Restoration of Okinawa’s only pre-war awamori distillery nears completion

A restoration project of the only awamori distillery on Okinawa that was not destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa is nearing the completion in Nago.

After completion of the work, the Tsukayama Distillery is scheduled to open its doors and start again producing the spirit in September its original building after six years of repairs. The building was designated as a nationally important cultural property in 2009.

At the beginning of the restoration work every piece of the old building was numbered before taken down. There were no original blueprints, but aerial photos of the building taken by the U.S. military were used to construct the building to as close to its original shape as possible. Original parts were used as much as possible and only parts that were damaged beyond repair are replaced with new construction.

The U.S. military seized the distillery after the war, and used it as an office and bread factory. The distillery was returned to the founder around 1949.

Tsukayama Distillery was founded in Nago in 1928, and has continued the business ever since. It’s product, sold under label “Kokka” has a reputation of having a mild flavor and being easy to drink. The distillery produces only `1,200 bottles of Kokka per month and, according to Distillery Manager Koyu Koki, that’s the way they intend to keep it. “We have no plans to increase the production volume. The plant has value as a cultural asset because it has continued production through all these years at its own sustainable pace,” he said.