a new world of Japanese sake (rice wine) that revolutionizes the very concept of the traditional beverage.

Their targets are epicureans, or food connoisseurs, around the world. As such, they knew they had to establish an English website in order to pitch the appeal of a one-and-only product that transcends the categories of Japanese sake and wine. This led to the launch of the website PRINCE NAGAYA―The Golden Sake Lost to Time, which Arc Communications helped create by providing the translations and design. The Prince Nagaya sake is increasingly drawing attention as it takes part in events and exhibitions around the world.

For this interview, we sat down with Mr. Yoshinao Kurita, the brewery owner, and Mr. Yasuhiro Kurita, who is in charge of marketing, to ask about their aspiration of entering the world market with Prince Nagaya. They shared with us the story of how they wound up buying a brewery in the first place, the turning point that made them look to the world, and their vision for the future.

Feature,Interview,Arc Communications,Nakamoto Sake Brewery Co., Ltd.,Kurita Machinery Mfg. Co., Ltd.

From left to right: Yoshinao Kurita, Mariko Ohsato and Yasuhiro Kurita


Yoshinao Kurita: Owner, Nakamoto Sake Brewery Co., Ltd.
      CEO, Kurita Machinery Mfg. Co., Ltd.

Yasuhiro Kurita: Co-owner, Nakamoto Sake Brewery Co., Ltd.
      President, Marketing Excellence, Co., Ltd.

Mariko Ohsato: CEO & President, Arc Communications Inc.

Founded During the Showa Financial Depression
Now a Specialized Manufacturer of Filters Boasting Top Market Shares

Ohsato: I heard that Kurita Machinery is a top-runner in filter presses (pressure filters) with a history of over 90 years. Could you tell us about the company's history?

Yoshinao Kurita: Kurita Machinery was founded by my grandfather in 1930. At first, the company took on any work that was machinery-related, but its filters grew into a great success and the business switched gears to become a specialized manufacturer. Later, my grandfather's eldest son took over as the second-generation CEO, and after several twists and turns, he succeeded in fully automating the filter press process in 1960 or so. At the time, pollution diseases like the itai-itai disease (cadmium poisoning) and Minamata disease (mercury poisoning) were major social issues in Japan. This led to the creation of environmental regulations and revisions to industrial production processes, which helped our automatic filter press business grow exponentially. However, right when automation was picking up speed, the second-generation CEO suddenly passed away at the young age of 45. His son, Yasuhiro, was only in junior-high school at the time, so the late CEO's younger brother took up the position.

Ohsato: So, the younger brother, who was your father, became the third-generation CEO. I hear he originally worked at a trading company.

Yoshinao Kurita: Yes, and it's a good thing he did. When the automatic filter press was first developed, our company was the only one offering it. We were unchallenged for a while, but competitors eventually appeared. The change in leadership came around that time, so my father was able to draw on the expertise he had gained at the trading company to review our sales strategy. For example, he made more reliable proposals and revised the product lineup. Sadly, my father, too, passed away when he was only 60.

Becoming the Fourth-Generation CEO of Kurita Machinery
A Visit to a Brewery Led to Buying It?!

Ohsato: Then, you became the fourth-generation CEO.

Yoshinao Kurita: That's because Yasuhiro, who's the son of the second-generation CEO, said he didn't want to (laughs). I was working at a trading company as well until then.

Ohsato: What were you doing at the time, Yasuhiro?

Yasuhiro Kurita: I worked at a bank and was appointed to a post in the US. Later, I founded my own marketing company.

Ohsato: That means neither of you had any sort of connection to the Japanese sake industry to begin with?

Yoshinao Kurita: Well, my grandfather and father were both super lightweights when it came to alcohol (laughs). I heard they did, in fact, make some sales visits to breweries, but they were baffled by a world that went on about a sake's "luster" with no means of quantification. So, they backed away and the company didn't reach out to breweries ever since. But after I took over, our banker introduced us to a brewery and I decided to give it a go. That was how I came to visit Nakamoto Sake Brewery.

Ohsato: I see, so it was a sales visit at first.

Feature,Interview,Arc Communications,Nakamoto Sake Brewery Co., Ltd.

Yoshinao Kurita: It was. But when I finished giving a rundown of our filters, the owner said, "I'm actually thinking of closing the business." It hit me out of the blue. Then the banker asked me, "Are you interested in buying the brewery?" At first, I had no intention of doing so and turned down the offer right away. But it stayed on my mind. I was told the brewery already had an established procurement route for its rice, and that it had a toji (master brewer) and the necessary workers. It felt like a shame to lose a brewery with a 290-year history, and I found myself gradually warming up to the idea. I wasn't dissatisfied with inheriting the family business and walking down a path that was already set up for me, but I guess a part of me wanted to try starting something from scratch.

Ohsato: You went out to sell machines and ended up buying a brewery.

Yoshinao Kurita: Yes. What's more, after I bought it, I was told the toji had quit a week prior. So I appointed the number two brewer, who was still in his mid-30s, as the new toji, consulted the local toji association and somehow got the business started.

Yasuhiro Kurita: You didn't tell me that you had bought a brewery for quite a while.

Yoshinao Kurita: I knew you'd say I was wheedled by the banker into the buying it. I was thinking the same thing as well. But it seemed fun, so I was okay with it.