This International Women's Day, we celebrate women who are making waves in Japan's traditionally male dominated sake industry. Out of the approximate 1,300 sake breweries in Japan, not many are female-run, and only 20 of them have female tojis, or brew masters, who are in charge of the physical act of making the sake. But women were once integral to sake production. From sake’s mythic origins to its first appearance in the historical record, women are central to the drink’s tradition. They invented it as shrine attendants, brewed it in family enterprises, and made livings hawking it in premodern villages.
Alongside a growing number of prominent women in sake, there are some incredible sakes coming out of these breweries—all the more reason to pour yourself an ochoko.