Widely grown across Chūbu, the Sea of Japan side of Honshu, and beyond. Niigata is the birthplace of Gohyakumangoku 五百万石 and the two are deeply connected. A cross between Kikusui and Shin-200-go created in the 1930’s.
Gohyakumangoku is a popular variety of sake rice from Niigata for a few reasons. Structurally, they yield large grains - a hallmark of superior sake rice, and comes with a large and well-centeredshimpaku, or the starchy heart of the grain. This makes this particular rice variety ideal for sake brewing; the starch clustered in the center allows for effective removal of the outer layers of the grain that house proteins and lipids, which can cause unwanted flavors in sake. High starch content also ensures a vigorous and stable fermentation, as starch is an essential source of nutrients for koji.
Gohyakumangoku produces light and clean sake, symbolic of the Niigata style. Its refreshing flavor profile is well-received, and draws a contrast to the rich and often full-bodied sake made with Yamadanishiki, which is why the two varieties are sometimes dubbed as “Yokozuna of the East” and “Yokozuna of the West,” respectively.