Birth of Kato Sake Works
Our founder, Shinobu Kato, had a problem when he moved to the US from Tokyo. He loves cooking, entertaining friends, and hosting parties, but he never found a good sake to serve for these various occasions. After frequenting many local breweries and wineries, Shinobu saw how Americans would come to try, enjoy, and learn about beer and wine before leaving feeling satisfied. That is when the thought crossed his mind: What if there was a sake experience like that here in the US where people could come try sake, learn about the different types, and buy the perfect sake for any occasion?
So, Shinobu decided to build a tiny kitchen brewery and began steaming rice. After weeks of brewing and fermenting, his first batch of eight hazy, unfiltered bottles of sake was ready. He organized a tasting party with a few of his friends and to his delight everyone had the same reaction: they loved it. This response inspired Shinobu to keep brewing sake for more friends to try.
After several more successful batches, one of his friends, who never purchased any sake before, asked to buy a bottle of “Shinobu’s Sake.” This would not be the last time hearing this request.
With the solution in the bottle, Shinobu started Kato Sake Works so that everyone could experience and learn to love sake as he did years ago in Tokyo.
Brooklyn Bridge and Teenage Dream
Thirty years ago and I bought a framed black and white picture of the Brooklyn Bridge in Shibuya, a young, energetic neighborhood in Tokyo. Back then I was a teenager crazy about hard rock music and American fashion. I had never seriously thought about moving abroad but I knew I wanted to travel and see the world, especially the US. Although I did not pick this picture for any specific reason, there was something I loved about the photo. For years that same picture had been on the wall of my bedroom until I finally decided to leave Japan.
After thirty years and many adventures around the world, I ended up moving to Brooklyn. Now as I look back at my youth and where I am today, the iconic Brooklyn Bridge stands as a connection between my past and my future. I did not think of the picture as the guide, maybe it was just a big coincidence, but every time I see that bridge I remember my young self, my dreams about seeing the world, all to end up at the place where it all started.
Shinobu Kato, March 2019
About Shinobu, Founder & Brewer
Shinobu was born and raised in the small but culturally rich and dynamic neighborhood of Koenji in Tokyo, Japan. It was there that he tried sake for the first time. Through the years, Shinobu expanded his palate and experienced plenty more sake varieties, both good and bad, especially during his college days and thereafter when he worked for the fast-growing internet venture, Softbank. It was while he was working crazy hours, even by the Japanese standard, that Shinobu learned the joy that a perfectly selected sake can bring to a busy day.
In 2004, Shinobu came to the US to attend the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. This was where he learned about business and, outside of the classroom, the culture around American drinking. Upon graduation, he took a position at Nissan in Nashville, Tennessee, where he led a team of software engineers to deliver global projects. At a big company with a sizable IT budget, Shinobu enjoyed solving business problems and implementing solutions, including an exciting two-year assignment to India.
Eventually, overtaken by his passion for sake, Shinobu left the corporate world and, in 2016, moved to NYC to start a sake brewery. He currently lives in the Bushwick community in Brooklyn, which reminds him of his hometown, Koenji. His wife, Ayako, lives in Seattle but visits whenever it rains there. (update: Ayako has finally moved to NYC on December 2019 as Shinobu had found her a great Seahawks bar near the brewery.) When he is not brewing sake, Shinobu enjoys cooking, DIY’ing, and writing code. Backpacking and road trips are his favorite ways to vacation and relax between making batches of sake.