Purchase Motive and Sake Labels

By Yuji Matsumoto

When I go to a nearby Japanese supermarket, I often find Americans at complete loss as to what to choose in the sake/shochu section.  The same goes even for the Japanese, unless you have the brands memorized.  So how can we categorize sake to make it easy for consumers to choose? We need to look into their purchase motivations, and what questions they have.

Consumers’ purchase motivations

• I like sake A because it’s rich-bodied and has good acidity and pairs well with meat dishes, but I couldn’t find it in a supermarket. How can I find something similar to it?

• Which sake will be good as a birthday present for my girlfriend(boyfriend), who usually prefers red wines with higher tannin levels?

• I usually enjoy drinking B, but today is a special occasion and I want something similar but more expensive. How do I choose one?

• What’s good as hot sake?

Generally speaking, these are the sorts of questions normal consumers have. 

It’s impossible to provide answers to all such questions and display sake accordingly, but it is possible to categorize them by the aroma, body, and food parings. Below chart is what I would use as an attempt to categorize most of the sake, based on my innumerous tastings in the past. 

First, have the breweries categorize all their sake being exported to U.S. into “zones.” If they think their sake is refreshing with an aroma of a cantaloupe, it should be in the “summer zone.”  The categorizations should be displayed on labels in an industry-wide standardized format.  Restaurants and retailers can then post posters or hang messages on the neck of the bottles, to explain the zoning map. The breweries can have their own logos in the middle of the labels as they wish. I sincerely hope that sake bottle labels can be standardized as such.




• Aという濃醇なボディーで酸味香のある肉料理に合う日本酒が好きだが、スーパーに行ったらこの銘柄が無かった。Aという銘柄に近いものを探すのにはどうするか。

• 今回は、彼(彼女)の誕生日なので、普段タンニンの効いた赤ワイン好きな彼(彼女)が気に入る日本酒はどれだろうか。

• 普段はBという銘柄を好んで飲んでいるが、今日は特別な日なので値段が高い同じ傾向の日本酒がほしいがどうやって選ぶか。

• 熱燗に適した日本酒はどれ?



#alljapannews #japanese #japanesefood #japanesesake #junmai #sake


Sake Nation “Sake breweries since the coronavirus outbreak”

By Kosuke Kuji

Sake breweries in Japan incurred major damage from the coronavirus outbreak.

The greatest blow was from restaurants forced to cease operations due to the initial state of emergency declaration. Although more consumers started to consume sake at home, consumption levels at home did not compare to sake consumed in restaurants. Sake not consumed in restaurants dramatically reduced opportunities for sake consumption overall. 

In the Japanese sake industry, the dramatic drop in sales of sake sold in magnum bottles (1.8 litres) still has not recovered to pre-pandemic volumes. 

Most sake in magnum bottles are sold to restaurants, purchased to sell sake “by the cup.” Opportunities to consume sake in restaurants still haven’t fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Therefore, 720 ml sake bottles (smaller than magnum bottles) are sufficient to meet the needs of restaurants, evidenced in the significant increase in production volume of 720 ml bottles since the coronavirus outbreak.   

Restaurants may have seen magnum sake bottles as more “economical” than 720 ml bottles before the pandemic. However, more restaurants increased their inventory of 720 ml bottles in their refrigerators since the coronavirus pandemic to maintain sake quality and offer samples of various sake brands. 

Since this shift in size was noted since the coronavirus pandemic, the magnum bottle may quickly become obsolete in the future.  

The most common size to export sake overseas was 720 ml since the beginning. Therefore, Japanese sake breweries may start to focus on 720 ml bottles in the future.

Quality is more easily managed in a smaller bottle. Hopefully, this change since the coronavirus pandemic will inspire favorable change in both directions.  











#alljapannews #japanese #japanesefood #japanesesake #jizake #sake


Consumption of Nada sake in Edo 

Consumption of Nada sake in Edo 

Nada ward first emerged in historical documentation as “Nadame, Ports of the Nada Region,” a supplier of sake to Edo (the capital, modern-day Tokyo) in the “Examination of the Records of Vendors Handling Sake to Edo City” from 1724. Afterwards, the vendors grew into an organization that shipped sake from twelve nearby regions to Edo by the late 18th century. After a law was promulgated to encourage the purchase of sake rice as a measure to ease the drop in the price of rice was promulgated in 1806, the vendors played an even greater role in the distribution of sake afterwards.      

The volume of sake transported to Edo reached 665,000 barrels by 1822. 

The top reason why “Nada sake” surpassed sake from Itami city and Ikeda city and dominated the Edo market due to the high quality of Nada sake. In addition, efforts focused on cold weather brewing to produce sake that suited the palate of Edo consumers was another reason, followed by consistent efforts made to improve sake brewing techniques.    

The discovery of Miyamizu 

Tazaemon Yamamura, founder of the distinguished sake brewery “Sakura-masamune,” said to be the mainstream (top sake brand) among sake produced in Nada ward in 1840, drew water from the “plum tree well” in Nishinomiya region. This water was transported to Uozaki Sake Breweries and used as brewing water. Due to the quality sake that resulted from this water, “miyamizu” - quality water suitable to brew sake - became highly valued among sake brewers of Nada ward, who competed against others to use miyamizu as brewing water. Miyamizu is high in phosphate and potassium, aids the growth of yeast and malt, and vigorous fermentation.          


江戸積酒産地として灘郷が登場したのは、享保9年(1724)の「江戸下り問屋調査」にある「灘目(なだめ)」が最初。以後18世紀後半には「江戸積摂泉十二郷」(えどづみせっせんじゅうにごう)の中心となるまでに発展し、文化3年(1806) の米価の下落を緩和する措置として酒造家に対して酒造米の買い上げを奨励した「勝手造り令」公布以降はさらに大きな飛躍をとげた。

文政5年(1822) には江戸入津(にゅうしん)量は、実に66万5千樽(230,000石)にも達した。



天保11年(1840) 灘の本流といわれる名門蔵「櫻正宗」の祖、山邑太左衛門(やまむらたざえもん)が、西宮の「梅の木井戸」の水を魚崎の蔵に運び仕込み水として用い,優秀な酒を醸造したことから「宮水」(みやみず)の評価が高まり、灘の酒造家は競って仕込水に「宮水」を使用した。宮水とは、酒造りに適した上質な水のこと。この宮水にはリン酸塩やカリウムが多く含まれており、酵母や麹の繁殖を助けて発酵を盛んにする働きがある。
#alljapannews #japanesesake #nada #sake


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Wandering the Chugoku region) 

By Ryuji Takahashi

Since discovering the named Honshu-Ichi from Hiroshima prefecture last fall, I was moved by the flavor and wished to visit the brewery. I finally visited Umeda Shuzo-jo Brewery in Funakoshi town, Aki ward of Hiroshima prefecture. Founded in 1916, Umeda Shuzo-jo Brewery draws water flowing 60 meters underground from the Iwataki Mountain, used as mother water. Sake ingredients used are all produced in Hiroshima prefecture. Recently, Umeda Shuzo-jo Brewery has been garnering attention since winning a Japanese sake competition in Europe.  

First, I headed to Hiroshima Station on a shinkansen (bullet train), transferred to the Sanyo Main Line, and reached the Kaitaichi Station. From there, I drove approximately five minutes north along the river and arrived at the Umeda Shuzo-jo Brewery. Hiyama-san, the second son of this family-owned brewery who works as a brewery worker, led me on a tour of the brewery. Hiyama-san returned home to the brewery two years ago to produce sake during the winter, and sell sake in the Kanto region and surrounding areas during the summer. Umeda Shuzo-jo Brewery preserves the traditional sake flavor while introducing sake with notable aroma as main products for consumers from other prefectures and overseas.     

Currently, brand recognition is low outside of Hiroshima along with the low production volume. However, I’m convinced this sake brewery will one day captivate the attention of a sake connoisseur and become a popular brand. Their product concept, attentive sake production, and the character of each brewery worker are each reasons that prompt encouragement for the brewery’s success. I look forward to seeing this brewery grow into a global brand. While visiting the Chugoku region, I decided to revisit Ichinomiya Sake Brewing Company in Oda city, Shimane prefecture; for the first time in seven years. 

I headed north from my parents’ home in Fukuyama city, Hiroshima prefecture to Oda city, Shimane prefecture. The halfway point is the Chugoku Mountains, with the possibility of snow. I frequently checked the weather report as I continued north, but eventually encountered snowfall. Luckily, snow did not accumulate, and I arrived safely in Shimane prefecture.  

The weather was sunny in Shimane prefecture. I drove along the scenic coast, taking in the beautiful and vast Sea of Japan until I arrived at the Ichinomiya Sake Brewing Company. The Master sake brewer and his wife were as healthy as ever. I enjoyed a lengthy discussion with them about new ideas and strategies to sell their current inventory of sake and create an exciting future for their sake brewery. Their passionate thoughts and efforts recharged my own motivation as well. I toured the brewery for the first time in seven years. The interior was considerably remodeled and cleaner since my last visit.  

Both Umeda Shuzo-jo Brewery in Hiroshima prefecture and Ichinomiya Sake Brewing Company in Shimane prefecture cherish tradition, reconsider customs that pose a negative effect, hire young workers to brew sake, and continue to evolve their passion and efforts to pass on their respective sake brands onto the next generation. Motivated from my visit to two breweries in the Chugoku region during my brief stay of two nights and a wake-up, I concluded my trip by gazing at the 400-year-old Fukuyama Castle from the bullet train on my way home.  


#alljapannews #japanesefood #japanesesake #jizake #sake


Organizing sake seminars

By Yuji Matsumoto

Conventional sake seminars (for the general public and businesses) were often about the brewing process, ingredients, and the sake categories. With this seminar, however, I skipped all of them and talked about how to recognize the taste characteristics of sake, food pairing, how to choose sake that suit your restaurant, and how to add a twist to the menu. The seminar was geared toward professionals working in the restaurant business and purchasing.

Key points:

1. Understand what is offered and/or is the best-seller at one’s own restaurant, then select matching sake

2. How to set prices, including the relationship between the average customer expense and the pricing of alcohol sold 

3. Whether or not to offer popular sake brands

4. Types and brands you should focus on

5. How to create the menu; do not categorize the sake by category but by food pairing and taste, to make it easier for customers to choose

6. How to utilize and select sake samplers

7. How to utilize cocktails, and popular cocktails

8.  Important items for employee training; know the taste, know how to sell by type of food ordered, do a short sales talk, know the type of rice, Sake Meter Value (SMV), and area the sake comes from

9. Differences between distilled liquor and fermented liquor, which is often not well-understood

10. Product management and its methodology

11. Way of the promotion and build relationship with businesses

I would like to recommend those in the business to revise what is being discussed so it is not too much about brewing methods and categories, and consider focusing more on content useful in helping customers to enjoy shopping for sake.





#alljapannews #japanese #japanesefood #japanesesake #sake


Sake Nation: “Japan’s recovery at last from the Coronavirus pandemic” 

By Kosuke Kuji

Foreign nations led by the U.S. declared an early end to the coronavirus pandemic and returned to normal. 

In May, Japan will downgrade the coronavirus to allow regular hospitals, etc., to examine patients infected by the virus. 

Spectators and concert-goers in Japan can soon vocally cheer on athletes at sporting events and entertainers at live music performances through their facial masks, banned since the pandemic. 

From spring, facial masks deemed a symbol of the coronavirus pandemic among the Japanese can now be worn at one’s own discretion.    

Approximately a year and a half ago, Europeans vocally cheered on athletes at sporting events and entertainers at live music performances. Japan is finally about to reach this point as well. 

In the Japanese sake industry, major tasting events have started to resume. 

The Japan Ginjo Sake Association, where I serve as chairman, held a sampling event for a class of over 1,000 guests last October. 

Also, each brewery resumed celebrating their kurabiraki (warehouse opening) festival, etc., this year, inviting guests to the brewery to sample their latest new sake.  

Restaurants now greet considerably more guests since the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, lack of labor is a reason why restaurants cannot always seat customers to full capacity.

Japan is a nation where peer pressure is a strong social force. I’m truly happy to see the Japanese sake industry finally resume normal operations. Let’s get in step with the rest of the world so Japan’s economy will fully recover as well. 

Let’s go, Japan!! 

We’re a step behind, let’s catch up to the rest of the world!! 













#alljapannews #japanese #japanesefood #japaneserestaurant #pandemic #sake


The Original Cloudy Sake

Recently, the term ‘Doburoku’ (unrefined sake) is hardly used anymore. Doburoku is a traditional Japanese white cloudy sake produced from rice, malted rice, water and fermented without filtration.  

The term “nigori sake” originated in China in reference to cloudy sake produced without filtering the fermentation-mash.  

Also, other terms to reference doburoku are “dobu,” “fermentation-mash sake,” “white horse,” etc. Nigori sake varies in type. The original nigori sake is “unfiltered, unprocessed sake” in reference to fermentation-mash left in the preparation tank after the alcohol fermented, or slightly filtered sake. However, nigori sake currently in distribution is sake left after the fermentation-mash is squeezed to prepare refined sake.    

First, the “first run” or “freshly pressed sake” is white, cloudy sake first squeezed from pressing the sake bag containing the fermentation-mash to separate the lees from sake. Freshly pressed sake is white and cloudy with sediments mixed at the bottom of the container, with a clear layer of sake at the top left after some time. This sake and the middle portion of cloudy sediments ladled out is the “rough run.” Most sake currently in distribution under the name “cloudy sake” is this rough run.       

In a document from the early Edo period (1603-1867), “Tonda sake” of Settu-Tonda and “Osaka sake” are listed as rough runs. Also, rough run at the time is thought to be unpasteurized sake. However, the current nigori sake is divided into the unpasteurized sake type and the live storage sake type pasteurized before shipment.      

The conventional nigori sake is the traditional unfiltered type, while the recent new type of nigori sake is very different, pink in color. More specifically, this nigori sake is prepared from red yeast, adenine-requiring mutant strain. This nigori sake is also referred to as peach-colored sake for its beautiful color. Fermentation-mash dyed pink from pigments produced in the fermentation-mash by this red yeast is roughly filtered and commercialized as nigori sake. However, this beautiful hue in the finish is said to be very difficult to generate. This cloudy sake is low in alcohol content and sweet in flavor to appeal to female consumers.   



もともと「濁り酒」 は中国から来た言葉で「濁酒」と書く。この濁酒と同じ意味の言葉は「濁醪」であり、「だくろう」(古くは「だくらう」と表記)と読む。文字通り、もろみ(醪)を漉し取らない濁った酒という意味である。また、どぶろくの他の異称としては、「どぶ」、「もろみ酒」、「白馬」などがある。ところで、ひと口に濁り酒といっても、いろいろな種類がある。本来の濁り酒は「もろみを漉し取っていない酒」なのだから、仕込みタンクの中でアルコール発酵を終えたもろみそのもの、あるいは粗漉しした程度の酒ということになるが、現在流通している濁り酒は通常、もろみを搾って清酒にする過程で取れる酒である。

まず、もろみを酒と粕とに分離する工程(上槽)で、もろみを入れた酒袋を搾った時に最初に出てくる白濁した酒が「荒走り」、あるいは「しぼりたて」である。上槽したばかりの酒はまだ滓が混在していて白く濁ってい るが、容器に入れていばらく放置しておくと、次第に容器の底に滓が沈殿し、上部の酒は清澄になる。この清酒と滓の中間の濁った部分を汲み取った酒が「中汲み」で、現在、「にごり酒」の名称で流通している酒の大半は、この中汲みとされる。


従来の濁り酒は濾過をしていないというだけの伝統的なものだが、最近、まったく新しいタイプの濁り酒が登場した。ピンク色をした濁り酒がそれで、アデニン要求性突然変異株という赤色酵母を使って仕込んだ酒である。 そのきれいな色から桃色酒とも呼ばれる。この赤色酵母がもろみの中で生産した色素によってピンク色に染まったもろみを粗漉しして、濁り酒として商品化されたが、きれいな色に仕上げるのは非常にむずかしいといわれる。女性消費者を想定した甘ロ、低アルコール度の濁り酒である。
#alljapannews #doburoku #japanese #nigori #sake


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Tokyo Winter Sake Festival in Yoyogi 2023)

By Ryuji Takahashi  

The “Tokyo Winter Sake Festival in Yoyogi 2023” was held at the Tokyo Yoyogi Park over three days from January 27~29. 

The concept for this event was to select delicious jizake (regional sake) and regional gourmet nibbles (to enjoy with the jizake) from Hokkaido to Kyushu prefecture for attending guests. Selections were divided into four categories: Jizake, Nibbles (to accompany alcoholic beverages), Festivals, and Campfire Cuisine. An original menu of campfire cuisine by an apparently popular YouTuber I was not familiar with was prepared and served at a booth.    

The “Festival” category was reminiscent of food stalls at festivals, complete with target shooting games, raffles, sweets, etc.

The “Nibbles” section exhibited the highest number of booths, packed with guests. Describing each booth would require unlimited space, starting with the tuna filleting show, Matsuzaka beef specialty store, Sapporo ramen served with premium beef tongue, and various other booths that turned heads. The Jizake section was divided into booths serving samples to sell, national jizake samples to sell, Nihonsakari sake samples to sell, and the craft beer sales booth. The craft beer booth was bustling during the early hours.   

Apparently, the custom to “start with beer” when consuming alcohol at an izakaya restaurant is also practiced at event venues as well. The opportunity to enjoy delicious nibbles with jizake from nationwide is very exciting for guests like myself. Guests can enjoy both sake and nibbles from the same prefecture together, or enjoy jizake from Kyushu prefecture with gourmet nibbles from Hokkaido prefecture. The discovery of new delicious Japanese sake and foods entices guests to visit the production region of these products, the true thrill of this event. Compared to recent sake events with many Japanese sake breweries present, events that showcase local nibbles with regional products better entices guests to seek regional sake with regional specialty foods, drawing people to the countryside. Considering revitalization of the countryside and Japanese sake breweries, perhaps there is no point in holding sake events that don’t spotlight regional foods with sake. 

I focused on the booth exhibited by Nihonsakari Co., Ltd. Some readers may wonder why the sake brewery attended an event serving jizake with regional nibbles. Despite being a national brand, Nihonsakari Co., Ltd. actively participates in regional sake events, garnering praise for their active involvement. Of course, the quality of sake products by Nihonsakari Co., Ltd. is safe and reliable compared to jizake, considering the brewery is leading the industry’s brewing technology. At the Nihonsakari booth, I sampled heated sake resistant to degradation even if continuously heated, and purchased Jyunmai Daiginjo draft sake, Samurai rock, and canned sake as souvenirs. I vowed to enjoy more regional foods with jizake this year as I headed home.  

東京地酒散歩(地酒&地肴 in 代々木)

 1月の後半3日間に渡り、東京代々木公園にて「冬祭!地酒&地肴 in 代々木2023」



#alljapannews #japanese #japanesesake #jizake #sake #sakefestival #tokyo


When in Rome do as the Romans do…

By Yuji Matsumoto

If you ask me if I enjoy having cocktails, my answer would be no. But that’s my personal preference. Develop sake and shochu cocktails at the restaurant and sell it. These cocktails are actually more popular, so I even have a “Sake Bomb” (a mix of hot sake and beer) on the menu. Other popular cocktails on the menu are the “sake-tini” using nigori (unfiltered)sake, and shochu mojitos.

What’s important here is that I used sake and shochu as base for the cocktails. It is about showcasing the many ways you can enjoy them other than having them straight, so people can gradually learn their flavors.

The reason why sushi became so popular in America is, without any dispute, because of the new-wave creation of “California Rolls,” although it was looked down as not being authentic by many sushi chefs from Japan. But this contributed to the increase of sushi fans, bringing in customers to the traditional nigiri-only (i.e., no rolls) and chef’s-special-only venues. If the California-style sushi, such as spicy tuna rolls and shrimp tempura rolls, disappeared from the current venues, the sushi fan base would probably diminish to 1/10 or even 1/20 of its current scale. No doubt this would eradicate the currently popular sake and shochu markets.

It is my belief that those selling sake and shochu should make efforts to “localize” when recommending them.





#alljapannews #daiginjo #japanese #japanesefood #japanesesake #sake #shochu


Sake Nation “A new way to promote Japanese sake combines a live-stream (two-dimensional) event with an in-person tasting (three-dimensional) event: Pa

By Kosuke Kuji

A new way to promote Japanese sake fusing a 2-dimensional live-stream with a 3-dimensional in-person event requires us real-world sake brewers to first jump into the 2-dimensional world of Vtubers (virtual YouTubers). 

Vtubers and sake brewers entered the same world via Zoom to participate in a virtual sake brewery tour and sake tasting event. 

Viewers who enjoy sake in the 3-dimensional real world and others who enjoy interacting in the 2-dimensional digital world discussed Ginjo together in the same screen, indicative of endless possibilities for future collaboration.  

Further, this collaboration with Vtubers produced an illustration by the Vtubers used on the sake label, printed onto sake cups to create limited-edition merchandise for this event. These merchandise were a huge hit, sold out on the e-commerce platform mercari, thanks to online viewers who never purchased Japanese sake before. The 2-dimesional world fused with the 3-dimensional world for Vtubers, who enjoyed a live event from the comfort of their home as they enjoyed sake during this exclusive collaboration.  

Lastly, the “Enjoy Ginjo Fair” was held at the Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo Ikebukuro in late September. Here, Vtuber Yuzuru Himesaki participated by video in the digital 2-dimensional world, while sake breweries participated in the 3-dimensional real world, and performed the ritual of breaking open a ceremonial sake barrel. Here, the 2-dimensional digital world fused into this 3-dimensional in-person event. 

In this way, traditional Japanese industries like sake breweries jumped into a new world using the latest cutting-edge IT technology, a truly fruitful collaboration and experience. 

I hope this fusion of two worlds of different dimensions attracts new Japanese sake fans to revitalize the domestic consumption of sake in Japan, showing continued decline. 

酒豪大陸「二次元と三次元の融合による新たな日本酒の道 その3」






#alljapannews #daiginjo #japanese #japanesefood #jizake #junmai #sake


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