Sake during the Nara (710-784 AD) & Heian (794-1185 AD) Periods

Sake production was established by the Japanese Imperial court from the Nara period (710-784 AD) to Heian period (794-1185 AD).
According to the “Engi-Shiki” stipulated in 927 AD, the administrative office “Sakenotsukasa” was established along with a brewing system. Sake brewing technology evolved rapidly as well, some are introduced below.

Gosyu: Prepared in the winter time, pressed 4 times. Clear sake sweet in flavor and low in acidity.

Goisyu: Prepared in early fall. The low volume of Goisyu produced is half the volume of Gosyu produced.

Reisyu: Prepared using sake instead of water. The original form of sake that later became sweet sake enjoyed mid-summer, mirin (sweet Japanese cooking sake), and Shirozake.

Sansyusou: Sweet sake prepared with malted barley and malted rice, non-glutinous rice and glutinous millet.

5.Shiroki, Kuroki: Sake used for the Niinamesai festival (ceremonial offering of newly harvested rice). Kuroki contains kusaski ashes (from burnt grass or wood), while shiroki does not contain the ashes.

Gosyusou...High-end sake brewed with great care, used by the imperial court for important ceremonies and consumed by the Emperor (1~4).


延長5年 (927) に定められた「延喜式(えんぎしき)」には「造酒司(さけのつかさ)」という役所が設けられたとあり、醸造体制が設けられた。酒造技術も一段と進んで行った。以下に一部を紹介する。

1、御酒 (ごしゅ):冬に仕込、4回しおり(搾ること)、甘口で酸の少ない澄み酒。
2、御井酒 (ごいしゅ):初秋の仕込、製成量は御酒の1/2と少ない。
3、醴酒 (れいしゅ):汲水の代りに酒を使う、盛夏用の甘い酒、みりん・白酒の原型。
4、三種糟 (さんしゅそう):麦芽・米麹を併用、うるち、モチアワを用いたみりん系の酒
5、白酒・黒酒 (しろき・くろき):新嘗祭(にいなめさい)用の酒、久佐木灰(くさきばい)を入れたものが黒酒(くろき)。入れない方が白酒(しろき)、共に大篩(おおふるい)でろ過した。

御酒糟(ごしゅそう)・・・特に入念に醸造した高級酒。宮中の重要儀式や天皇の小宴用 (1~4)
#heian #history #japan #nara #sake


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Scorching Summers in Japan)

By Ryuji Takahashi

This summer was too hot in Japan. The temperature seems to be rising every year. These days, exceeding 104 degF is more common. This year, experts said the temperature was higher due to how the atmospheric pressure is distributed, combined with global warming. Regular customers who are sake fans visited less frequently, a tough summer for sake shops as well. Sake is also consumed chilled in our culture, why is Japanese sake not widely consumed during the summer? Oh, I do enjoy sake during the summer, some might say. However, the overall volume of Japanese sake consumed has decreased.
Even if sake (59 degF) is poured into an ice cold beer tumbler, it wouldn’t feel right to gulp it down to enjoy the smoothness. Sake cocktails made from sake mixed with fruit juice and carbonation doesn’t feel right either. I might subconsciously think these beverages are not suitable to quench my thirst. White wine with only 1~2% difference in alcohol content is widely enjoyed in large volumes during the summer. Even from this perspective, the impression of Japanese sake might be the roadblock.
Recently, more sake flavors are similar to white wine, not a bad idea. However, the idea that summer = sake is still not established. The general impression is sake is overwhelmingly enjoyed during the winter. Simply put, the main ingredient of sake is rice, steamed and consumed with the exception of some dishes. Rice is a food ingredient preferred for hot dishes. In contrast, very few people heat and eat grapes, the ingredient of wine. Grapes taste better chilled. The impression surrounding food plays a major role in my opinion. So, what needs to be done to improve sake consumption in Japan? In my opinion, sake should be imported into Japan to learn the impression of sake overseas.
Japanese sake consumption declining year-round could be a very serious problem to the Japanese. Also, sake products made more similar to alcoholic products from other nations and foreign liquors is the strategy for sake to remain competitive. It’s clear this strategy to reconstruct the brand image of sake cannot be left to the Japanese. To the Japanese for whom there is no alternative to sake, timely help must come from overseas. To borrow the words of Dutch thinker Søren Aabye Kierkegaard, “Sake in its present irreplaceable status is the true essence of sake.”
Originally, even the Japanese may not truly understand what sake is until much older in age. As home appliances evolve technologically, the more we tend to think sake = winter, with Japanese culture lagging in sales from this stereotype which could be seen as humorous. My sincere wish is to have foreign consumers not familiar with the origin of sake to construct an appetizing brand image of sake.



#japan #japanesefood #jizake #sake #tokyo


Get Your Appetite Back with Sake

By Yuji Matsumoto

The other day I had the opportunity to go to Las Vegas due to business, but couldn't believe that the day high was 45 degrees C (113 degF). With hot winds and scorching heat that may seem to melt the asphalt, I lost my appetite and found myself in an unhealthy predicament to spend a whole week in an air-conditioned room.
To ease my body from this heat, I decided to join (mariage) miso grill with a summer favorite vegetable nasu (eggplant) with extremely cold "Junmai Daiginjyo" .
Nasu doesn't contain much of nutrition value, but as you know miso (soybean paste) helps you with fatigue recovery, cancer prevention, cholesterol control, proper bowel movement, beauty improvement, brain activation, age prevention, stimulation of body function etc and the list goes on. Also, soybeans that are the main content contain fine quality protein, an abundance of necessary amino acids, saponin that is known to prevent increase of peroxide lipids, different vitamins, potassium, and food fibers etc. You couldn't be more than happy that miso goes well with Japanese sake.
So why don't we enjoy ourselves by having high nutritional value miso food and Junmai Daiginjo and help our body recover from the summer heat.



#daiginjo #japanesefood #junmai #sake


Sake Nation “Sake Parties Resumed in Japan”

By Kosuke Kuji

The novel coronavirus outbreak prompted the cancellation of sake events throughout Japan for nearly 3 years.
Measures to prevent the spread of the virus are no longer enforced since March. No behavioral restrictions were imposed during the May Golden Week for the first time in 3 years, with more than double the number of people visiting their hometown and traveling compared to last year.
Since restrictions to spread the virus were lifted in March, the sake industry held the “18th Sake Festival in Nakameguro.”
Originally an outdoor event, this year’s event was held outdoors as well. Many sake fans gathered to attend the first major sake event in years.
Of course, measures to prevent the spread of the virus were set by the Japanese government to hold events safely. Many breweries came out to Tokyo wearing masks to engage in lively discussions with customers about sake, the first step in returning to normal.
The weather was a concern for outdoor events up until the coronavirus pandemic. Many customers especially prefer to enjoy sake leisurely indoors, rather than outdoors. Although not many, more outdoor sampling events will likely be held in the post-pandemic world.
During Golden Week, my sake brewery sponsored 2 sake events in Tokyo. Our independent sake party was the first to be held since the coronavirus outbreak. Registration was instantly filled to capacity and the event was successful. Since thorough measures were in place to prevent the spread of infection, no clusters occurred from any of the events.
In the future, measures need to be set in place to continue preventing the spread of the coronavirus while actively organizing sake events, etc.
The ban on business trips overseas will soon lift, I’m looking forward to it.



#japan #japanesefood #nakameguro #sake


High-grade Sake Produced in Villages

In the Yuryaku Records of the “Kojiki” (Records of Ancient Matters), the villages listed include Takaichi of Wa, Karunoichi of Yamato, and Ekanoichi of Kawaschi.
Also, the “Nihonshoki” (the Chronicles of Japan) included descriptions about high-grade sake from Ekanoichi and Kibi, also consumed among commoners by the end of the 5th century.
According to records, “Sumizuke” is approximately 2.4 times the price of rice, while “Kozake” is 1.4 times the price of rice, and both “Nigorizake” and “Shirozake” were the same price as rice.
Also, sake breweries in Ukyo, Sakyo, Nanihatsu, and Yamazakinotsu were closed due to water damage in 806, when sake production and sales were prohibited.

Sake of the Imperial court
According to the “Ryounogige” (A Commentary on the Code of Discipline), sake produced in the Imperial court was brewed in a public office for sake production, restricted to 75 workers under the chief and 185 vendors in the Yamato-kawachi region.
Of the sake produced there, “Sumizake” is sake was produced by filtering fermentation-mash through a cloth, mainly served during official banquets in the Imperial court and as offering from high-ranking officials, while lower-ranking officials and laborers were served lower-grade sake such as “Nigorizake,” etc.
For example, if an administrative official overseeing a region is served 60 oz. of “Sumizake,” their attendants are served 18~24 oz. of “Nigorizake.”

また、大同1年(806) には水害のため、右京・左京・難波津・山崎津の酒屋の甕を封じて、濁酒の製造、販売を禁止しました。


#japan #nigori #nigorizake #sake #sumizake #yamato


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (New Sake Product Introduced from Saitama Prefecture: Part 2)

By Ryuji Takahashi

The previous report featured the “Fujisaki Sobei Shoten.” I’m sure some readers may think traveling to Nagatoro-machi (town) just to visit the Nagatoro-gura brewery is a long way to go.
I recommend traveling by car to visit the Nagatoro-gura brewery. Readers may not recommend driving since the purpose of this trip is to sample sake. However, only a few sake selections will be sampled in low volumes, not to mention sake sampling may not be possible if the sales section is busy. Sake is packaged in small cups and bottles, so purchasing small bottles of sake to savor at home is recommended to make the most of the visit to Nagatoro-machi. If driving, take the Kan-Etsu Expressway Hanazono Interchange via National route 140 to arrive in Nagatoro-machi.
Following one turn in front of the subway station, the Nagatoro-gura sign becomes visible. The route is very simple, even an inexperienced driver can easily reach the destination. The brewery offers a spacious parking area. Be careful not to arrive too early, the store does not open until 11:00 AM. The visit to the sake brewery will take approximately 5 to 10 minutes without shopping at the store, which would take approximately 30 minutes total. Inside the brewery is visible through glass windows looking into the koji room and the steaming basket, not very spacious to call it a brewery tour.
Visiting restaurants and souvenir shops with sake in hand purchased at the brewery poses a challenge, while driving is convenient to leave your luggage in the car to choose between soba (buckwheat) vs. udon (wheat) noodles, pork cutlet, or pork with miso sauce for lunch. My recommendation is the pork cutlet. Two pieces of thin, elliptical shaped pork cutlet approximately 8 inches thick are served on a bowl of rice, topped with a sweet-and-spicy sauce; a local specialty dish in both Chichibu city and Nagatoro-machi. The flavor is similar to pork cutlet with sauce served in Ojiya city, Niigata prefecture. I recommend udon noodles for visitors who wish to avoid fried foods.
Although the mountains of Kanto region may bring soba (buckwheat) noodles to mind, udon (wheat) noodles are long established in this Chichibu city area as suggested in the many udon noodle shops visible from the Hanazono Interchange to Chichibu city. Udon noodles in this region are thin and boiled harder (firmer) than Sanuki udon. Parked in front of the subway station, I strolled down the quiet but elegant street down the Arakawa River to the rafting relay point in Iwadatami to visit the shopping district lined by souvenir shops to aid digestion.
Once I reach the river, I can go rafting or enjoy a canoe ride. Just viewing the beautiful scenic river view is satisfying. The roadside station selling local specialties such as produce and pickled vegetables is only 5 minutes in driving distance. Therefore, I could shop and stroll further down to visit the Chichibu Dam or the fall. Why not get away from the bustling city to cool off in Chichibu city and Nagatoro-machi?

*Michinoeki (Roadside Station)
Michi-no-eki, or roadside stations, are government-designated rest stops along roads and highways. Approximately 1,134 stations operate nationwide, increasing each year. These designated rest stops offer travelers places to rest, regional exchange, and spot sales of local products.

東京地酒散歩(埼玉県の新たな酒 2)


#japan #jizake #michinoeki #saitama #sake


Find your favorite sake

By Yuji Matsumoto

Sake is a beverage of preference. However, “delicious” sake all have common universal traits.
The flavors can be characterized as follows:
• Sweetness
• Acidity
• Saltiness
• Bitterness
• Umami

In terms of food preparation, the common factor that creates a “delicious” taste for consumers is the balance between these flavors. “Preference” refers to this balance being achieved first, followed by one’s preferred flavor, such as ‘sweetness,’ being slightly stronger than the other four characteristics.
The same can be said about sake. Sake flavors are evaluated based on how well-balanced these flavors (saltiness mostly does not exist in sake) are. With sake, sweetness and acidity are easily detected with the first sip. However, “umami” flavor is an underlying taste, mostly detected as an aftertaste or when passing the tongue.
Some curious brands of (low-rated) sake have unbalanced flavors, where one flavor is strongly notable while lacking another.
Those who prefer dry, but well-balanced sake might enjoy the acidity upon swallowing the sake, while enjoying the short aftertaste that lingers on the palate; while those who prefer sweet flavors may likely enjoy sake with a fruity note and a mellow flavor with a long-lasting finish.
The most important training is to determine your own axis of flavors, best accomplished by enjoying a wide range of sake, and enjoying the same brand of sake over a period of time.



#flavor #japanesefood #sake #sweetness #umami


Sake Nation “Sake Brewery and Fire: Part 2”

By Kosuke Kuji

The previous issue covered how the Yuki Sake Brewery Co., Ltd. in Ibaragi prefecture burnt down.
The greatest concern for any sake brewery pertaining to fire hazards is the fire may spread to nearby private homes and corporations.
Fortunately, this has not been an issue with fires in recent years as sake breweries expanded their premises.
The next concern is old buildings on the brewery premises could quickly burn down in case of a fire. The storage house, etc., is especially filled with yeast. Burning down all these microorganisms cultured over time is another concern.
Although money can be spent to build a new brewery, all the microorganisms that lived in the brewery up to the fire cannot be revived, a significant loss.
Further, some sake products may survive the fire. Could sake products recovered from a fire be sold? There was no place to store sake products miraculously recovered from the fire when the Yuki Sake Brewery burned down.
Thankfully, a neighboring brewery kindly volunteered to store the recovered sake products.
Further, the clean-up after a fire is also challenging. Thankfully, aspiring sake brewers and fans volunteered from nationwide to help the brewery’s clean-up efforts, which offered another insight into the beauty of how the Japanese are connected through sake.

*The Sake Brewers Association is collecting donations for Yuki Sake Brewery Co., LTD.
To donate, please reference the information below:
Bank Name: The Joyo Bank, Ltd. Yuki Branch
Savings Account #1502819
Account Name: Shinketsu-Shuzo-Kumiai



常陽銀行 結城支店
普通 1502819
真結酒造組合 (シンケツシュゾウクミアイ)

#Musubiyui #japanesefood #sake #sakebreweries #yukisake


Manyo Sake

Sake brewing technology advanced significantly in the “Manyo Period (629-759)” from the Asuka Period (592~710) into the Nara Period (710-784).
The phrase “Purified Sake” was written on a mokkan (narrow, long, thin pieces of wood strung together to write on in ancient times) that emerged from the Nara Period (710-784).
“Sake” during this period is thought to be of entirely different quality from modern-day sake. Fermentation-mash was squeezed in a bag, supernatant, and clear; thus referred to by this term.
Of course, such sake was enjoyed only among a small population of aristocrats, while the general population drank cloudy sake.

Sake for the Masses

The year after the Taika Reform (645), “alcohol prohibition” targeting farmers was officially announced.
“Alcohol prohibition” repeatedly announced since between the 8th ~ early 9th centuries indicate farmers also had numerous opportunities to consume cloudy alcohol, homemade or purchased at the market.

Most of the poor consumed “Kasu yuzake” to survive the cold, as described in poems by Okura Yamanoue in “Manyoshu” (“Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves,” Japan’s oldest anthology of tanka poems).

*“Kasu Yuizake”: A beverage consisting of sake lees dissolved in water, high in yeast content and very nutritious


大化の改新(645) の翌年、農民に対する「魚酒禁令(ぎょしゅきんしれい)」が初めて公布さた。

#Manyo #Sake #asuka #japanesefood #japanesehistory


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (New Sake Product Introduced from Saitama Prefecture)

By Ryuji Takahashi

Saitama prefecture is a leading producer of the highest shipment volumes of sake, a fact not widely known. This report introduces a small-scale sake producer “Fujisaki Sobei Shoten” in Nagatoro-machi, in the Chichibu region of Saitama prefecture, Japan. This long-established sake brewery started sake production in 1728.
Founder Sobei Mitsushige Fujisaki is from the Hino region in Omi (present-day Hino-cho, Gamo District in Shiga Prefecture), trading in a region home to many successful merchants at the time, benefiting from the advantages they brought to the region. The Hino region was said to be an area renowned for the production and sales of “Japanese sake.” These merchants, known as “Hino merchants,” expanded their business territory to the Kanto (eastern) region. One such merchant was first-generation Mitsushige, who founded the “Fujisaki Sobei Shoten.”
Since then, Sobei Fujisaki produced and sold sake mainly around the Nakasendo (highway connecting Edo-Kyoto during the Edo period (1603-1867)), passing on the tradition to “sincerely produce sake and hone sake production skills” to modern day sake production. Sobei Fujisaki previously had a large brewery in Yorii that produced “Hakisen,” since relocated to Nagatoro-machi, currently produces mainly sake products “Nagatoro” and “Nagatorogura” using sake rice “Sake Musashi” produced in Saitama prefecture. The good news is Fujisaki Sobei Shoten welcomes walk-in visitors.
In Nagatoro & Chichibu, much of the manual work required for everyday life is passed on to date in the form of carpentry, ceramics, glass art, dyeing, fabric, etc. Also, the Nagatoro, Chichibu area is home to many up-and-coming writers who pass on many of the important artisan skills and culture. Fujisaki Sobei Shoten collaborates with these writers to organize workshops to continue passing on these local manual skills.
Also, original products combining local food ingredients and confections are sold together. Here, the brewery does not target tourists, but introduces the local Chichibu & Nagataro culture of Saitama prefecture to the next generation. Delicious water from the Nagatoro region is used to create sake using sake rice grown locally in Saitama prefecture. The aroma is similar to green grapes, light and sweet flavor that doesn’t stay on the palate, therefore refreshing and easy to continue drinking.
Many of the brewery’s products are non-filtered and unprocessed sake, very popular among recent Japanese sake fans. Fujisaki Sobei Shoten produces sake in a region abundant in nature using sake rice grown in Saitama prefecture, where the local culture is preserved to date. I highly recommend their sake products that may require effort to locate in a few locations outside of Saitama prefecture.


 埼玉県は日本酒出荷量が全国で上位なのは、あまり知られていない。そんな埼玉県の秩父地域の長瀞町で少量ながら、美味い酒を造っている酒蔵「藤崎摠兵衛商店」を今回は紹介したいと思う。この藤崎摠兵衛商店の歴史は古く、享保13年1728年から酒造りを開始した老舗酒蔵である。創業者・藤﨑宗兵衛光重は近江国日野地方(現在の滋賀県現蒲生郡日野町)の出身であり、近江商人と言われる優れた商人が集まる地域の恩恵を受け商才を発揮してきたらしい。その中でも日野地方は「清酒」の製造販売を得意とした地域だそうだ。彼らは日野商人と呼ばれ、活躍の場所を関東へと広げ、その一派である初代宗兵衛が「藤﨑摠兵衛商店」を設立したとのこと。 以来、醸造と行商を営みながら、中山道を中心に日本酒文化を広げることに尽力し、藤﨑摠兵衛が培ってきた「技で磨き心で醸す」日本酒造りを現代に繋いでいるとのこと。以前は寄居に酒蔵があり、「白扇」という酒を醸す比較的大きな酒蔵だったが、現在は長瀞町に移転して埼玉県産の酒米「さけ武蔵」を使用した「長瀞」や「長瀞蔵」という酒を中心に醸す酒蔵となっている。しかも嬉しいことにこの藤崎摠兵衛商店は、ふらっと立ち寄ることの出来る酒蔵なのである。秩父・長瀞には、日々の暮らしの中で生まれたたくさんの手仕事が残っており、木工、陶芸、ガラス工芸、染色、織物など、技術の高い美しい製品が多い。また、秩父長瀞地方では若手作家も増えつつあるらしく、貴重な職人技術と文化がしっかりと継承されているとのこと。藤﨑摠兵衛商店ではこれらの作家とコラボレーションして、地元の手仕事を伝えていくショップも併設している。また、地元の食材やスイーツとコラボレーションしたオリジナルの商品なども販売している。これは既にただの観光蔵ではなく、埼玉秩父長瀞の良き文化の発信基地として、次世代に繋げていく役割も担った酒蔵であると言えるだろう。そんな、長瀞の美味い水を使用し埼玉の酒米で醸す酒は、白ブドウを思わせる香りと、程よい甘さ、その上、甘さが口に残らないのでスッキリと次に杯を傾けられる良い酒である。商品には無濾過生原酒も多く、最近の日本酒愛好家に非常に評判が良い。素晴らしいロケーションの中、埼玉の米と埼玉の良き文化の中で醸される藤崎摠兵衛商店の酒。まだ埼玉県外で買える所は少ないが、是非一度呑んでみて欲しい酒である。

#Nagatoro #chichibu #japanesefood #saitama #sake


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