Sake

Japanese SakeSake, a traditional Japanese liquor made from fermented rice, is familiar around the world. There are various opinions about its origin, however a description of sake in a document written around the eighth century can be seen as the oldest reliable record.

Sake has been a crucial element in Shinto rituals, festivals and happy events from ancient times and it has gradually gained the meaning of a “social activity” to share an offering devoted to gods, pray for mutual well-being and build a relationship of trust. This is the origin of the Japanese custom for people to pour and drink sake with each other in seasonal events or to utilize the alcohol as a communication tool.

The main ingredients of sake are rice, water and koji (malted rice). Good water, accounting for 80% of the ingredients, is especially crucial for producing high quality products. Sake is categorized by ingredients and production methods: Junmaishu is made from only white rice, rice koji and water; Ginjoshu refers to a high quality sake made from rice with a 60% or less rice polishing ratio, rice koji and water; Daiginjoshu refers to a top-of-the-line sake made from rice with a 50% or less rice polishing ratio, rice koji and water, which is regarded as the highest quality sake in Japan.
Another type of sake is called kizake. Brewed sake is usually sterilized by heat while kizake is not. It is not common in the market due to its difficult storage characteristics, but many people prefer its distinctive wild taste which only original sake can offer. Freshness is an essential factor for all sake, not only kizake, so it is said that drinking sake soon after bottling is better, this being different from wine which should be aged.

There are over 100 sake breweries brewing various kinds of sake across Japan. There is a wide range of tastes and drynesses. There are also different serving methods and each sake should be served at its optimal temperature; tobikiri-kan (extremely hot) at around 55°C, atsu-kan (hot) at around 50°C, hiya (cold) at room temperature and yuki-hie (the chilly temperature of snow) to be heavily chilled.