Miho Imada

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Miho Imada (今田 美穂) (b 1962) is a sake brewmaster at Imada Shuzō in Akitsu, Hiroshima.[1] Imada has a reputation for making some of the finest sake in the world.[2]


Imada Shuzō is a small brewery in rural Hiroshima and produces internationally acclaimed ginjo-style sakes. It is also one of the only sake breweries owned and led by a female sake tōji [ja] (brewmaster).[3]

Imada grew up in Akitsu, Hiroshima, famous as the birthplace of ginjo-style sake and known for its soft water.[4] Imada Shuzō has been a family-run brewery since 1868 and Imada grew up at the brewery.[5][3][6] She learned the art of sake from her father and grandfather, but also enrolled in the National Research Institute of Brewing to learn about sake production in 1993.[5] In 1994, she returned to Imada Shuzō and studied under the tōji for eight years before becoming the head sake master when he retired in 2000.[5] Her father, Yukinao Imada, was growing older, and her brother had opted to become a doctor instead of taking over the family business.[1] In addition to being a master brewer at a fifth-generation sake brewery, Imada is known for exploring heirloom rice varieties to use in her brewing.[6][7] "For two decades, as part of her quest to craft a sake that reflects Hiroshima’s distinct climate and agricultural heritage, or terroir, she’s been single-handedly reviving the heritage strain. 'I was the only one who revived it, and even today I remain the only one who uses this rice in sake,' she says. The revival has required Imada to retrace Hiroshima’s sake history. She’s worked with local farmers to cultivate a seed they haven’t sowed in a century, and used trial and error to rediscover the perfect brewing process for a once-common, now-forgotten rice, whose folk roots make it less predictable than standardized modern cultivars."[7]

Before becoming a brewer at aged 33, Imada studied law at Meiji University and worked in Noh theater in Tokyo.[1] Noh is a traditional form of Japanese musical theatre that dates to the 14th century and one of the oldest forms of theater.[3] After graduating from Meiji University, she began working for the cultural activities section in a Tokyo department store.[8]


Women have worked in sake brewing since ancient times and there are several stories of Kuchikamizake (mouth-chewed sake).[9] "According to ancient sake lore women were the first makers of sake, and the earliest sake makers of the Yayoi period (BC 300 - AD 300). Shrine maidens called miko, they brewed the beverage as an offering to the gods, employing a primitive method that involved chewing and spitting rice and letting the body's own enzymes do the work of fermentation."[1] Chewing and the saliva broke down the starch in the rice into glucose, and airborne yeast transformed the glucose into a basic form of sake.[2] There are around 30 female tojis in Japan, but when Imada started brewing there were only a few; her dedication has been a model for other women in the industry, though she is always clear in interviews that she did not face gender discrimination in her work.[10]

Imada was in the 2019 documentary Kampai! Sake Sisters.[11]


Imada was on the list of the BBC's 100 Women announced on 23 November 2020.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d Matsumoto, Nancy (2020-01-31). "Master Sake Brewer Miho Imada". Medium. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  2. ^ a b yamatomagazine (2019-12-24). "Women Warriors: Miho Imada". Yamato Magazine. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  3. ^ a b c Kyogoku, Maiko. "Miho Imada Is Quietly Brewing Some of the Best Sake in the World". Bon Appétit. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  4. ^ "Polaner Selections". www.polanerselections.com. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  5. ^ a b c "Miho Imada of Imada Sake Brewery". Umami Mart. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  6. ^ a b "Imada Shuzo's Ginjo Sake". OISHI SO JAPAN. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  7. ^ a b Gattuso, Reina (2020-03-03). "The Sake Master Reviving a Long-Forgotten Local Rice". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  8. ^ "Imada - Japanese sake brewery". esake.com. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  9. ^ "#31BeerHerstories Mega List". braciatrix. 2020-04-06. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  10. ^ "Fukucho Moon on the Water | Junmai Ginjo | Japanese Sake | Vine Connections". www.vineconnections.com. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  11. ^ Kampai! Sake Sisters, retrieved 2020-04-23
  12. ^ "BBC 100 Women 2020: Who is on the list this year?". BBC News. 2020-11-23. Retrieved 2020-11-23.