This issue traces the history of koji (rice malt).

The power of koji mold essential to producing sake

Koji (rice malt) consists of two types – “bara-koji,” prepared by growing mold onto grains such as rice (a kind of malt made of heated grains, such as rice); and “mochi-koji,” prepared by growing mold onto flour kneaded with water (a kind of malt fermented onto rice cake).
Bara-koji is more commonly used in Japan, while mochi-koji is more commonly used in China, Thailand, and the Philippines.
This difference is said to be largely due to food culture. Bara-koji was established in Japan, where rice is consumed as the main staple; while mochi-koji was established in some regions of China, where rice and grains are ground into powder as the main staple. Mochi-koji plays an important role to promote alcohol fermentation for production of Asian alcoholic beverages in high-temperature, high-humidity regions of Southeast Asia.

Sake Production using Koji (Rice Malt)
Sake production using the power of koji mold is said to have started during the Nara period (710-784 AD).
Once sake production using koji (rice malt) was established, sake shops and private vendors selling koji to sake shops increased in numbers during the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), when the “Koji-za” (Koji Malt Producers Guild) was founded.
The Koji-za was authorized by the shogunate government to be the sole producer of koji.
In some sake shops however, koji production was undertaken as the job of sake producers, with some preparing their own koji.
During the Muromachi Period (1392-1573), a conflict gradually developed between sake shops and Koji-za over the right to produce koji.
Afterwards, the shogunate government disbanded the Koji-za and sake shops took on koji preparation.




#koji #mold #sake


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (State of Emergency Declaration)

By Ryuji Takahashi

A state of emergency was declared in Tokyo from July 12 to August 22, the fourth declared in Tokyo stopped the provision of alcohol and drove restaurants and liquor stores into yet another difficult situation. Izakaya restaurants of major restaurant chains closed one after another, significantly impacting the sales of commercial sake products sold by liquor stores.
Various speculations and postings online criticized the city of Tokyo and the Japanese government for hosting the Olympic Games, while other posts opposed such criticisms, an indication of mounting frustration and fatigue felt by the Japanese public. Eventually, a poster criticizing The Liberal Democratic Party of Japan and KOMEITO (New Clean Government Party) were created and distributed among restaurants. Small restaurants are compensated with cooperation money for distributing the posters, in some cases making more money with their restaurants closed than open. This difference in earnings also caused frustration, prompting the Japanese government and the city of Tokyo to change how cooperation money is divided. The liquor store I operate also saw a decrease in business transactions with restaurants. Business is slow at the moment due to the request from local government to reduce business hours.
However, I see life like a card game - we each strategize our win using the hand we’re dealt. When opening a restaurant for example, no one is guaranteed an ideal location, size, or rent. In fact, most of these factors will not go your way. However, we rack our brain and think hard despite our less-than-optimal conditions to create a renowned restaurant. Not only does changing cards not guarantee a better hand, it could even worsen your hand. However, we must try our luck anyway. Criticizing the dealer for dealing a bad hand doesn’t help. Similarly, no one knows the correct strategy to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Needless to say, no entrepreneur wants to end up having to close the door of his/her own restaurant or company. However, policies improved to prevent this outcome should not put off your consumers either. Every entrepreneur is trying hard to fight this unprecedented fight against the coronavirus. Atami city, Shizuoka prefecture suffered a notable decline in tourists due to a landslide on top of the coronavirus pandemic. Since there is no one to blame in this case, people have no where to direct their frustrations to, the most frustrating situation. Is politics to blame, the people who won’t comply with various requests from the local government, or the Tokyo Olympics?
What we can do for now is to set the groundwork and research various information to revitalize your business when the coronavirus pandemic ends. As I write this, now is the time and climate to “learn to be a hawk.*1”

*1 “Learning to be a hawk”: From May to June, hatched hawk chicks learn how to fly and hunt during this season and prepare to leave the nest to become independent (in other words, the timing for each entrepreneur to start preparing to “become independent”).


#Ginzan #Ichinomiya #Iwami #brewery #covid19 #jizake #nigori #sake #tokyo


Enjoying Sake and Tastes of Fall

By Yuji Matsumoto

In these modern days, we’re feeling less seasonality – but Japanese food has always focused on enjoying the four seasons. Indeed, vegetables, fruit and fish are at their best in fall to satisfy the so-called “autumn appetite.” Let’s go back to what Japanese food is about; here are some tips on some “tsumami” (small dishes to be enjoyed with alcoholic beverages) perfect for this season.

Mushrooms are a must for fall. When cooking fall mushrooms, avoid rinsing with water and heating for a long time, and cook quickly to keep their fragrance and texture. They are great grilled or sautéed alone, but shiitake, which contain guanylic acid, considered one of the three great umami generators, greatly increases its umami when cooked with glutamic acid of konbu, so cook them together as suimono (clear broth) or dobin-mushi (steam-boiled vegetables/meat in earthenware pot). In this case, pair the dish with a fragrant Junmai Ginjo.

Tuna, bonito, salmon, barracuda, the various mackerels, saury, yellowtail, and snapper are some of the notable fish that are excellent at this time of the year. If making nigiri, lightly broil to bring out the sweetness in the fish immediately before making them into sushi that is heavenly when paired with sake. And don’t forget the condiments. Use ginger, scallions, garlic, yuzu, Japanese pepper, and grated daikon radish to accentuate the main ingredients’ flavors.
For sake pairings, Junmai Daiginjo and Ginjo go well with white-fleshed fish, and Kimoto and Yamahai for fattier fish. For nitsuke (fish boiled with soy sauce mixture), sweeter Junmai go well.





#beer #japanese #price #sake #wine


Sake Nation “The Coronavirus Pandemic Popularized Online Sake Tasting Parties”

By Kosuke Kuji

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic since last year, the long-established weekly “Sake Tasting Event” for sake producers to interact with consumers was cancelled.
At this event, brewery owners and Master Sake Brewers introduce their sake brands to consumers, sample them together with consumers, ask for comments, receive feedback and words of encouragement from consumers, and utilize the feedback for their next sake production.
This very important event offering personal interaction between sake producers and consumers was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On the other hand, this past year witnessed an increasing number of online sake parties.
I was invited several times as a guest to give lectures about sake.
Also, online drinking parties connecting with people overseas with help from an interpreter, or presenting a lecture despite my limited English language skills is also fun, becoming more established as the new norm.
While there are various ways to enjoy online sake tasting parties, the most popular way is to have breweries send their sake products to participants, give an online toast with the same sake, and to taste the sake together.
In the beginning, unfamiliarity with online gatherings caused participants to talk over each other, disappear from the screen due to poor internet connectivity, or drink too much and fall asleep snoring on-screen, etc.
To be honest, gathering in person is better.
But, we can’t yet.
Sake production is almost complete.
I’m looking forward to introducing and explaining our sake products to all of you.
As we get used to online drinking parties, they can be very fun in their own way.
In the post-pandemic world, perhaps we can utilize these online drinking parties effectively while attending many in-person tasting parties as well.



#coronavirus #earthquake #emergency #sake #vaccination #vaccine


The Origin of Japanese Sake

-Let’s take this opportunity to reflect on the history of Japanese sake-

The first sake produced in Japan was fruit liquor
Traces of sake production are seen since the mid-Jomon period (14,000 – 300 B.C.). Unlike Japanese sake however, the ingredients were not rice, but fruits such as wild grapes, etc. In other words, the first sake produced was fruit liquor instead of grain sake.
On the other hand, grain sake production is thought to be introduced from Mainland China approximately 2,600 years ago. A document from the Nara period (710 – 784 A.D.) reads, “kuchimi-zake” (sake produced from chewed rice or grain before fermentation) was produced.
Kuchimi-zake utilizes enzymes in saliva that breaks down starches by chewing on plants like grains and potatoes that contain starches, spit out into a bottle to create sake.
Enzymes in saliva break down starches in plants into sugar. Wild yeast ferments alcohol into sake, not fermented naturally like fruit liquor, but artificially fermented since this time.
Also, this sake production method was used not only in Japan, but also among indigenous populations in the Amazon and Andes plateau.

Sake was consumed to mark occasions that celebrated milestones in human life
The “Gishiwajinden” written around the 3rd century documented sake consumption in Japan from the Jomon period (14,000 – 300 B.C.) to the Nara period (710 – 784 A.D.).
“When someone died, the chief mourner mourned for approximately ten days while others participated in mourning by dancing and drinking sake,” indicating people at the time drank sake during occasions that marked milestones in human life.




#dry #enzyme #fermentation #flavor #japan #junmai #kimoto #rich #sake


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine sake and the owners)

By Ryuji Takahashi

Ichinomiya Sake Brewery is located at the entrance of the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine (Oda city, Shimane prefecture), registered as a World Heritage Site in 2007. Fastidious about their sake rice, Ichinomiya Sake Brewery uses underground water flowing from Mt. Sanbe to produce their Japanese sake brand “Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine,” the same name as the World Heritage Site. The brewery won the Gold Prize in The Annual Japan Sake Awards in 2020.

Winning the Gold Prize is a wonderful achievement. On the other hand, many brands also won the Gold Prize in past competitions. This report focuses on the Gold Prize won by the sake brand Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine because the sake by this brewery operating for 125 years since its foundation is produced by a young married couple in their twenties. Rika Asano is the wife and Master Sake Brewer. Born as the second of three daughters, Rika graduated high school and earned a degree from the Tokyo University of Agriculture, Department of Fermentation Science and Technology.

Rika went home after graduating from the university to inherit the family business, the sake brewery. She trained in how the Ichinomiya Sake Brewery produces sake under the previous “Toji” (Master Sake Brewer) before assuming the role in 2017. Her spouse Satoki Asano worked as a nurse after graduating from a university. He met and married his wife Rika after meeting her at a local izakaya, then quit his career as a nurse to embark on a new career in sake production. Just under four years into producing sake together, their second entry into a national new sake competition won them the Gold Prize for a definitive reason - Satoki’s passion to win the Gold Prize was immeasurable, says Rika. Satoki researched data and information on past sake entries that won the Gold Prize, thoroughly researched what was lacking in their own past sake entries, and implemented various efforts to reflect what he learned in their sake during the production period.

Master Sake Brewer Rika says she was a bit worried over her husband’s intense motivation. The impression of the couple is they’re humble and take their work seriously, openly sharing information about their brewery. Their passion for sake production is comparable to that of veteran brewers in my opinion. Quality sake is produced from quality water. The brewery’s website shows 80% of Japanese sake consists of water. However, their passion and diligent efforts such as continued learning, researching and analyzing data of competing sake brands considered to be of high quality, thoroughly understanding trends and measures to comply with these trends when submitting a sake entry into a competition are all reflected in their delicious sake flavor.

Although basic, some of these efforts are omitted by many sake breweries in their long-established production process. Perhaps, some sake breweries hitting a wall in their sake production may want to stop in their tracks and review their entire production process from the very beginning. I look forward to future sake produced by this young couple carefully adhere to traditions, study hard, and implement various efforts to produce delicious sake.




#Ginzan #Ichinomiya #Iwami #brewery #covid19 #jizake #nigori #sake #tokyo


Sake Industry’s Corporate Efforts

By Yuji Matsumoto

The average amount an American spends at a full-fledged casual restaurant is, including beverages, about $20. If we suppose the entrée is $14.50, $5.50 is spent on alcoholic beverages. The majority of glass wines are priced at $4-7 for 180-220ml servings, and many bottled beers are $3.50-4.50. Comparatively, sake from Japan with the same serving size as wine (180ml) is $8.50-9.50. The price is 2.5 times higher, and the selections are more limited.

Japan-made sake utterly lacks selections in this price range. 720ml-bottle sake are sold in restaurants for $40 and higher; this makes the product a challenge to order, or a special occasion-only option to many. Trader’s Joe Charles Shaw made a splash in the wine world when it was introduced, and at $1.99 for a 750ml bottle, it’s still selling strong and bringing in new wine lovers. Many must have started with this “Two Buck Chuck,” fallen in love with wine, and begun buying more expensive wines. Initially considered as a threat to the normally $4-5 wine industry, Charles Shaw contributed to expanding the wine industry that eventually benefitted all wine businesses.
There is no need to dramatically reduce quality to reach this price point, but Japanese corporations should be able to achieve a certain level of it, considering what has been achieved in the past with home appliances and cars.



この価格帯でのバラエティーが日本酒にはまったくない。現在の720mlでレストラン販売価格が40ドル以上でのこの価格帯ではなかなかの勇気のいる選択または、特別な日以外は対象外となる。ワインの世界では一時期話題を呼んだトレイダーズ・ジョーの“Charles Shaw”の1.99ドルワイン(750ml)は現在でも健全であり、多くのワイン愛好家を育成している。まずは2ドル投資をして気に入ったら徐々に価格の高いワインへとのめり込んだ人は多くいるはずだ。当初は、4ドルから5ドル前後のワイン業界は、脅威と感じたらしいが逆にワイン人口が相対的に増え全体のパイが広がったと言える。何も品質を極端に下げ、この価格にする必要はないが、電化製品、自動車など日本の過去の例から見ると企業努力次第で可能なのではないだろうか?
#beer #japanese #price #sake #wine


Sake Nation: 10 years since the Great East Japan Earthquake

By Kosuke Kuji

March 11, 2021 marked a milestone as the 10th year since the Great East Japan earthquake. However, afflicted regions frown upon the term ‘milestone,’ as the disaster and grieving still continues for the many afflicted to date.
Since this March, Japan suffered another major earthquake in the Tohoku region as the epicenter.
The Japan Meteorological Agency said this earthquake was an aftershock from the Great East Japan Earthquake, which left me wondering how aftershocks are still generated ten years after the earthquake? However, ten years is a blink of an eye considering the long time period earth existed, with aftershocks possibly still continuing 20 and 30 years ahead.
Ten years seems like a long time period, yet short depending on the person’s perspective.
In spring 2011, Governor of Tokyo Shintaro Ishihara (at the time) issued a request to “voluntarily refrain” from venturing outdoors, taken so seriously that economic activities outside the afflicted areas also stopped.
We were thankful to residents who voluntarily stayed home but refraining from daily activities can stop our economy as well. Although the current coronavirus pandemic is also stopping the economy, it seems the past stay-at-home request had set a precedence that helps us survive the current shutdown as well. Ten years ago however, the group Hanasake Nippon requested their audience to “Please don’t stay home, but enjoy sake produced in regions afflicted by the Great East Japan Earthquake.”
The group’s request became widely known, which shifted the consumers’ attitude overnight from voluntarily staying home to purchasing and consuming products from regions afflicted by the Great East Japan earthquake. In the current coronavirus pandemic, some anticipate similar efforts and provide various support. However, the coronavirus pandemic is different from the earthquake in the sense that ultimately, life will not go back to normal without the vaccine. As the U.S. leads the vaccination effort, life may soon get back to normal. We hope and pray Japan will soon resume normalcy as well.



#coronavirus #earthquake #emergency #sake #vaccination #vaccine


Japanese sake type – Classified into four types according to the concentration of flavor and aroma.


Dry/sweetness indicates the degree of sweetness while smooth/refreshing and rich/full flavor indicates the degree of richness.
The stronger the rice flavor, the more easily the rich sake flavor is detected, applicable to low-polished sake high in mineral content such as Junmai, Kimoto, and unfiltered sake with distinct, full flavors.
The characteristics of the flavors, suitable consumption method and temperatures are different by sake type.
This report introduces Pure Sake and Mellow Sake.

Pure Sake
Pure sake is rich in flavor with a lasting palate, appealing for it’s full-bodied and umami flavor. Most notable among Junmai sake for its umami flavor from rice, pure sake is most commonly produced using the Kimoto method and prepared from Yamahai yeast.
Well-rounded with a subdued scent, pure sake flavor consists of umami flavors from rice and minerals, common in Japanese sake. The main aroma is rice, the main sake type is Junmai sake, etc., with a temperature range between 59 degF to 64.4 degF. The temperature range to serve pure sake hot is between 104 degF to 131 degF.

Mellow Sake
Sake highly aromatic, deeply flavorful, golden-hued and aged. Mellow Sake is old sake, expensive and rare like aged sake and noble brewed sake. Mellow, ripened aroma with umami flavor evenly balanced between sweet, acidic, and bitter flavors; a highly satisfying sake.
The Mellow Sake aroma consists mainly of dried fruits and spices. The main type of sake is aged sake, noble brewed sake, and old sake, most aromatic at the temperature range between 77 degF to 86 degF.





#dry #flavor #junmai #kimoto #rich #sake


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (State of Emergency)


By Ryuji Takahashi

As the coronavirus vaccination started in Japan, the light at the end of the tunnel signals an end to the coronavirus pandemic despite more people getting infected. Japan declared the third state of emergency for Tokyo, requested large facilities to suspend operations, and restaurants to stop serving alcohol and close after 08:00 PM. Telework became mainstream with less reasons for residents to venture outdoors. Compared to the initial state of emergency however, more people still crowd business districts and areas near train stations where young people gather. Since alcohol cannot be served in restaurants, young people drink alcohol purchased in convenience stores in the streets.
Assistance funds from Tokyo as compensation to businesses for cutting hours were delayed numerous times, leaving restaurants falling behind on rent and employee wages. Left with no choice but to ignore the suspension request, restaurants resumed serving alcohol and business operations late into the night. Due to this unprecedented development, restaurant owners unable to discern the right course of action had no time to wait for decisions by the city or government, gambling their survival at their own discretion. Under such trying times, it is often said “Japanese sake is increasing in demand, purchased by the general public drinking at home.” To be honest, the demand hasn’t changed. The state of emergency declared last April and May increased online drinking parties and TV programs featuring how to enjoy drinks at home.
However, sake selections are few. The frequency of purchases by regular customers slightly increased, while no new customers are coming in. Sake shops are struggling since no restaurants are placing orders. Sake breweries face the same predicament as more breweries are suspending or closing their businesses. To break through this crisis, Kanemasu Brewery of Niigata prefecture introduced a new seasonal sake product “Kamakiri-shouzu Junmai” to reaffirm the four seasons of Japan and warm the hearts of consumers. “Nomikiri” means to inspect the aging and flavor of sake produced by a brewery for bacteria, etc., that could cause the flavor to deteriorate.
Some breweries occasionally invite experts from the brewery inspection agency and regular clients to their Nomikiri, a term that originated from the act of cutting off the seal at the bottom of the brewery’s storage tank to release the sake. “Nijyuu-sisekki” (“Twenty-four Seasons”) refers to one year divided into four seasons (spring, summer, winter and fall), further divided into six micro-seasons. Because the timing overlapped with “Boushu” (June 6) at “Kamakiri-shouzu” (approximately June 5~20), the product was named “Kamakiri-shouzu Junmai.”
A gentle Ginjo aroma with a smooth palate, slightly high in alcohol content not detectable in its smooth texture. The risk of coronavirus infection must soon be eliminated for restaurants to be able to serve alcohol openly, or this seasonal sake will not be available for long, one more reason to pray the coronavirus pandemic will end very soon.

しかし、現在は酒類が悪者扱いである。常連様の買い物回数が少し増えただけで、新規の来店数は殆ど増えていない。しかも飲食店からの注文はゼロなので酒販店としては厳しい状況である。それは酒蔵も同じで、廃業・休造の酒蔵が増えている中、何とかこの状況を打開しようと、この殺伐とした中、日本の季節を再確認させてくれて、心豊かになる季節商品が発売された。それは新潟県の金升酒造の「蟷螂生(かまきりしょうず)呑み切り純米」である。呑み切りとは、酒蔵で貯蔵した酒の熟成や味わいを利き酒で把握し、劣化の原因となる菌などが発生していないか検査を行う事である。酒蔵によっては蔵内の人間だけでなく、指導機関の先生を招いたり、得意先を呼んで行う事が有る。酒蔵貯蔵タンクの下に有る栓の「呑み」を切って酒を出すことから名前が来ており、二十四節季「芒種(ぼうしゅ)」の初候七十二候の「蟷螂生(かまきりしょうず)」と時期が重なることから、「蟷螂生 呑み切り純米」としたそうだ。穏やかな吟醸香があり、角が取れまろやかで、アルコール度数が少し高めだが、それを感じさせない滑らかな味わいとなっている。コロナウイルスの脅威が去り、飲食店が酒類を堂々と提供できる時が早く来なければ本当に飲めなくなる季節酒なので、このコロナ過が早く収まることを願うばかりである。
#covid19 #daiginjo #emergency #jizake #junmai #nigori #sake #tokyo


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