YAME, FUKUOKA — A brewer in southwestern Japan has incorporated Internet of Things (IoT) technology into the production of koji, said to be the heart of traditional alcoholic beverages’ flavor.
We visited Takahashi Shoten, a sake brewery with over 300 years of history in Yame City, Fukuoka Prefecture. Even though it was early in the morning on a cold December day, the temperature in the koji-making room exceeded 30°C and it was so humid that I started sweating. In the room was a cedar box containing steamed rice covered in koji mold.
The sides of the wooden boxes, which were piled up in eight layers, had QR codes affixed to them. Takahashi Shoten introduced IoT to the traditional koji-making process.
Humidity and temperature control are important to successfully grow koji mold. The position of the box was moved every few hours, and the temperature was carefully adjusted while observing the growth of mold. Working around the clock to check the molds and take care of them is like raising a child. Previously, supervisors would stay at the brewery for days. Younger generations have learned by watching how they apply the skills and intuitions they have acquired over the years.
But amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Takahashi Shoten turned to other ways to nurture potential successors. In 2021, we will develop a unique technology that utilizes a thermometer and QR code attached to each wooden box. By scanning a QR code, all workers could see the temperature on a computer screen and move the box to the proper position.
“I want to preserve the tradition of koji making and pass on the unchanging taste and aroma to future generations.” Sake with modern technology.
(Japanese original by Junko Adachi, City News Department)