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The Water of Life

In 17th century France - so the story goes - an Alsatian monk boiled up some fermented cherries in the hope of producing an elixir to treat the infectious Cholera. He named the concoction ‘Eau de Vie’ (Water of life). It’s healing power was dubious. But the spirit proved popular as a drink, and though it became overlooked in favour of more well-known spirits - particularly in Japan - its stock is now on the rise.


Enter Hiroshi Eguchi. In 2016, then owner of cult bookstore Utrecht, handed over the keys and set off to South Germany to learn the craft of Eau De Vie, making brandy and gin under Stählemühle head distiller Cristoph Keller (himself a former art-publisher).

“I simply turned 40 and wanted to do something new. Of course, the work related to books is attractive, but if you can manage, you can [also] express yourself while being involved with nature. It seemed very effective to acquire the technology of distillation to satisfy both of these at the same time.”

photography | Go Itami

From his time with Keller, Eguchi san learned the key ingredients for establishing a new distillery on his return: good water, the ability to collect fruit, and the value of a story. He searched all over Japan for such a place, and though many met the first two conditions, “it was hard to find a place that met the third.” 

Up a winding mountain road, not far from the Edo township of Otaki, Eguchi san chanced upon the Chiba Prefectural Medicinal Plants Garden. Built in 1987 as an attraction with 500 different botanical varieties, two greenhouses and a small museum it now lay empty, waiting for it’s next user.

With the help of his friend, the architect Hideyuki Nakayama, the pair sensitively renovated the existing structures for their new purpose − by building the minimum necessary. Combining the existing character with newly inserted elements, a subtle but new hybrid emerged. Adapting and re-developing what exists to grow something of value.

photography | Go Itami

It is in this spirit of adaptation and continuity that Eguchi san sees the future value of the brand.“It would be great if we could, over a long span, starting from our own surroundings, gradually become a larger circle, and enrich the lives of those around us.” Mitosaya’s growth that has already brought new life to a unique facility and the plants within, is also bringing life to the community – old and new alike. 

A distillery that forms a small discovery from nature. Located in Otaki, Chiba, Japan.