The Kikuisami 36 Guardians is a premium sake range that exemplifies exceptional Yamagata sake making while telling its heartwarming origin story.

Some of us may be familiar with the Japanese story of the 47 ronin. In that true historical event, a group of samurai plotted and succeeded in avenging their master Asano Naganori after he was wrongfully incriminated and sentenced to death. Their bravery and eventual sacrifice became so popular and entrenched in Japanese culture their story entered into legend, spawning many plays and other Japanese literature, and even a Hollywood fantasy version starring Keanu Reeves.

Then there’s the other, lesser known, story of another group of samurai. Approximately 800 years ago, 36 of these valiant warriors escorted a princess of the Fujiwara clan as she fled the destruction of their city in the northeastern part of Japan, finally settling down in the area that is now Sakata City in Yamagata Prefecture. Their descendants would establish the coastal trade that would propel the port of Sakata to become one of the biggest ports in Japan in the latter half of the 17th century.

And while their story hadn’t entered into pop culture like those 47 ronin, these 36 samurai have been memorialised in a different way. As sake too, no less. One of the brands that Sakata City-based sake brewery Kikuisami produces is 36 Guardians, a range of premium sake that pays tribute to their memory. The CEO of Kikuisami, Sato Takahiro, is himself a descendant of those 36 samurai.

36 Guardians Junmai So-ten

Kikuisami employs the labour-intensive Futa-koji method for making koji – a technique that is usually reserved for the most expensive sakes – which results in better quality, more expressive sake. So good, in fact, that the brewery has won both domestic and international awards for their approach to sake making.

Kikuisami recently underwent a brand renewal to appeal to a more international audience. The logo and labels have been revamped, drawing inspiration from Shonai Plains where those refugees planted new roots and paying homage to Japan’s rich culture.

The full Kikuisami 36 Guardians sake range – and one shochu – is currently available in Singapore from Inter Rice Asia, which includes:

  • 36 Guardians Junmai So-ten
  • 36 Guardians Junmai Cho Karakuchi Gyo-ten
  • 36 Guardians Junmai Daiginjo Sui-ten
  • 36 Guardians Daiginjo Hi-ten
  • 36 Guardians Obaka Umeshu Haruhime
  • 36 Guardians Daiginjo Sake Lees Shochu Haku-u

36 Guardians Junmai Cho Karakuchi Gyo-ten

Singapore is the first international market to relaunch the revamped Kikuisami 36 Guardians sake range.

“I first was exposed to 36 Guardians in 2018 during the IWC Sake Competition held in Yamagata,” said Adrian Goh, director of Inter Rice Asia, which brings in Kikuisami. “The brewery’s sake was of excellent quality, and made a great impression on me. So when the brewery approach me in late 2022 saying that were planning on an international rebrand and wanted me to keep them in view, I was very enthusiastic.”

“They keep me in the loop with the iconography and story, and we finally visited the brewery in July 2023 to seal the deal,” he added.

And now we’ll be able to kanpai to the memory of those 36 warriors right here in Singapore.

The full 36 Guardians sake range is now available for retail on

[Photo credits: Joel Lim Photography]

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