Yoneda Sake Brewery was founded in 1896 by Kingoro Yoneda, and it still stands in that location in Matsue City’s Higashi-hon-machi. At that time, the area was bustling with commerce, as it was a main shipping point along the Ohashigawa River. Warehouses lined both banks of the river, and it bustled with merchants selling all sorts of wares, from seafood and soy sauce to vinegar, ice, and many other items.
Kingoro named the main brand of sake to be made at Yoneda Sake Brewery “Toyonoaki,” expressing hopes for a bountiful autumn harvest. He was so devoted to making good sake that he worked as a brewer even as he was the company president, which was very unusual in traditional sake brewing. With his passion for making good sake, Toyonoaki became very popular. Eventually, Yoneda Sake Brewery began to brew shochu (Japanese distilled liquor) and real mirin (sweet rice wine used in cooking) under Kingoro’s direction.
In 1908, when the Imperial Family visited Matsue, they purchased Toyonoaki. In 1931, Toyonoaki received an honorary award at a competitive exhibition of sake from all over Japan. Also, for three consecutive years between 1992 and 1994 and once again in 1997, Toyonoaki was awarded the Gold Prize at the annual awards ceremony conducted by the National Research Institute of Brewing that recognizes the best newly brewed sake of the year. In 2011, Toyonoaki won honorary awards for all of the brews it entered into a sake competition conducted by the Hiroshima branch of the National Tax Agency.
JAL (Japan Airlines), the leading airline company in Japan, served Toyonoaki as their in-flight sake for first class passengers for 14 years, from 1991 to 2005.