Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Sake Breweries Face a New Challenge)

By Ryuji Takahashi

Nakatani Brewing Co., Ltd. is a long-established sake brewery operating since the Edo period (1603-1867). Located in Yamato-koriyama city, Nara prefecture, the brewery’s sake product Mikka-odori garnered attention. Upon release, master sake brewers from other sake breweries visited my sake shop to purchase the Mikka-odori and study the flavor of this breakthrough sake product. The Mikka-odori was not entered into the Annual Japan Sake Awards as sake produced from sake rice, but as sake produced from regular rice instead. Still, the brewery’s extremely advanced brewing skills helped the Mikka-odori garner the Gold Prize.
Yamato-koriyama city, home to Nakatani brewery, was designated as a special zone to experience sake production based on the Structural Reform Special Area Act in December 2020. Following this designation, the Nakatani brewery decided to establish Yanagimachi Brewery in a separate location from their current brewery for tourists to experience sake production firsthand and to take a new step forward as the “first Japanese sake micro brewery & sake bar in Japan to offer firsthand experience in sake production.”
The current brewery is located in an area difficult to access by car, one reason sampling events typically offered during sake brewery tours cannot be organized here. On the other hand, the Yanagimachi brewery is close to the Kintetsu Koriyama station, easily accessible by train. After the sake production experience, tourists can walk into the adjoining sake bar and enjoy sake to their heart’s content before heading home safely by train. Although meals are not served at the sake bar, food can be brought in or delivered from the Jyokamachi Shopping District, revitalizing business for the shopping district as well.
Tourists visiting the brewery can produce very low volumes of sake in only several dozen gallons. Also, tourists can sample fresh sake squeezed daily, still containing carbon dioxide. Of course, not every aspect of this new business direction is pleasant. As concerns are raised over recent consumers growing distant from Japanese sake and alcohol, customers may gather when the product first garners attention, but maintaining the initial momentum in ways that generate long-term sales will require serious effort. Since the Kintetsu Koriyama Station area is not a lively area to begin with, the brewery must be feeling anxious. Also, the current brewery will temporarily halt sake production, meaning their classic sake products like Mikka-odori and Banjo will not be available, very disappointing news. However, we support the brewery’s new business direction regardless.
Nakatani brewery is crowdfunding to establish this new brewery. Past sake is named the last sake, while future sake is referred to as the first sake to be delivered to supporters. One tank of original sake can also be produced. Purchases have already started among many supporters. I also made a purchase to support the brand. I would also like to visit Japan’s first sake microbrewery in this area where Japanese sake originated. As a Japanese sake enthusiast, I would also love to see Nakatani Brewing Co., Ltd. pass on their high sake-brewing skills to future generations.


#NakataniBrewing #Nara #japanesesake #sake


Perceptional changes

By Yuji Matsumoto

While sake and food pairing is now the norm, why not try to change your perception in your approach?

While comparisons are made regularly, wine is compared to other wine, sake is compared to other sake, and shochu is compared to other shochu. This is great to compare the subtle differences in flavor with other brands. Why not try a fun food pairing that invokes a mind-blowing reaction like “I never imagined this type of pairing!” from consumers. For example, serve fresh oysters with champagne and sparkling wine together to have consumers compare the delicious flavors of both pairing.

*Try pairing red wine with cheese, along with Kimoto sake, aged sake.
*For salads, try pinot grigio and flavored sake (yuzu, blueberry)
*For sashimi, try pairing with chardonnay, pinot grigio and Daiginjo
*For main meat dishes, try pairing with Junmai sake or red wine
*For fried dishes or creamy pasta, try pairing with Barley shochu and white wine.

Try pairing with these combinations and have your customers sample them.

While these three types of beverages (wine, sake, shochu) differ greatly in brewing method and ingredients, each are no doubt successful in boosting the dishes they’re paired with. By trying these combinations, why not try to find creative ways to bring a moving culinary experience that would invoke reactions like, “What is this!? This is delicious!” from customers?




#sake #shochu #wine


Sake Nation “Praying for World Peace”

By Kosuke Kuji

Shocking news of Russia invading Ukraine rattled Japan in the end of February 2022.
A nation that relinquished war based on the three non-nuclear principles and Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, Japan advocates for peace. Therefore, it never occurred to the Japanese that a major invasion and war would start during the Reiwa Era (2019~).
We pray this conflict will end quickly for peace to return.
To enjoy “alcoholic beverages” like Japanese sake, beer, and wine requires peace.
Needless to say, no one would drink alcohol on the battlefield.
Recently, I’ve contemplated how our family business of sake production passed down through generations requires “peace” to operate.
Japanese sake exports are purchased in high volumes by nations such as the U.S., China, etc. and also Russia.
The Consulate-General of Japan in Vladivostok was planning to organize a remote Japanese sake seminar and sampling event in early March.
After thorough preparation including a rehearsal was complete, Russia invaded Ukraine a day later, causing the event to be canceled.
Our disappointment over the canceled event was overpowered by our agony over the sad plight of Ukrainian refugees and the agony of Russians protesting the war.
We sincerely pray for peace to return as soon as possible for Ukraine and Russia to enjoy delicious cuisine and sake.


#JapaneseSake #Russia #Ukraine #WorldPeace #sake


Kuchi-kami sake

Kuchi-kami sake is produced by chewing grains such as rice or seed in the mouth, spit out, and left as is, documented in the “Oosumikoku-fudoki.”
Geographically, kuchi-kami sake spread from the South Pacific Ocean to the northern/southern American continents, thought to have spread from the southern islands to Japan.
Sake ingredients are not limited to rice, but all grains, such as foxtail millet, barn millet, corn, etc.

Mythical Sake
Rice sake in Japan is documented in “Kiki-shinwa” (mythical tales documented in “Kojiki” and “Nihonshoki” about the beginning of heaven and earth, and the gods that led to the birth of the first and legendary Emperor of Japan. Both documents were written around the same time as the “Gishiwajinden,” written in China).
Mythical sake is produced from malted rice and rice or rice porridge, prepared together, saccharified and fermented. Apparently, mythical sake was low in alcohol content, closer to unfiltered sake than amazake (sweet sake).


#Gishiwajinden #Kuchikamisake #MythicalSake #sake


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (operating a sake shop for 6 years)

By Ryuji Takahashi
Sake shop Ji Sakeya opened in the neighboring town of Hatsudai in the Shinjuku ward of Tokyo six years ago. Our sake shop is still surviving while many businesses closed their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic. We owe many thanks to our restaurant clients continuing to place orders despite the difficult economic circumstances, many regular customers who continue to check in, and sake breweries. When we first opened, we had few businesses with restaurants and customers, leaving many including myself wondering if we’d survive the first year in business, and how long we would last afterwards.
During the initial hard times, sake breweries helped us out with over-the-counter sales, posting, and introduced restaurants they received inquires from, while our regular customers referred us to restaurants they frequented, which gradually increased our business. Customers started to come in from these restaurants, which helped us establish our footing as the town sake shop. Eventually, we received requests to hold seminars and consultations to revitalize business for sake breweries, which helped to expand our business outside of selling sake.
However, our business is still not stable, which is likely true for all sake shops. Before our sake shop opened, I once attended a seminar held by a sake shop. The lecturer was the owner of a renowned sake shop, who commented at the end of the seminar, “I’m speaking in front of you today, but I don’t know what will happen to our shop by next year. The sake industry is facing difficult times. We’re always thinking of ways to survive,” which left a lasting impression.
I realized then there was no easy way to sell sake, feeling uneasy about opening my sake shop.
I’m not a son of a sake shop owner, but a complete novice to the industry. Maybe that’s what helped me step forth to open my sake shop. What if I had directly felt the difficulties the liquor industry was facing at the time? The first three years in the business was hell on earth, working non-stop from morning to night. As business started to get easier in the fourth year was when the coronavirus outbreak happened.
However, our above clientele we built gradually over time was what saved us. I’m truly grateful to each of them is all I can say. I received help not only from the sake industry, but also from other industries like the Italian restaurant industry. Six years since we opened our sake shop, we’re still a beginner in this industry. I’d like to be prepared to welcome many customers and restaurant clients back as soon as the coronavirus pandemic is finally over, which will impact our business with sake breweries as well. The first step in the sake shop industry is to purchase many sake products from our sake breweries. By the time spring comes when the cherry blossoms bloom, I look forward to having a toast with all of our associates together.



#japanesefood #sake #sakebreweries


Enjoy sake more casually

By Yuji Matsumoto
Japanese sake is still a largely unfamiliar beverage to American consumers.
Ninety percent of sake is consumed in restaurants, indicating the unfortunate reality that sake is still far from being casually enjoyed in private homes and parties.

One of the reasons is because the true flavors of sake and how they’re enjoyed is not widely introduced. Therefore, to American diners, sake is still a unique beverage to be enjoyed at local sushi bars. Also, because the prices can be at times higher, products may not be lined visibly on store shelves and information may be lacking on labels, which may be contributing to this issue.
In this issue, I will give you a simple overview of how to select sake.
First, it’s important to decide what menu selections to enjoy the sake with. Similar to how wine enhances the foods you eat, sake is also to be enjoyed during meals.

Meat dishes: Junmai or Junmai Kimoto is recommended (from Kyushu, Tohoku, Kanto, Hokuriku or Nada regions)
Chicken dishes: Ginjo class (from Hiroshima, Niigata, Nada, Hokuriku, and Kanto regions) is recommended
Fish dishes: Ginjo and Daiginjo class (Niigata, Hiroshima, Shikoku, Kyoto regions) are recommended.

Of course, flavoring and preparation methods will influence your choice of sake, but first, it would be interesting to sample sake by region.





#japanesefood #japanesesake #nihonshu #sake


Sake Nation: “Craft Gin and Vodka: Part 3”

By Kosuke Kuji
The last issue covered craft gin. This issue covers craft vodka.
When we obtained a license to produce spirits, the spirits we were permitted to distill did not include “vodka” at the time. Vodka is a specialty of Russia with no need to force production in Japan, while gin was fast gaining attention in Japan with many craft gin distilleries across Japan and worldwide. Therefore, our plan was to produce gin only.
As we produced gin however, we researched vodka, defined simply as “filtered using active carbon from Japanese white birch.” The alcohol to be filtered can be the same base alcohol as gin, produced from sake rice. The most important point was that Iwate prefecture boasted the highest production volume of coal in Japan. The city of Kuji neighboring the city of Ninohe is home to the renowned “Hiraniwa Kogen,” famous for their forest of Japanese white birch. We decided to use active carbon already generated from decayed Japanese white birch to produce vodka.
Gin production requires “lacquer,” the highest volume produced in Japan. We decided to use carbon from Iwate prefecture, where the highest volume of carbon is produced in Japan, to exude regional characteristics in our craft vodka also. Using two raw materials from Iwate prefecture, boasting the top production volume in Japan for both to distill craft gin and craft vodka, we truly succeeded in creating products produced in Iwate prefecture only.
Our craft gin and craft vodka will both be released in the U.S., so please try them if you find them on store shelves. These products are monuments to the new dreams and challenges of Japanese sake breweries.

酒豪大陸「クラフトジンとウォッカ その3」

#flavor #gin #japanese #sake #vodka


History of Sake

Chapter 1: What is the Origin of Sake?

Sake production (brewing) requires rice “molded” with rice malt, thus the same classification as Chinese rice wine. Compared to the Korean sake production exactly matching the Chinese, Japanese sake varies greatly according to the mold type and sake production process.
These differences are due to geographical and climate conditions more suitable for mold to grow in Japan, and the sea distanced Japan from direct influence by the continental culture. This distance is one reason why the continental culture was not accepted as is in Japan, but led to the invention of original and creative brewing technology unique to Japanese sake, another reason for the major difference. This original and creative brewing technology is still used today.

Wetland Rice Cultivation Introduced
Around the second and third centuries B.C., wetland rice cultivation was introduced from Goetsu, China to North Kyushu prefecture, Japan, and South Korea. Rice planting spread from Northern Kyushu to Sanin, Setouchi. The Yayoi people developed new rice fields at low lands, and concurrently passed on sake production using malted rice prepared from only planted rice.


第1章 酒のルーツは?



#history #japanese #origin #sake #wine


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Circumstances Surrounding Japanese Sake at the End of the Year)

By Ryuji Takahashi
Last year, many could not travel to their hometown due to the impact from the coronavirus, thus celebrated the year-end/New Year at home. For this reason, Japanese sake sold in high volumes compared to the end of the previous year. High-end sake over 10,000 JPY also sold in high quantities because expenses spared from having no year-end parties to attend was directed instead on high-end sake to celebrate the New Year at home. December 2021 started with anxiety over year-end sales as the emergency declaration was lifted. Anxiety stemmed from the concern that people who couldn’t return to their hometown the previous year to celebrate the New Year will all leave at once and empty the cities.
In addition, although consumers can now dine inside restaurants, some companies cancelled their year-end parties resulting in fewer orders from restaurants, signaling minimal increase in sales. The outcome was as expected. Early to mid-December generated lower sales than anticipated, surprisingly low for the month of December. Later half of the month of December, shipments to other prefectures picked up at the timing people returned to their hometown to celebrate the New Year holidays. Sales of high-end sake comparable to the previous year finally appeared to signal a return to normal sales for the month of December. However, sales gradually dropped, marked with large sales recorded only during the last three days of the year. This drop in sales seems attributable to the cancelled year-end parties, people returning home to their hometowns, and celebrating the New Year at home as anticipated.
We also received help from sake breweries to sell sake at sales events. Kondo Brewing of Gunma prefecture, producer of Akagisan, sells mainly Akagisan Junmai Daiginjo produced by squeezing Yamadanishiki rice (from Hyogo prefecture) using a centrifugal machine. Echi Shuzo from Shiga prefecture sells mainly TOMITSURU CHIKURIN 2021 and TOMITSURU SHIUN 2021, both winners of Kura Master 2021 held in France. Kanemasu Brewery of Niigata prefecture sells their new Ginjo Draft “Takarazukushi” and “Junmai-Ginjo “Hatsuyuki,” in addition to Junmai-Daiginjo “Hatsuhana” from last year.
Sales events held jointly between Hakuro Shuzo of Niigata prefecture and Fujisaki Sobei Shoten of Saitama prefecture - managed under the same group - sold approximately ten different types of sake. All the sales events were successful, generating high sales during weekends only. Working with sake breweries to sell sake together brings back fond memories of working for a sake shop, which motivates me. Even as I write this article however, the new omicron variant is infecting many. I only hope and pray we don’t return to a time when sake cannot be enjoyed together in public.

#contest #covid19 #daiginjo #dinein #jizake #junmai #kura #master #niigata #sakagura #sake #tokyo #wagyu


Take in the big picture

By Yuji Matsumoto
From the beginning, the successful foreign alcoholic beverage in the U.S. is of course wine. Not limited to French or Italian restaurants, wine selections are also offered in Japanese, Chinese and Mexican restaurants as well. Moreover, supermarkets carry hundreds of wine selections, while there are no stores that don’t carry wine. While it’s difficult to compare sake to wine without considering cultural background and history, it’s important to reference both if the goal is to become the world’s next alcoholic beverage to be consumed with meals. There is still much to learn in setting the profitability, sales & distribution routes and marketing methods. Also, another hard liquor that is not originally found in the U.S. and has proven successful in the market is tequila. Tequila is also a product that’s sure to be found almost 100 percent in any restaurant that serves distilled liquor.
Here is another area that leaves much to be learned for the shochu and sake industries. This is only in reference to California (where restaurants offer Soju and Shochu), where some places debate whether to import Soju or not: it’s best to develop a larger market. Also, it’s important to ask why tequila gained such a huge market share. The development of representative cocktails like margaritas and advertisements along with efforts by both the industry and nation has proven effective.
Since the Japanese sake and shochu industry cannot complete a simple task like the standardization of labels, proposing global strategies is surely a goal for the distant future.


もともと他国のアルコールで米国で成功しているのはもちろんワイン。何もフランス料理店やイタリア料理店に限らず、日本食店、中華料理やメキシカン料理店でもワインは必ず置いてある。ましてはスーパーには何百という品ぞろいがあり、ワインを置いてないところは無い。もちろん、日本酒をワインと比較することには文化的背景や歴史を考慮すると無理があるが、世界の食中酒を目指すなら参考にするべきだ。利益率の設定、販売流通網、マーケティング方法などは見習うべきだ。また、もともと米国になく成功しているハードリカーにテキーラがある。このテキーラも蒸留酒を扱えるレストランなら100%と言っても過言ではなく置いてある商品だ。ここにも焼酎や日本酒の業界が勉強する点がある。カリフォルニア州のみの話(Soju とShochuuの取り扱える店)ではあるが、業界はSojuとして輸入する、しない等、意味のない議論をしているところもあるが、もっと大きな市場開拓に目を向けるべきである。そして、テキーラがなぜこれだけ増えたかを考えるべきだ。マルガリータを代表としたカクテルの開発と宣伝など、業界と国の努力がここに来て功を奏している。

#cocktails #sake #shochu #soju #tequila #wine


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