In 1918, Masataka Taketsuru embarked alone on a long voyage to Scotland. In this distant land the secrets of whisky-making would be imparted to this young Japanese man, and here he would meet the woman who would become his bride.
From the Nikka website:
Masataka Taketsuru was born in the coastal town of Takehara (now Takehara City) about 60km from Hiroshima City. The Taketsuru family owned a "sake"(Japanese brew made form fermented rice) brewery that goes back to 1733-- and continues to produce fine sake today. Taught early that sake making is a painstaking fine art, Masataka studied diligently and trained at university as a chemist, preparing to carry on the family trade.
However, Scotch whisky captured the young man's imagination, as well as the interest of few other enterprising Japanese of that day. He decided to dedicate his life to whisky.
In 1920 Masataka returned to Japan with Jessie Roberta (Rita), whom he had married earlier that year. Later joining a company that aspired to make genuine whisky, he succeeded under its employment in producing Japan's first whisky.
Masataka's vision of whisky was formed by his experience in Scotland, and he knew that the right environment was essential. However, it was becoming apparent that in order to produce whisky as he felt it had to be, he would have to become independent.
Thus in 1934 Masataka established Nikka Whisky, and built its first distillery in Yoichi, Hokkaido, which-- though inconveniently located-- he had always considered to be the ideal site in Japan for whisky-making, similar in many ways to the Scottish town where he had studied.
Masataka established Nikka because he was determined to introduce his fellow Japanese to the joys of authentic whisky. In the decades since, as his company developed and the enjoyment of whisky became a fixture in Japan, he remained relentlessly passionate about quality. Never did he allow it to be sacrificed in favor of efficiency.
In that sense, Masataka Taketsuru, Father of Japanese Whisky, sake brewer's son, had never truly left his roots.
The young Scotswoman who, in 1920, embarked with her Japanese husband on a long voyage to Japan, adopted the ways of the distant land.
She steadfastly supported her husband throughout their marriage, as he built Nikka and made it flourish, until her passing in 1961. Rita and Masataka Taketsuru are buried together, in Yoichi.
Timeline of Masataka Taketsuru's Career
1895 Born in Takehara-city Hiroshima prefecture.
Graduated from the Osaka technical high school fermented food production.
1916 Entered Settsu Sake Brewery Co., Ltd.
1916 Studied abroad in Great Britain. Entered Glasgow university majoring in applied chemistry.
Graduated from the Glasgow university. Back to Japan. Acquired a method for making real whisky.
1921 Left Settsu Sake Brewery Co., Ltd. since the producing liqueur plan was abandoned.
1923 Entered Kotobukiya Co., Ltd. with 10years contracts. Engaged in whisky production, established Kotobukiya Co., Ltd. Yamazaki factory.
1925 Visited France to review the whisky and wine production.
1925 Back to Japan.
1931 Visited the Great Britain and France again for research of whisky and apple wine.
1932 Back to Japan.
1934 Left Kotobukiya Co., Ltd.
1934 Established Dainipponkaju Co., Ltd.. Became the president.
1943 Became CEO of Dainipponkaju Co., Ltd..
1952 Altered Dainipponkaju Co., Ltd.'s corporate name to NIKKA WHISKY DISTILLING CO.LTD.
Remained as CEO of NIKKA WHISKY DISTILLING CO.LTD.
1956 Presented the Medal with Yellow Ribbon.
1960 Presented the Medal with Blue Ribbon.
1962 Made a tour of Europe and the United States to study.
1963 Visited the Great Britain for the partnership with W&A Gilbey Ltd and research.
1965 Became honorary citizen in Yoichi-gun Yoichi-machi Hokkaido prefecture.
1969 Presented the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon.
1970 Became the board chairman of NIKKA WHISKY DISTILLING CO.LTD.
1970 Presented the award of a merit medal to envelop Hokkaido.
1972 Donated Taketsuru Schanze to Yoichi-machi after he changed its name to Kasaya Schanze.
1979 Died at the age of 85. Presented the honorary medal decoration and the silver cup.