Toji (chief brewer at a sake brewery) (杜氏)

The term "toji," written as 杜氏 in Japanese, refers to a person who supervises kurabito, a group of skilled workers responsible for sake brewing, and works as the chief executive brewer at a brewery.

Origin of the Term

Toji (written as 刀自in Japanese) Theory

This is the most dominant opinion up to now. The term "toji" originally used the Chinese characters 刀自 (pronounced as toji). The term "toji" (刀自) represented an archaic Japanese word "tonushi" (written as 戸主 in Japanese) which meant a housewife who managed all housekeeping duties, and this word was an antonym of the word "tone," written as 刀禰 in Japanese, which represented a male worker. In various regions of Southeast Asia, there was a widespread primitive alcohol brewing method called "kuchikami no sake" (which literally means "chewed alcohol"), in which people made alcohol by chewing boiled grains with saliva in their mouths in order to take in wild yeast from the air to ferment the grains and make alcohol. According to the "Osuminokuni Fudoki" (the records of the geography of Osumi Province), initial Japanese sake was also a sort of such alcohol (refer to the section of Ancient Times in the article of History of Japanese Sake). It is thought that sake brewing was a women's job in the time of this brewing method. The Miki no Tsukasa (the office in charge of the brewing of sake and vinegar) brewed sake at the Imperial Court in and after the Asuka period, and the sakabe (the section in charge of sake brewing) still had some female personnel at that time, but sake brewing gradually became a men's job as time went by. This opinion insists that only the sound 'toji' was inherited in the job's name after all.

Du Kang Theory

In ancient China, there were gods of alcohol named Yi Ti and Du Kang (pronounced as toko in Japanese), and this opinion insists that the term came from the story that people who made good sake were given a surname (written as 氏 in Japanese) Toko (written as 杜康 in Japanese) which was derived from the latter god. The "Toji Shigyo Nikki" (the log of To-ji Temple management), which is a document handed down at To-ji Temple in Kyoto, also has some descriptions which seem to support this theory.

Combination Theory

This theory is the combination of the above 'Toji theory' and the 'Du Kang theory.'
This theory says the term's sound came from '刀自' (toji) and the characters 杜康 were assigned to the term afterward.

Shashi (written as 社司 in Japanese, representing a Shinto priest) Theory

This theory explains that the term is derived from the word which represents a person who makes miki (sacred sake) at a Shinto shrine. According to this theory, the character '社' was changed to '杜,' and '司' was changed to '氏' as time passed by.

Toji (written as 頭司 in Japanese) Theory

This theory explains that the term's origin is the word 'toji' (written as 頭司 in Japanese, which literally means "headman") which refers to a leader who manages a sake brewing team. Even now, some breweries still write toji as '頭司' instead of '杜氏' in Japanese.

Toji (written as 陶師 in Japanese, representing a pottery master) Theory

There is some mention about this theory, but no explanation of its origin is left.

Toji (written as 藤次 in Japanese) Theory

There is some mention about this theory, but no explanation of its origin is left.

The Heian Period and Earlier Times

The brewing of Japanese sake has such a long history that it dates back to ancient times when women played a key role in sake brewing in each community, as the above section 'Toji (刀自) Theory' describes.

The Imperial Court began to manage sake brewing as time went by, and they established a division called Miki no Tsukasa in the Asuka period. In that division, specialists who were given a position called sakabe, whose status was equivalent to the status of a present-day government official, were in charge of sake brewing. Although they were indeed brewing specialists, it is hard to say that they were the direct origin of latter-day toji, in terms of whether there were group-specific techniques or not, and/or in terms of their organization system.

The Kamakura, Muromachi, and Azuchi-Momoyama Periods

The main stage of sake brewing shifted from the Imperial Court to temples, and priests who had expert knowledge about brewing began to brew soboshu (sake brewed at major temples). Unlike sakabe at the Miki no Tsukasa, such priests can be somewhat regarded as the origin of latter-day toji schools because they developed each temple's unique taste and brewing method such as bodaimoto (the oldest starter of refined sake), but they still did not have a direct relation with latter-day toji, in view of their organization system.

Subsequently, people who claimed descent from sakabe or their distant relatives began to brew sake independently of the Imperial Court and temples. Such brewing specialists who were equivalent to modern-day 'private' brewing experts were called sakashi (which literally means "sake master"), and stores which brewed and sold sake were called tsukuri-zakaya (which means "sake brewer and seller," and they were also simply called 'sakaya' (sake shop). Refer to the section of Sakaya for the difference between them).

Tsukuri-zakaya prospered in their business in Kyoto during the Kamakura and the Muromachi periods, and other regions also had high-quality sake with marked regional characters called yosozake (which literally means "another place's sake"), which was the origin of present-day jizake (local sake), such as Hogenzake in Echizen Province, Miyakoshizake in Kaga Province, and Egawazake in Izu Province. However, such sakashi people were less hierarchized and organized than latter-day toji groups; indeed, their sake brewing duties were more horizontally and widely specialized rather than vertically specialized.

Although the production of koji (malt grown on rice used as a starter to make sake) is completely included in the job of a toji group at present, it was not included in the job of a sake brewing specialist group yet, and it was not even the job of a tsukuri-zakaya before the Koji Riot of the Bunan Era occurred in 1444. This was because they outsourced it to koji-ya (koji supplier), whose primary business was the production of koji, and they were in another industry. At that time, therefore, a toji group did not have a position which was equivalent to a kojishi (a person in charge of the koji production) or koji-ya in a latter-day toji group.

Brewing specialists who were invited from the capital city were generally called sakashi or kojishi rather than toji even after the Edo period began, or until the latter of the Edo period in some regions.

The Edo Period

The direct origin of present-day toji and the kurabito system appeared at the beginning of the Edo period. There were two facts which triggered toji; firstly Zen-emon KONOIKE developed a technique of large-sized preparation barrels in 1600, which can be said to be the industrial revolution of Japanese sake, and secondly the shogunate and domain system was established and it settled a relation between peasants and their lord in each region.

Its origin is that peasants in a region where farming during only a summer period could not produce enough money due to poor lands formed a group involving young people in their villages, and they went to another region called sake-dokoro (a place famous for sake brewing) where people brewed sake using the local good water, in order to make some additional incomes during a winter period, which was an agricultural off-season.

Since the trend of brewing methods was gradually changed from shiki-jozo (four-season brewing) to kan-zukuri (cold-season brewing), the number of the people who joined in such seasonal work at another place increased after the katte-zukuri rei (the deregulation policy to promote sake brewing) was established in 1754, and such people began to form toji groups. This was because the katte-zukuri rei increased the sake production amount, and the interest of tsukuri-zakaya who needed more staff coincided with the interest of peasants who wanted to make even a little money during the agricultural off-season. Among toji who went to another region to work during the off-season, some people were adopted by sake store owners because of their faithful performance, some were allowed to start a new business under the same names of their owners, or some opened their own small sake stores by purchasing sakekabu (officially recognized brewing permits).

Clans in the Hokuriku and the Tohoku regions invited experts including sakashi and kojishi from advanced sake-brewing districts such as Sessen Juni-go (the twelve sake brewing districts in Settsu Province and Izumi Province) and Nada Go-go (the five sake brewing areas in the Nada district) on clan budget and asked such experts to make gozenshu (sake for a feudal lord) in order to save people from economic difficulties. They also sent local peasants to actual brewing sites so that they could learn brewing skills which would enable them to produce hanzoshu (local sake brewed by a clan) without experts' help afterward. Among toji groups, some groups such as Nanbu Toji (the toji group from present-day Iwate Prefecture) were formed in this way. In many of such clans, furthermore, they unanimously worked to enhance relations between toji groups and sake brewing districts by arranging places to work during the agricultural off-season in some advanced sake-brewing regions through kurayashiki (a warehouse and sales office for rice and other local products maintained by daimyo in the Edo period) when those who had great brewing skills appeared.

Nada Go-go, which was well known as a great sake-brewing district, had been originally a group of poor villages where farming could not produce enough money to live, but Nada sake rapidly became popular in about the Kansei era and peasants in this district began to be invited to various regions as sakashi at high salaries. This was a sort of brain drain from the viewpoint of the Nada district. Before long, the increase of the production of Nada sake caused a shortage of personnel in the Nada district, and they recruited workers who were willing to work in Nada from Harima Province and Tanba Province in order to fill up such vacancies. In particular, toji groups from Tanba Province consequently formed a close relationship with sake breweries in Nada, and eventually, brewmasters from Tanba Province occupied most brewers in Nada in the Tenpo era (from 1831 to 1845).

Hanzoshu in each region had been greatly affected by brewing policies of the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) and had eventually survived until the end of the Edo period led by various events reflecting ups and downs in each era, but most hanzoshu was not so successful that it could not help the difficult financial conditions of clans.

However, considering the fact that each region has been forming its unique school with its own delicately different method and taste until today, it can be said that support from the clans in those days consequently produces the fruits at present after almost a 200-year long period; for example the Aizu domain produced Aizu Toji, the Akita domain produced Sannai Toji, and the Nanbu domain produced Nanbu Toji.

From the Meiji Period to the Present

Once the government made a plan to modernize the brewing industry in the Meiji period, toji groups also began to reorganize their structure so that it would be suited to the government's policy. A branch office of a toji group was established in a region where there were many breweries, and when a toji post of a brewery became vacant, this office functioned as a coordinator or an agency to assign the next toji from the same school to that post immediately, so that the brewery was able to keep the same brewing method and the same sake taste.

In addition, toji groups established a toji union in order to hold stable employment and have a place for information exchange.

In the beginning of the Showa period, when Japan expanded their colonies in neighboring countries, there was a huge demand for personnel who had sake brewing skills in overseas territories (the places outside of the mainland of Japan), and many schools sent toji and kurabito to such places. In particular, the supply of toji personnel could not catch up with its demand, so toji people had business trips to visit one brewer after another in many locations and gave instruction to local people. The major places to visit were Korea, Manchuria, and Taiwan, and they were also dispatched to as far as Singapore and Brazil.

When a person wanted to become a toji, he had to start his career from a position called kashiki (also called mamataki or meshitaki), which literally means a servant who cooks rice, and it took a few decades for him to learn all steps of brewing.
Before World War II, however, young people who lived in poor farming or fishing villages vied with each other to gain a position of toji, because toji people were respected for their work, and their income was so large that people said, 'once becoming a toji, you can build a mansion.'
The world of toji was a meritocratic society in which a toji could have many offers of other job opportunities with better environment if his sake gained a good reputation, but his contract for the following year would be canceled if he failed in making good sake. It can be said that the character of toji work was similar to a modern-day entrepreneur of a venture business in that respect.

However, it can be also said that such prosperity in the beginning of the Showa period brought sad result that many talented people were lost both inside and outside the mainland of Japan due to the calamity during and after World War II. This big loss of human resources was one of the major reasons that the post-war recovery of the sake industry went on more slowly than other alcoholic beverage industries.
(Refer to the Middle of the Showa Period)

Although the number of toji drastically decreased due to a long-term depression of sake consumption, more young people have been appreciating the sake culture and trying to be toji since the 1980s. In addition, some schools have founded their own technical schools or training facilities, and great efforts have been made at a brewery level in order to develop successors; for example the sake Meister system at Kikuhine Goshi Ltd. in Ishikawa Prefecture.

Toji Groups

Each toji group forms one school, and each one has its own secret techniques. Needless to say, they never allow anyone to teach such information to people outside the school. However, the barriers between toji groups or schools have been slowly lowered compared to the past.

One of the reasons for this movement is that a mechanism which determines the taste of a certain school's sake has been scientifically revealed by little and little. At the same time, it is also true that scientific explanations have not been yet given to most part of the cause and effect of very delicate taste and flavor which appeal to the senses of drinkers (or consumers) who have thorough knowledge and experience of sake.

Another reason is the bitter situation in which they are no longer able to stick with a distinction between schools inside the brewers' society because the whole sake industry has been suffering from a long-term depression and a lack of successors, and many small schools are losing their toji groups, or already lost their toji groups.

Role of Toji Groups

Most toji groups join in a toji union, and it is not simply a name list of registered toji but is also utilized as a place to improve members' skills by competing with each other by holding national tasting-parties for new sake or study meetings at the internal level of toji groups. It is also an important organization which provides an information exchange network. It has some other important tasks such as the provision of unemployment insurance, the personnel management, and the development of successors.

Relation with a Sake Brewery

Traditionally, the job of toji has been completely a contracting business. A toji takes a full responsibility for a certain year's sake brewing under a contract with a sake brewery. The toji has complete authority and responsibility for assignment of kurabito (sake brewing workers), and the brewery does not intervene in it. Therefore the toji and the brewery have one labor-management contract, and the kurabito and the toji have a different labor-management contract.

Generally speaking, a relation between a brewery and a toji group has been developed over many generations. Consequently, if one toji retires from a traditional brewery, they generally invite the next toji from the same toji school or group in order to keep their taste and originality.

However, a close relation at a group level between a brewery group and a toji group, such as the relation which existed in the Edo period between the Nada district and Tanba Toji, is rarely seen throughout the country at present, and it is not unusual for several breweries in one town to have toji from various schools.

Also, new-generation breweries do not pay too much attention to toji schools, and when a previous toji steps down to make room for another person or just leaves his position, many breweries now have the attitude that they invite new personnel through recruitment advertisements and they are willing to accept any applicant who agrees to their conditions of employment.

Annual Schedule of a Toji Group

During the summer, a traditional toji is in farming in his village, and the brewery that he works for visits him to make a plan of brewing which starts in the autumn of that year. After a harvest is finished in the autumn, the toji invites young people in the village or people in neighboring villages who have some skills and he forms a team for sake brewing in the winter. It is unsurprising that the team consists of various members such as people who have a several-year experience and join in the team every year and people who temporarily join in the team only for that year.

The toji takes them to the brewery in the autumn. They live together at the brewery for about a half year until the sake brewing is finished, and they sometimes work hard all night long.

Many breweries hold koshiki-daoshi (celebration of the end of the steaming process) in about February and complete the preparation for that brewing year. Although they still have a number of remaining processes that need great care, such as ferment, shipment, and preparation for tasting parties, the toji or the toji group can finally have relief after achieving this stage.

Changes of Toji Group Style

The above-described traditional style of toji group has been rapidly changing since about the 1980s. The number of toji has been decreasing year by year, and each toji group has begun to suffer from a shortage of successors. Some schools found that they could not maintain themselves as one independent school any longer, and so they attempted to merge with some neighboring schools.

Such situation is influenced by the aging of active toji people and the current trend in which the regions which used to produce toji groups due to their poverty are now transformed into the community which enables people to make enough income only by farming or fishing, without going to another place for work anymore. In addition, young people now want to find a job at a company which can provide steady income, and the image that young people in countryside used to have, which was described as 'once becoming a toji, you can build a mansion,' is becoming old-fashioned. Breweries in regions far away from hometowns of toji are currently confronted with a grave situation that they cannot get hold of toji when they want to brew sake.

Such changes bring some breweries a new management style called toji-ken-kuramoto (toji and brewer) or owner Meister, in which a brewery owner also works as a toji. Also, nowadays many young people become toji, motivated by their passion that they want to support the declining sake culture, not by the image of success in life that young people used to have in the past. Some breweries start a new style of small-sized and elite-mindedness brewery called hitori-gura (which literally means "one-person brewery"), in which one person is responsible for all processes such as brewing, management, and sales activities.
More female toji also become active, and they begin to form their unique brewery networks such as 'Night with Female Brewer-made Excellent Sake.'

On the other hand, since major sake manufacturers brew sake by an automated process with computers, toji people at such manufacturers just have to monitor those computers, and in most cases, their assistants who help the toji handle incidental tasks are all part-time workers temporarily hired by the manufacturers.

Nicknames and Expressions

Workers at a brewery such as toji and kurabito have been traditionally called sakaya-mon (which literally means "a person at a sake shop").

Since a toji person should supervise his or her team for around a half year, he or she must have strong leadership and great tolerance so that he or she can lead his or her people and occasionally even their families who stay in their hometown, as well as excellent skills of brewing. Therefore it is common that the toji is called 'oyakata' (boss) by both the brewery and the kurabito because of great respect from them. They expect visitors from outside the brewery also follow this as good manners.

From a social point of view, a term representing a toji varies depending on that toji's attitude toward sake brewing.

Among creators, for example, some are "craftsman" type people who mechanically produce things according to given designs, and others are "plastic artist" type people who embody their own idea in their works. Similarly, there are various types of attitudes toward sake brewing among toji people.

Since major sake manufacturers who produce sake as industrial goods for the consumer market regard a toji person as just a production engineer in a good way or a bad way, they actually call him or her a toji production engineer, or some companies give other titles such as the general manager or the chief blender to toji people.

At the same time, Japanese sake is regarded as culture or craft products among some breweries, especially small or medium-sized breweries, and they call toji people shuzo-sakka (which literally means "an author of brewing") or shuzo-ka (which literally means "an artist of brewing") because they believe toji create sake as their own unique work as people sometimes say 'every person has a different talent, and every toji has his or her unique sake.'

In addition, the expression of "shuzo-ka" refers to not only toji but also some breweries who do not just produce sake on the business level but elevate sake brewing to their own belief or philosophy.

People who are involved in sake brewing are all called a brewing technician at present, and most toji are certificated as the First Grade brewing technician by the Sake Brewing Proficiency Test.

Organization and Title

Needless to say, a bigger brewery has a bigger toji group. In a smaller team, they do not always have all the following positions, and it is not unusual that one person holds a few titles. According to the standards adopted before World War II, a brewery which used 1,000 koku of rice for sake brewing was said to require around 10 people for their toji group. Letting a toji's pay be 100, the kashira (headman) in his group can receive between 50 and 60, and jo-bito (the first rank of sake brewing workers) and shita-bito (the third rank of sake brewing workers) in the group respectively receive 10 and 6. Each amount of pay reflects each responsibility.

Toji

A toji is the chief brewing worker who organizes, forms, and leads a toji group under a brewery's confidence. This position is compared to the manager in a baseball team. He or she is responsible for okezan, which is the management of budget and accounts for sake brewing, and all processes of sake production such as preparation of main fermenting mash, brewing, safety management, and warehouse management. As another section describes its details, a toji has been traditionally called oyakata at a brewery, but there are various titles for a toji such as bucho (the manager) at present.

Kuramoto (brewer)

A kuramoto is the owner and the proprietor of a brewery, and he or she is responsible for financing, the procurement and the management of equipment, sales of sake, and other sales related activities such as marketing. This position is compared to the owner of a baseball team. However, the number of toji who also work as a kuramoto has been increased recently. A small-sized brewery at where one person takes charge of all tasks is called hitori-gura.

San-yaku (three key officials)

These people take partial charge of the brewing process by section and directly instruct kurabito under the command of the toji, and they also play a role of middle level executives. Kashira (a headman), koji-ya (a koji supplier), and moto-ya (a yeast mash maker) are generally included in san-yaku. At some schools and breweries, however, san-yaku is sometimes called san-ban, and it includes a toji, a kashira, and a koji-ya.

Having said that, the style of a traditional toji group has been changed recently and fewer breweries now have typical san-yaku; accordingly, a group consisting of a toji and kurabito, or a toji and young employees, brews sake at more breweries, and the number of breweries whose kuramoto also work as a toji is also increasing. Some breweries flexibly change their organization every year depending on circumstances.

San-yaku officials respectively have the following roles.

Kashira

This person works as a leader of kurabito people as well as a toji's assistant. His or her tasks are to transmit the toji's instructions to the kurabito people and to coordinate and manage them. This position is compared to a head coach in a baseball team. He or she is often responsible for the preparation of main fermenting mash and the water for sake brewing preparation. This person is often called fuku-toji (an assistant toji) or jicho (an assistant director) at present.

Koji-ya

This person is responsible for the production of koji taking the leadership of his or her team. He or she takes care of steamed rice which is used for the koji production, as well as all tasks at a koji-muro (room to produce koji). This position is compared to a pitching coach in a baseball team. This position is also called koji-shi (which literally means "koji master") or dai-shi (which literally means "grand master") at some breweries.

Moto-ya

This person directs his or her team to make yeast mash and works with a kashira for sake brewing preparation. This position is compared to a batting coach in a baseball team. This position is also called moto-mawari (literally, "yeast mash-related"), moto-mawashi (literally, "yeast mash-related"), or moto-shi (literally, "yeast mash master") at some breweries.

Kama-ya (pot master)

This person is in charge of rice steaming. His or her responsibility includes the steaming process of sake rice in a koshiki (rice-steaming pot), kindling a fire for a pot, washing the rice, weighing the rice, and other preparations such as the supply of water.
Steaming is a significant process which determines the condition of haze (white spots on the surface of steamed rice which become visible as koji yeast propagates), and some brewers insist that steaming comes first, steaming comes second, and steaming comes third for sake brewing, instead of a general phrase expressed as 'koji comes first, yeast mash comes second, and preparation comes third.'
Although kama-ya is not included in san-yaku, this is such an important position that he or she has a special assistant called ai-gama (literally, "pot co-worker").

Sendo (waterman)

This person is in charge of the extraction phase called joso. Since the special equipment used for the sake extraction is called fune (written as 槽 in Japanese), whose pronunciation is the same as another Japanese word 船 (which means "a boat" or "a ship"), this position is called sendo (waterman), representing the captain of a ship. This position's name varies depending on regions.

Ai-koji (literally, "koji co-worker")

This person works as an assistant of a koji-ya.

Ai-gama

This person works as an assistant of a kama-ya. This position is also called oimawashi.

Sumi-ya (literally, "charcoal supplier")

This person is in charge of the filtration process. Since the sake filtration with activated charcoal was popular in the past, they required experts who were familiar with an efficient filtration method which used only a little amount of charcoal. A school called Echigo Toji was well known for their excellent sumi-ya. These days, however, tinted sake is not necessarily less appreciated at a national tasting-party for new sake, and the number of sumi-ya workers has long since decreased as the value of filtration has been radically changed.

Awamori (foam watcher)

This person is in charge of the observation of foam. In the past, sake foam rose above the brim of a barrel due to fermentation and the sake sometimes ran over the barrel in the course of main fermenting mash preparation, and once this occurred, it could lead to a large amount of waste of the prepared sake, so breweries needed staff whose task was to keep watching their sake all night long. However, the development of non-foaming yeast got rid of that concern, and few breweries have this position nowadays. This position is also called awaban.

Dogu-mawashi (Tool manager)

This person is in charge of the maintenance of sake brewing tools and equipment. His or her duties are washing of tools and equipment and the transportation of water.

Kurodo (also referred to as Kurabito)

The original correct pronunciation is 'kurodo.'
This term refers to general sake brewing workers who work under the command of a toji. These people do actual works under each section's manager and they are divided into distinct ranks such as jo-bito (the first rank of sake brewing workers), chu-bito (the second rank of sake brewing workers), and shita-bito (the third rank of sake brewing workers). A distinction between ranks used to be very strict for better or worse. This traditional distinction between ranks has been weakened in recent years.

Jo-bito

Their main duties are washing tubs, finishing wash of tubs with water, drawing water, and preparation of tools.

Chu-bito

Their main duties are drawing water, washing rice, carrying steamed rice, and washing tools and other small things.

Shita-bito

Their main duties are washing tools and other small things, washing rice, drawing water, and foam watching. Most of the toji in a living national treasure class also started their career as a shita-bito.

Kashiki (also referred to as Mamataki or Meshitaki, which literally means "the cooking of rice")

This position is usually assigned to the youngest trainee in a group. This position's duties are cleaning, the preparation of meals for all members, to keep watching tubs, and the assistance of a koji-ya.

According to Haruo TAKAHAMA who is from Echigo Toji, the order of positions in a kurabito career (in other words, the course of promotion to a toji) is fixed as follows: the first position is a tool washer, followed by a rice washer, a kama-ya, a sendo, a moto-ya, a koji-ya, a kashira, and a toji. A kurabito is never demoted or returned to a previous position. If a kurabito's performance merits demotion, that means he or she has no choice but to retire from the job.

Working Patterns

Traditional working clothes of a toji or a kurabito are a Japanese style short coat called hanten, an apron, and a headband. It is said that this style was adopted because when the tap of a barrel was accidentally opened and sake flowed from the tap, a headband or an apron could be practically used to stop the sake flow by wringing the headband or the apron and inserting it into the tap. In addition, if a worker got splashed with hot water by accident, he could instantly take off his clothes as long as he wore a hanten. A hanten and an apron respectively had a brewery's name relieved on its colored field, and these items were newly given to a worker from the brewery at the end of the sake brewing process of the year, along with some other gifts such as sea bream-shaped candy and a pair of Japanese wooden sandals. This custom remained until the mid-1970s.

Toji now wear white robes at major breweries which brew and control sake by machine. Skilled toji are not necessarily needed for each brewing phase, so it is not unusual that only part-time workers take care of the brewing process. For example, Gekkeikan, one of the nationwide sake manufacturers, has only one full-time toji worker.

Unlike this case, breweries which emphasize manually-brewed sake with hundreds koku of rice per year tend to have more toji because their work more relies on toji.

One of the biggest challenges for the present-day breweries is to improve the severe working conditions which have remained from the past, such as short sleeping hours during the preparation season, with keeping the same level of sake quality. Breweries which have been making effort to take successful measures against that problem are being more appreciated in this industry.

Aomori Prefecture

Tsugaru Toji

They are originally from the area around Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture. The number of toji in this school has decreased and there are only several toji at present. They are in danger of closing down.

Iwate Prefecture

Nanbu Toji

They are the biggest toji group in Japan at present. They are originally from the basin of the Kitakami-gawa River in Iwate Prefecture, and their current base is Ishidoriya-cho, Hanamaki City. Refer to the section 'Nanbu Toji' for further details.

Akita Prefecture

Sannai Toji

They are originally from Yokote City (former Sannai-mura), Akita Prefecture. All toji throughout Akita Prefecture are called 'Sannai Toji' at present.

Yamagata Prefecture

Shonai Toji

They are originally from the Shonai region of Yamagata Prefecture. The number of toji in this school has decreased and there are only a several toji at present. They are in danger of closing down.

Fukushima Prefecture

Aizu Toji

They are originally from the Aizu region of Fukushima Prefecture. The number of toji in this school decreased and the toji association disbanded at one time, but they have been coming back to the industry in recent years.

Niigata Prefecture

Echigo Toji

They are originally from the south central region of Niigata Prefecture. They used to be the biggest toji school in Japan. They are still the second biggest toji group after Nanbu Toji. Refer to the section 'Echigo Toji' for further details.

Nagano Prefecture

Otari Toji

They are originally from Otari-mura, Kita-Azumi County, Nagano Prefecture. The number of toji in this school is ten-odd at present.

Suwa Toji

They are originally from the area around Suwa City, Nagano Prefecture. The number of toji in this school is more than ten at present.

Iyama Toji

They are originally from the area around Iiyama City, Nagano Prefecture. The number of toji in this school is ten-odd at present.

Shizuoka Prefecture

Shida Toji

They were from the area around Oigawa-cho (present-day Yaizu City), Shida County, Shizuoka Prefecture. This school disappeared in 1996.

Ishikawa Prefecture

Noto Toji

They are from the area around Suzu City, Ishikawa Prefecture. They have been attracting more attention because of their unique development. Refer to the section 'Noto Toji' for further details.

Fukui Prefecture

Ono Toji

They are from the area around Ono City, Fukui Prefecture. They were originally a group of toji who had special skills of rice milling. They are in danger of closing down.

Echizennuka Toji

They are in the Nuka district of Minamiechizen-cho, Nanjo County, Fukui Prefecture. The number of toji in this school has decreased and there are only several toji at present. They are in danger of closing down.

Kyoto Prefecture

Tango Toji

They were in Tango-cho, Tango City, Kyoto Prefecture. This school disappeared in 2005.

Hyogo Prefecture

Tanba Toji

They are originally from the area around Sasayama City, Hyogo Prefecture. This is a toji group which has been developed by breweries in the Nada district. They used to be a big group.

Nantan Toji

The name "Nantan" is usually written as 南但 in Japanese, but it is sometimes written as 南丹 as well. They are active in the area around Yabu City, Hyogo Prefecture. This school first appeared in the Taisho period, and they are one of the newest toji groups. They are in danger of closing down.

Tajima Toji

They are originally from the area around Kami-cho and Shinonsen-cho of Mikata County, Hyogo Prefecture. They are included in the three major Toji after Nanbu Toji and Echigo Toji, but the number of toji of this school has rapidly decreased in recent years.

Kinosaki Toji

They are in Kinosaki-cho, Toyooka City, Hyogo Prefecture. The number of toji in this school has been decreasing and they are now in danger of closing down.

Okayama Prefecture

Bicchu Toji

They are from the area around Kasaoka City and Asakuchi City in Okayama Prefecture. The number of toji in this school has been decreasing and they are now in danger of closing down.

Hiroshima Prefecture

Hiroshima Toji

They are originally from the area around Akitsu-cho, Hiroshima City, Hiroshima Prefecture. Since the center of their activity is Mitsu, Akitsu-cho, this school has been also called Akitsu Toji or Mitsu Toji. They became well known across the country for the soft water sake brewing method developed in the latter of the Meiji period.

Shimane Prefecture

Iwami Toji

They are in the area around Masuda City and Hamada City in Shimane Prefecture. The number of toji in this school has decreased and there are only several toji at present. They are in danger of closing down.

Izumo Toji

They are originally from the area around Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture. Toji from the area around Aika-cho, Matsue City are especially called Aika (written as 秋鹿 in Japanese) Toji, and Osaka's choice sake "Akishika," also written as 秋鹿 in Japanese, derives from this school.

Yamaguchi Prefecture

Otsu Toji

They are in the area around Nagato City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. The number of toji in this school has been decreasing and they are now in danger of closing down.

Kumage Toji

They are in the area around Shunan City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. The number of toji in this school has been decreasing and they are now in danger of closing down.

Kochi Prefecture

Tosa Toji

They were originally from the area around Nankoku City, Kochi Prefecture. It can be said that this school already disappeared in fact, but toji at breweries throughout Kochi Prefecture currently support the culture of this school.

Ehime Prefecture

Ochi Toji

They are in Imabari City and islands of Ochi County in Ehime Prefecture. The number of toji in this school has been decreasing and they are now in danger of closing down.

Ikata Toji

They are in Ikata-cho, Nishiuwa County, Ehime Prefecture. They are originally from a town located in the tip of the Ikata Peninsula. This school is disappearing.

Fukuoka Prefecture

Keya Toji

They are in Keya, Shima-machi, Itoshima County, Fukuoka Prefecture. The number of toji in this school has decreased and there are only several toji at present. They are in danger of closing down.

Chikugo Toji

They are from the area around Kurume City and Yanagawa City in Fukuoka Prefecture.

Mizuma Toji

They are one of the branch schools of Chikugo Toji.

Yanagawa Toji

They are one of the branch schools of Chikugo Toji.

Kurume Toji

Saga Prefecture

Hizen Toji

They are in the area around Hizen-machi, Karatsu City, Sage Prefecture. The number of toji in this school has been decreasing and they are now in danger of closing down.

Nagasaki Prefecture

Hirado Toji

They are in islands around Hirado City, Nagasaki Prefecture. In the past, each island had its own toji school such as Hirado Toji and Ikitsuki Toji.

Ikitsuki Toji

They are a branch school of Hirado Toji. Their base is in Ikitsuki Island.

Ojika Toji

They are in Ojika-cho, Kitamatsuura County, Nagasaki Prefecture. They are a toji school based on Goto Islands. The number of toji in this school has been decreasing. They are in danger of closing down.