- Master brewer(s)
There is a long tradition of seasonal brewing as winter employment for workers drawn from the agricultural, fishery and forestry industries of Japan’s various regions. The person with final responsibility for brewing is called a toji and the other brewing workers are known as kurabito (蔵人, literally “brewery person”). It used to be the case that the master brewer was entirely responsible for finding all the brewing staff necessary at the particular brewery. A toji must have not only superb technical skill, but must be a person of character possessing the leadership, judgement and management skills necessary to foster and maintain teamwork amongst the kurabito. As a result, the master brewer is called oyaji or oyassan (indicating a father figure) as a mark of respect by both the brewing staff and the brewery owner.
There are a number of toji guilds across the nation, each with proud individual traditions which they bring to brewing. The various groupings are named for their region of origin, including Sannai Toji (山内杜氏, Akita Prefecture), Nanbu Toji (南部杜氏, Iwate Prefecture), Echigo Toji (越後杜氏, Niigata Prefecture), Noto Toji (能登杜氏, Ishikawa Prefecture), Nuka Toji (糠杜氏, Fukui Prefecture), Tajima Toji (但馬杜氏）, Tanba-Toji (丹波杜氏, these last two both from Hyogo Prefecture), Bicchu Toji (備中杜氏, Okayama Prefecture), Hiroshima Toji (広島杜氏, Hiroshima Prefecture), Izumo Toji (出雲杜氏, Shimane Prefecture) and Kyushu-shuzo-Toji (九州地方, Kyushu Prefecture).
As the number of seasonally employed toji has declined, it has become common to call the factory head or year-round employee in charge of brewing “toji”
The various guilds may formally designate those members meeting certain qualifying conditions, for example as a “Tanba Toji”, (appropriate to the specific guild in question). The Japanese Federation of Brewers’ Unions also recognizes those meeting the required qualifications as “Japanese Brewing Toji” (Nihon Shuzo Toji, 日本酒造杜氏).