At the event, held in March 2015, buyers from the US, UK, Israel, China, South Korea, Thailand, and Cambodia met with sake and shochu producers from around Kumamoto. We toured Hitoyoshi, the center of the rice shochu universe. Hitoyoshi is nestled in the valley of the Kuma River, which has been voted the best river in Japan every year for years.
There are not many junmai kuma-shochus available in the U.S. market. These are shochus made with polished Japanese rice, the same polishing process used in sake (nihon-shu) production. "Junmai" refers to rice that's been polished at least 70% (30% of the outer grain removed). Hakutake Shiro is made with rice polished to 60%. Only kome shochus produced in the Kuma River Valley can be designated as "kuma-shochu".