380 Years & 14 Generations of History and Tradition
The Founding Okura Family and Gekkeikan

When Haruhiko Okura, the 14th head of the Okura family and the current President of Gekkeikan, was appointed to his position in 1997 he established our core principles to be “Quality, Creativity, Humanity.” This was a clear statement outlining the values that the company had always tacitly understood to be part of our work over successive generations: quality above all, innovation and challenges, and respecting humanity.

Our traditions have been passed down, overcoming any and all hardships through constant creativity and innovation, to establish us in a position for which the Gekkeikan brand and its laurel wreath, symbolizing victory and glory, are appropriate.

Haruhiko Okura

President
14th Generation Head
Haruhiko Okura

1958 Born to the Okura family in Kyoto City.
1981 Graduates from the Faculty of Economics, Hitotsubashi University, and enters Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank (now Mizuho Bank).
1987 Leaves Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank and joins Gekkeikan Sake Company, Ltd.
1997 Appointed to the position of President as the 14th head of the family.

Founded at the start of the Edo period

Gekkeikan was founded in 1637 by Jiemon Okura when he opened a sake brewery in Fushimi, where our head office is currently located, after moving from the Kasagi area along the upper reaches of the Kizu River in southern Kyoto Prefecture. Jiemon named his brewery “Kasagiya,” or “Kasagi Shop,” after his home town. His new location was conveniently close to where “Sanjikkokubune (traditional medium boats to transport goods and people)” loaded and unloaded the cargo they shipped along the Yodo River to Osaka. This area was constantly busy with travelers coming and going, so he was able to take advantage of his shop's location facing a main road, and his family business prospered.

In the Edo period, Fushimi flourished as a transport hub linking Osaka, Kyoto, and Edo (now Tokyo). With a population of more than 30,000 at the time, it was believed to be the largest city after Edo, Osaka, and Kyoto. Demand for sake also increased, and there were some 83 sake producers who had been granted licenses to brew (“zoshukabu”) by 1657.

However, Kasagiya was at the time just a small sake shop selling locally in Fushimi. While it now provides sake to the entire country, and indeed the entire world, its growth to its current scale was relatively recent, and for the first 250 years of its history, Kasagiya merely operated as a local Fushimi brewery.

Nor was it always easy to do business: the 83 breweries in Fushimi as of 1657 had dwindled to just 28 by 1785. There are three main reasons why this happened. The first is that breweries tended to burn down easily, as they needed to use fire often in the brewing process. The second is that people were not yet aware of microorganisms, so many breweries found their sake going off, and the third was that famines had restricted the availability of the rice needed for producing sake. In addition, the Battle of Toba-Fushimi in 1868 also ended up burning down a number of sake breweries, as well as ordinary residences. Our brewery was spared by a whisker, even as the flames came closer and closer, which is why we have been able to survive to this day.

Founded at the start of the Edo period

Tsunekichi Okura, the dynamic, entrepreneurial 11th head

The fortunes of the Okura family were greatly enhanced thanks to the 11th head, Tsunekichi Okura, during the Meiji period. Tsunekichi was only 13 years old when he took over the family business. The town of Fushimi, which had flourished as a riverside trading town, was in the middle of a dramatic transformation as river transport gave way to rail transport, allowing local businesses to expand to more remote markets like Tokyo. In 1909, Tsunekichi opened the Sake Brewing Research Institute, the first of its kind ever established by a sake brewer. He brought in new technologies and techniques to improve quality, introduced bottled sake at a time when barreled sake was still the standard, and was the first to develop bottled sake without the use of preservatives. In addition, he started using the “Gekkeikan” trademark and hired designers to create dramatic new logos and patterns, innovating the creation of sake products and expanding the company into one of Japan's preeminent sake brewers.

Tsunekichi Okura, the dynamic, entrepreneurial 11th head

In May 1927, Gekkeikan became a joint-stock company. After World War Two, the twelfth head, Jiichi Okura , and the 13th head, Keiichi Okura, expanded the market for sake widely throughout Japan, focusing on the household market, and with the motto of “Quality First.” In addition, they launched innovations to actively tackle the development of new technology such as all-season sake brewing, and developed a wide range of high-quality products to suit the changes in cuisine and eating habits, and the increasingly diverse sake market.

Steadily building on creativity and innovation

Now, under the management of the 14th head, Haruhiko Okura, Gekkeikan is constantly pursuing quality above all, which is our cornerstone as a brewer, and emphasizes provision of the best quality sake in the world to our customers. We produce and sell sake, shochu, and liqueurs, and also import beer and wine.

Gekkeikan remains located in Fushimi, Kyoto, as it has since its founding. Including our Management, Production, and Sale divisions , some 400 employees are currently stationed in Fushimi. Our main brewing plant and production plant are both in Fushimi, and we have sales offices in 9 cities nationwide.

Steadily building on creativity and innovation

With the recent relaxation of the regulations concerning sake production, we have built an organizational system which can also support proposal-based sales to large-scale retailers, and not just local high street sake retailers. We also have bases overseas, establishing Gekkeikan Sake (USA), Inc. in 1989 to carry out the production, sale, and import of sake and other alcoholic beverages and Gekkeikan (Shanghai) Trading Co., Ltd. in 2011 to carry out sales of sake in China. Gekkeikan USA supplies sake to North and South America, Europe, and Asia, while also importing from Japan, with the aim of creating an even more global business style.

In order to further enhance the business activities of the Gekkeikan Group, we brought in the food products division of Kinrei Corporation, which produces and sells frozen noodles and other items. This will serve as the core company in our foodstuffs business, which will form the second pillar of our company after our sake business. Frozen noodles and other foods made by Kinrei are widely sold in convenience stores and supermarkets. Adding in our new foodstuffs business, the annual sales of the entire Gekkeikan Group are in the order of some forty billion yen.

We set up the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum in our home town of Fushimi, Kyoto, in 1982. The Museum preserves tools and equipment related to sake production, and presents the history of sake and Fushimi sake-making in an easily understandable way. We welcomed our 3 millionth visitor since the Museum opened to the public in 1987 on April 12, 2018. We continue to spread the word about Japanese sake culture, taking advantage of the sake production techniques we have developed over the centuries, as well as this historical landscape.

International connections

Gekkeikan has been a member of the Henokiens, an association of family-owned businesses with a history of 200 or more years, since 1984. Established in 1981, the Henokiens was formed with the purpose of drawing attention to the importance of familial warmth and traditional techniques that have been developed and protected over time, surviving the vicissitudes of history, and at the same time to establish links with young artisan companies.

Admission to the Henokiens requires a company to have at least two hundred years of history, to have been run by the same family, and to be financially sound. All three conditions must be met to qualify. Members include a number of traditional companies in Europe, manufacturing wine, glass products, gems, and other items. The association members are made up of old-established companies from the eight countries of Italy, France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, the Netherlands, England , and Belgium. These member companies are able to balance productivity with tradition in their business activities.

An Annual General Meeting is held at the location of one of our member companies each year, where we exchange information, deepen mutual understanding, and share what is good about our traditions with the other members. Gekkeikan has used these exchanges with Henokiens members to expand our international activities, letting the world know the value of the traditional and corporate culture of Japan.

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