Story of Thinkfree

My Story, part one. October 28,2010

The Toji*1 didn't speak much. We only saw the back of the man, he was constantly at work and from this we learnt most from him. His body must have been tired, though he worked through the night, attending to the Koji*2. It seemed like his work kept him going, for all his efforts went into making sake.

Kusakabe Toji died in March 2009.

Lived only to produce sake

Mr. Kusakabe had formally retired in 2007 but in order to retain his expertise, we asked him to take on the position of technical advisor. He agreed to stay until the following January.
He rejoined the company after his many years of running the Takeno Brewery. The brewery was undergoing a transition to a new system and it was the same year my father became a Toji.

Once January came, Mr. Kusakabe did not leave at once, he persisted with his work up to the limit of his strength. His medication must have effected his mood, but he washes a pail as if he felt no pain, he looked normal. He supervised us meticulously, making sure we checked on temperature and progress of the Koji.

Around the end of January there was some turmoil in the brewery, his body had reached its limit and he was soon hospitalised. His work meant he had control over his body but underneath the cancer was spreading.

An unreal feeling

We were informed of his death when pressing the sake after Koshikidaoshi*3. My father immediately rushed to see Mr.Kusakabe in Shinonsen (Hyogo Prefecture).

When my father went to Mr.Kusakabe, I was still working. The quality of the sake would reduce if pasteurisation was incomplete. There could be no excuse for a decline in its quality and the process is not complete until the brewery is in a state of readiness for the next batch.

...Yes, then I didn't feel real.

I understood his death or the first time at the funeral. All members of the brewery attended. I had so many thoughts in my head. After, everyone went to the grave with the coffin, I couldn't move from there. It was the first time I've cried so much. At the same time, I fully understood the actuality of a man's death.

Come to think of it, I'm still keeping the old man's mobile phone number.


*1Toji - the head brewer
*2Koji- fermented rice
*3Koshikidaoshi- the first milestone in the brewing process
Sake is made from rice, fermented rice and water.