Sake Nation “Sake Rice Left Over due to the Coronavirus Pandemic: Part 2”


By Kosuke Kuji

"Due to the impact from the coronavirus, the production volume for Japanese sake had to be reduced." However, the sake ingredient – sake rice – was contracted before the coronavirus pandemic and cannot be diverted elsewhere.
Sake breweries cannot back out on their contract farmers.
Therefore, sake breweries must purchase the sake rice contracted for the volume of sake they don’t need to produce. To not impose any debt to our contracted farmers, we purchased the sake rice to fulfill our contract despite the financial challenges we faced.
Unlike grapes, rice can be stored for some time. However, storage in the refrigerated warehouse is only good for up to a year.
Rice cannot continue to be used after three or four years of storage.
Therefore, sake breweries must fulfill their obligation by purchasing the contracted sake rice and find a way to use them up.
For breweries skilled in producing aged sake, one option is to use all the sake rice to brew and sell aged sake.
However, we sell only a small volume of aged sake. Therefore, we’ll basically sell a fresh rotation of sake.
In our case, brewing and storing the sake poses a challenge.
On the other hand, sake rice “Yamadanishiki” used to brew Dassai from Yamaguchi prefecture and Kamoshibito Kuheiji from Aichi prefecture was in danger of remaining unused. Therefore, the sake breweries pleaded to the public, “Please support Yamadanishiki by consuming their rice.” Sake rice Yamadanishiki was actually processed and released for consumption as rice, evoking a huge response from the public.
Actually, sake rice Yamadanishiki is not as flavorful as rice sold for consumption. Therefore, recipes were introduced to prepare sake rice flavorfully, a very impressive idea. It was truly eye-opening to learn there are ways to use up the sake rice left over.

酒豪大陸「コロナで余った酒米 その2」


#coronavirus #emergency #pandemic #sake


Sake Nation “Sake Rice Left-over due to the Coronavirus Pandemic: Part I”

By Kosuke Kuji

The novel coronavirus destroyed Japan’s economy from the bottom up.
In Japan, where the lockdown cannot be enforced, citizens voluntarily stay at home to comply with the “self-restraint request” made by the government to the public to overcome the pandemic. However, the fourth wave hit just before the Tokyo Olympics started, met with a state of emergency declared going into the Olympics. As the self-restraint request and strict business suspension measures continue to be enforced long-term, alcoholic beverages are no longer sold in Japan.
Although alcohol not sold in restaurants can still be consumed at home, the volume of sake consumed in restaurants is significantly higher. A bottle of expensive sake may not be entirely consumed at home, while a cup of the same sake can be enjoyed at a reasonable price in a restaurant.
Few high-end sake is produced from general rice, as sake rice – specialized rice suitable for brewing sake - is more commonly used.
Such specialize sake rice cannot be cultivated by anyone, but essentially cultivated by farmers through contract farming.
As Japanese sake cannot be sold in restaurants, sake rice was also impacted.
As a rule, sake rice cannot be consumed. Sake rice is not flavorful if consumed, and sake rice purchased for processing cannot be sold for consumption.
However, due to the impact from the coronavirus pandemic, sake cannot be sold. Since sake cannot be sold, sake production for the following year will result in a significant volume in storage. Therefore, this portion of sake (to result in storage) must be subtracted from the sake volume to be produced.
The brewery that produces sake can apply such control. However, the original sake ingredient - sake rice – was arranged for “contract farming” before the coronavirus spread. We cannot break the contract for it would be unethical.
This means we must subtract the portion of sake rice for the sake (that will end up in storage) that does not need to be produced.

酒豪大陸「コロナで余った酒米 その1」


#coronavirus #emergency #pandemic #sake


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


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