History of Sake (Japanese liquor) (日本酒の歴史)
History of sake
This article describes the history of sake.
Out of the Yangzi jiang theory
Although it is not certain when Japanese people began to make liquor from rice, but it seems to be after rice cropping, especially wet-rice cultivation, had been established and its stable harvesting had become possible. In overseas countries, some people say that sake originated from the rice wine which was made around the Yangtze River in China, where rice cropping was begun around 4800 B.C., and exported to Japan. However, this theory has various contradictions although it was the oldest possible origin, so is hardly supported in Japan.
A description in "Gishi wajin den" (literally, 'an Account of the Wa, Japanese' in "The History of the Wei Dynasty")
The oldest record of liquor in Japan is described in the section of Japan in Encounters with Eastern Barbarians of "Sanguo Zhi" (History of the Three Kingdoms) (so-called Gishi wajin den) which was written in the third century. This book describes Japanese were 'fond of the drink' and also had a custom for mourners to 'sing, dance and drink' at funeral services. However, this can not indicate what materials were used for that liquor or how it was brewed. Incidentally, this description of a close relationship between liquor and religion in "Sanguo Zhi" provides one of the reasons why sake brewing began as a task of miko (a shrine maiden).
Yashio ori no sake (high-quality sake brewed several times)
In "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan) there is a description that Susanoo no mikoto (a male deity) had Yashio ori no sake, which is liquor brewed eight times, brewed in order to defeat Yamata no Orochi (a big snake with eight heads). Some questions such as what kind of liquor it was actually and whether it was similar to later kijoshu (special sweet sake) which was brewed several times is still not clear. However, this is one of the interesting historical materials to take into consideration for the origin of sake.
An archaeological approach
In Japan, a brewing pit which was used for sake brewing in China was discovered from a pit dwelling house in the Jomon period, around 1000 B.C. There, some pieces of fruit such as Sambucus racemosa (ssp. kamtschatica), tara vine, mulberry and raspberry were discovered with pupa of a fruit fly which is attracted to fermented food. Since the liquor did not seem to be brewed from rice, it is controversial whether it could be said to be a direct origin of sake. However, these historic sites are important because they show the original stage of brewing in Japan.
Since yeast is a living thing and alcohol evaporates, research on the origin of sake does not make big progress with the conventional archaeological approach.
Kuchikami no sake (mouth-chewed sake) and mold sake
It was about 500 years after the period of "Sanguo Zhi," when a clear record of rice brewed sake appeared in Japan. It is interesting that there are two oldest descriptions.
The first is the description in the itsubun (a composition that previously existed but no longer remains) of "Osumi no Kuni Fudoki" (the topography of Osumi Province) (written after 713). There is a description about a custom in Osumi Province (present eastern area of the Kagoshima Prefecture) that all men and women prepared water and rice, chewed uncooked rice and regurgitated it to containers, and that after it began to smell of alcohol more than one night later, all of them drank it. It is said that they called the liquor 'Kuchikami sake' (liquor made by chewing with one's mouth). This is a primitive brewing method which brewed rice with wild yeast by using amylase and diastase which are amylolytic enzymes in saliva, and it is known that it is widespread in a broad area from East Asia to the South Pacific, and South and Central America. In modern Japanese, the word 'kamosu' (醸す) means sake brewing. It is said that its ancient term of 'kamu' (醸む, to brew) sounds the same as 'kamu' (噛む, to chew) because of this, but there is also another theory.
Another is the description in "Harima no kuni fudoki" (the topography of Harima Province) (written around 716). There is a description that since dried boiled rice, which was portable food, became wet and got moldy, a person had sake brewed with it and had a party with that sake. This is a brewing method which utilized the saccharification of Aspergillus oryzae and it is similar to the one of modern sake. In this way, the two completely different brewing methods, that is, the one by chewing with mouth and another by Aspergillus oryzae, were recorded around the same time of the Nara period. However, judging from other records such as the record of the year 290 in "Nihonshoki" which is mentioned later, it seems to be the latter which was common in those days. It should be understood that the former was only a record of an old custom which happened to remain in the remote region of Osumi.
Descriptions on the origin of seishu (refined sake)
In "Harima no kuni fudoki," there is also a description on 'sumisake' (refined sake). Some people say that this is the first appearance of present seishu (refined sake), but it is controversial because of the following.
Ancient liquor generally seemed to be a soggy paste such as Nerizake (antique term for shirozake, or white sake) which still exists in Izumo and Hakata regions. Even today, in the Niiname-sai festival (ceremonial offering by the Emperor of newly-harvested rice to the deities) of the Imperial family, the two kinds of sake of shiroki (white sake) and kuroki (black sake) which are brewed in such ancient methods are served. Kuroki is a black liquor made by the process where a grass called harlequin glorybower is baked in a covered pan and its ash is mixed into a turbid shiroki. It is thought that this was a device in order to succeed the color of ancient sake which was brewed by black ancient rice.
And now, it does not seem to have been impossible to brew a clear and thin seishu which can be seen today from such a thick ancient sake. It is because there was a primitive filtering technique with cloth, carbon, sand and so on, if only for filtering turbidity. Therefore, it is not difficult to think that seishu was produced in Jodai, about the same time as the production of sake itself also began.
On the other hand, a word of 'sumisake' (also referred as 'sumizake') appears in the ancient documents of this age such as Shozeicho (balance sheets of tax rice), a financial report of local provinces in the Tenpyo era (729 to 749). Therefore, some people say that 'sumisake' meant the sake for rites such as 'kiyome' (purification).
Anyway, the techniques to brew seishu brought together to brew Soboshu (the sake brewed in major temples) typified by "bodaisen" (a name of sake) after the Heian period. In addition, as there is another theory that this "bodaisen" was the first seishu in Japan, a monument of 'the birth place of seishu in Japan' stands in the Shoryaku-ji Temple in Nara Prefecture where it was brewed. Moreover, in Konoike, Itami City, Hyogo Prefecture, there stands 'Konoike inari shihi,' a stone monument showing the legend of 'the birth place of seishu' which was a cultural property designated by Itami City.
Production of rice malt and kozake (thick sake brewed overnight)
In "Kojiki" (The Records of Ancient Matters), there is a description that Susukori, a man coming from Baekje in the era of the Emperor Ojin (according to "Shinsen Shojiroku" [Newly Compiled Register of Clan Names and Titles of Nobility], the Emperor Nintoku), brewed omiki (sacred sake) and presented it to the Emperor. According to "Shinsen Shojiroku," the brother and sister of Sosohori presented this and some shrines enshrine these two people as gods of liquor (see the section of institutions related with sake).
Therefore, it is not sure whether a person named Susukori actually existed or not, but anyway if it was made in the brewing method by a naturalized citizen from Baekje, it must have been a sake brewed by rice malt. However, this does not necessary suggest that there was no brewing method by rice malt in Japan before this presentation.
For example, according to "Nihonshoki," there is a description that kuzu (the indigenous people said to live in the Yoshino woods) in Yoshino presented kozake in 288. The term 'Kuzu' (国樔) is also written as '国主' or '国栖' which meant nonagricultural people who spread to various places of Japan before the Nara period and were regarded as a different race by Yamato Dynasty because of their particular culture. According to the description of "Engishiki" (an ancient book for codes and procedures on national rites and prayers), even the sake presented by kuzu seemed to be kozake, that is, a sake made of rice and rice malt. Therefore, it should be considered that the brewing method of rice malt had been already spread all over Japan in those days. Even though if Susukori actually existed, it seems that he brought at most a progressed technique of sake brewing.
In addition, types of rice malt should be discussed. Today, while wheat malt (or mochi-koji [a kind of malt fermented on rice cake]) is mainly used for liquor brewing in China and the Korean Peninsula with rhizopus and mucor, malted-rice (or bara-koji [a kind of malt made of heated grain such as wheat]) with pure Aspergillus oryzae is used for Japanese liquor. If the brewing method with rice malt was transmitted via the Korean Peninsula, naturally it would have been wheat malt. However, since there was no record of liquor made with wheat malt such as makgeolli in Japan, the out of Korean Peninsula theory can not be true. In recent years, another theory is also influential which regards that using Claviceps virens Sakurai, that is, a lump of mold which was naturally-induced on rice ears in the rice paddy, was the origin of malt in Japan. According to research by Takeo KOIZUMI, he found that malt had been made of Claviceps virens Sakurai at some time in the past from all 25 prefectures which he asked. Among them, a shop of rice malt in Yamagata Prefecture gave specific testimony that it had actually made malt in such way before World War II. Therefore, Koizumi actually tried to brew sake with Claviceps virens Sakurai, and as a result, he successfully produced something with flavor similar to sake.
In addition, as regard to kozake, there is also a description in "Shoku Nihongi" (Chronicle of Japan Continued) that it was made of the sweet spring water presented from the Mino Province in 717.
Sake brewing of the Imperial Court
In 689, a department named sakabe (the office in charge of sake brewing) was placed in Sake no tsukasa (also referred as Miki no tsukasa [the office in charge of the imperial use of sake, sweet sake, or vinegar etc.] written as 造酒司 or 造酒寮) in Kunaisho (Ministry of the Sovereign's Household), based on Asukakiyomihararyo (the legal code of Japanese ancient state). In 701, it was further systematized by the Taiho Code, which led to the establishment of a brewing system for the Imperial Court, by the Imperial Court.
Sakabe was not only a name of a department but also an expert of brewing which corresponds to today's toji (a sake brewer). Sake no tsukasa was not only a name of the department but also a name of the office, and it is said that it consisted of the three buildings, that is, sakedono where jars for brewing sake were placed, usudono for rice polishing, and kojimuro for producing malt for sake.
According to "Ryonoshuge" (Commentaries on the Civil Statutes) which was edited in the latter part of the ninth century, the sake brewed there was a thin sake by mixing rice, bara-koji rice malt used for today's sake brewing as well, and water together in jars and fermenting for about 10 days.
According to "Engishiki" (967) written about a century later, the major sake was thick, brewing rice and malt several times, which can be seemed as the origin of dan-jikomi (the three-stage preparation) in later ages. In addition, there is a description that there were 10 methods of brewing which reminds us of the origin of today's shochu (distilled spirit), kijoshu, and sake of low alcohol concentration, such as liquor made of wheat, a sweet liquor made with much malts, and low-grade sake adding water. Moreover, it can be said that those techniques of juicing moromi (raw unrefined sake) by hanging in filtering cloths and skimming supernatant were the same as those of present.
The Middle Ages (the times around the Heian period)
"Engishiki" (927) describes a structure of sacred sake tanks at Sake no tsukasa in Kunaisho to show that various sake liquors were already brewed in the almost same methods of brewing modern sake. Among them, a method described as 'Shiori' led to the base of the development of today's kijoshu.
After that, Soboshu received a high reputation which brewed in temples instead of the brewing organization directly under the Imperial Court.
Among many Soboshu, 'nanto-morohaku' brewed by temples in Nara had kept a high reputation for a long time until the Muromachi period. It refers to the sake with high clarity, almost the same as today's seishu, brewed by the method using polished rice for both kojimai (rice for malt) and kakemai (rice for moromi [raw unrefined sake]) which is the base for present sake brewing, and it was called 'Morohaku' (sake of 100 percent polished white rice) compared to nigorizake (unfiltered sake) which was the mainstream sake at that time. The term had been used for a high-grade sake such as 'kudari-morohaku' in and after the Edo period.
High quality seishu was brewed by techniques such as using a yeast mash named bodaimoto which brewed a well-known brand sake "Bodaisen" at the Shoryaku-ji Temple on Mt. Bodai in Nara, and nimoto (a manufacturing process of yeast mash) what is now called a kind of high-temperature saccharification method. However, the amount of production of seishu was small in this period and it is thought that it was spread among only limited social classes such as dominant nobility.
The Kamakura period
The flourishing of commerce and the spread of the monetary economy in various places led to the distribution of sake as a product which had the same economic value as rice. In Kyoto, especially centered in Fushimi, so-called 'Tsukurizakaya' (a sake brewery) which produced sake in its own factories and had shops to sell the sake directly, began to flourish. It was before a Jikkoku (1800 liters) vat for brewing sake was developed, and it seemed that sake was brewed in kame jars (甕 or 瓶 in Chinese characters) of 360-540 liters on doma (dirt floor).
On the other hand, aiming to secure taxes and based on the asceticism of samurai, policies which forbade the trade, manufacturing, and transportation of sake were often implemented. In 1252, the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) promulgated Koshu no kin (a strict ban on the sale and purchase of sake) which had jars for brewing and destroyed stock, leaving only one jar in each sake brewery. It is said that about 37,000 jars were destroyed only in Kamakura City. On the other hand, in the 14th century, the Imperial Court admitted sake breweries and alternatively, collected tsubo-sen (the tax charged on sake dealers) because of fiscal shortage. For this reason, the policy of the bakufu was not completely effective.
The Muromachi period
In the early part of the Muromachi period, this tendency was encouraged, and it is described in Sakaya Meibo, a document which registered sake shops and left in the Kitano-jinja Shrine in Kyoto, that the number of sake breweries in and out of Kyoto in 1425 was 342.
In addition, in "the Shibata family document: The origin of sake brewing" handed down in the Nada Ward, it is described that 'in ancient times, governmental officials called Miki no tsukasa brewed sake for rites and festivals in Dainairi (the Imperial Court), but in the Muromachi period the demand of sake became too high for them to sufficiently supply it, so relatives of the governmental officials began to brew sake in town, among which the sake produced around Sesshu was good quality,' which showed that the sake brewing industry grew rapidly in the Muromachi period.
The Koshu no kin promulgated by the Kamakura bakufu was abolished and on the contrary, the Muromachi bakufu chose to introduce taxation on sake breweries and utilize it as a financial resource of the bakufu.
The sake breweries at that time had a capital and many of them were also doso (pawnbrokers and moneylenders) at the same time who employed Yojinbo (bodyguards) in order to collect debt and guard their fortunes. Among them, Yanagi no sakaya, a sake brewery at Gojo Nishinotoin, was distinguished from fellow traders not only in its large scale but also in the high quality of its sake to become known all over Japan.
Such a sake brewery with economic power also began to produce rice malt which had been done by different industries from sake brewery, and as a result, it came into conflict with the guild of conventional suppliers of malts. This conflict developed into the military conflict called the koji riot in the Bunan era in 1444, and as a result, the profession of supplying malt in Kyoto was extinguished and the koji-za (rice malt guild) was dismissed. After that, rice malt making was absorbed as a process of the sake brewing industry.
In addition, this incident led to a higher reputation of Soboshu such as "Bodaisen," "Yamadaru" (literally, barrel in a mountain), and "Tafunomine sake" (sake on Mt. Tafunomine) in Nara, "Hogen sake" (literally, sake of rich field) in Echizen Province, "hyakusaiji sake" (sake of Hyakusai-ji Temple) in Omi Province and "Kanshinji shu" (sake of Kanshin-ji Temple) in Kawachi Province, which were uneventfully produced with no influence from the belligerent merchants in Kyoto.
In "Goshu no nikki" (The technical book on sake brewing) written in the beginning of the Muromachi period, there are descriptions on techniques such as today's dan-jikomi, technique of fermenting lactobacillus, pasteurization and filtration by charcoal. As to the method of sake brewing, in addition to the conventional katahaku using polished white rice for only kakemai, morohaku using for both kakemai and kojimai appeared and its elegant flavor became popular. In addition, the developing Soboshu led to different techniques such as narazake (sake of Nara) and Amanosake (sake of Kongo-ji Temple on Mt. Amano), the original forms of each school of the later Sessen juni go (the 12 sake brewing districts in Settsu Province and Izumi Province shipping for Edo). In "Tamonin Nikki" (The Diary compiled from 1478 to 1618 by Eishun and other Buddhist priests at Tamonin Temple), in addition to a description on the above pasteurization, the details of such a traditional method of sake brewing which had lasted until the Edo period are described.
Soon, sake breweries appeared in various places other than Kyoto and the sake produced there came to be distributed in the sake market of Kyoto. The sake breweries in Kyoto called the sake coming from other provinces 'yosozake' (sake brewed outside of the Kyoto area) or 'nukezake' (sake slipped through the law) and put up guards against them, and they tried hard to push them out. The sake breweries and town societies in and around the capital of Kyoto often submitted petitions to stop the selling of cheap yosozake to the bakufu's magistrate's offices.
However, this yosozake was the beginning of jizake (local sake) which later became the center of Japanese sake culture. According to some records, various jizake such as "Umazake" (literally a delicious sake) produced in Nishinomiya City, "Sakaizake" (sake of Sakai) in Sakai City and "Miyakoshizake" (sake of Miyakoshi) in Kaga Province were actively traded from 1469 to 1487, and others such as "Egawazake" (sake of the Egawa clan) in Izu Province and "Hiranozake" (sake of Hirano) in Kawachi Province were in 1557. In addition, although it was not sake, strictly speaking, "Seiretsujiho" (清烈而芳), which corresponded to today's Awamori (strong Okinawan liquor), was sold in the sake market as 'Nanbanshu' (sake of southern barbarians) in 1534.
The Azuchi-Momoyama period
Francis XAVIER who introduced Christianity to Japan wrote in the letter to his boss at the Society of Jesus in 1552 that 'sake is brewed from rice, but there is no other liquor; the amount is small and it is expensive,' which was the first report on sake written by Europeans. Of course, since Xavier evaluated sake from the standard of wine which was the liquor of his own culture, his impressions on its amount and price are interesting.
In addition, Luis Frois, a missionary who had contacts with Nobunaga ODA and left many records, sent the information to his home country in 1581 such as 'while we cool liquor, Japanese warm it.'
According to "Tamonin nikki," a Jikkoku vat for brewing sake was developed in Nara City in 1582. This made the mass production of sake possible in local regions, which led to the further prosperity of jizake culture. Promoted by the cultural independencies of various provinces in the rivalry of powerful leaders of the Sengoku period (period of warring states), many new local brands were produced in various places, integrated with the food culture of common people in each places, and they became diversified in the points of taste, quality, amount of production, and so on.
In the earlier period, the quality of well-cured sake was said to be overwhelmingly higher and the price was more expensive than those of new sake. It can be guessed that well-cured sake had a brown color and a flavor like that of soy sauce as today's Shaoxing rice wine has. However, after the mass production of sake became possible, barrels were used instead of jars or earthenware pots in order to transport it. Jars and earthenware pots were brewing containers devised and developed for well-cured sake whose quality could be kept only if hermetically sealed, but a barrel could not be sealed up. For this reason, well-cured sake became less distributed, and people came to drink new sake gradually. The demand against new sake became higher and its price also became more expensive relatively.
In the middle of the 16th century (1500s), a distillation technology was introduced to Kyushu region and shochu began to be produced. It was distributed early in Kyoto, which was the main market of sake at that time, as being imozake (literally, 'potato sake') and so on.
Ryukyu Awamori, which was called kusu (old awamori) as nanbanshu, unique liquors and herb liquors from China and Korea such as kuwazake (rice wine with mulberry), rice wine with ginger, oseishu (rice wine with Japanese Solomon's seal), hatchinshu (Eight unique sake), chomeishu (Longevity sake), nindoshu (Lonicera sake), jioshu (Rehmannia root sake), ukogishu (Siberian Ginseng sake) and torinshu (black soybean sake), as well as wine from Europe were imported through overseas trade by powerful Daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) such as Nobunaga ODA, Masamune DATE, and Yoshishige OTOMO, and the trade with countries in South Seas mainly Spain and Portugal by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI. There was also a nanbanshu recorded as 'Araki,' for which some people guess that it corresponded to arrack which is seen broadly in the areas from Arabia to Mediterranean Sea and others guess that it was the well-known brand sake of the Settsu Itami region ruled by Murashige ARAKI, a busho (Japanese military commander) in the Sengoku period.
Those exchanges of sake among various countries continued to the trading by shogunate-licensed trading ship in the beginning of the Edo period.
On the other hand, as represented by the fire attack against Mt. Hiei (1571) and the attack against Ishiyama Hongan-ji Temple by Nobunaga ODA, the rulers in this age were afraid of the temples which had had strong power in various meanings, and exterminated them persistently. This caused a decline in the tradition of Soboshu since the middle of the Heian period, and brewing techniques never revived even after temples themselves were revived. On the other hand, the sake breweries and schools of toji such as Zenemon KONOIKE and the Nara school succeeded this by improving the techniques of Soboshu.
In this way, it seems that the sake had changed completely from unfiltered sake to seishu by the end of the medieval period. However, it did not mean that unfiltered sake disappeared then, and seishu was not the same as the one at present. Unfiltered sake, including Doburoku (unrefined sake) brewed by farmers in their houses, had been continuously produced and distributed as a low-grade liquor which was cheaper and handy than seishu. And generally, since katahaku and namizake (sake brewed from unpolished rice) were the mainstream, it is thought that most of the seishu were yellowish and had a thick taste like today's mirin (sweet cooking rice wine) which kept zatsumi (unfavorable taste in sake) of unpolished rice bran.
The early period of the Edo period
The brewing districts such as Itami, Ikeda and Konoike on the upstream site of the Ina-gawa River in Settsu Province and Kohama and Oshika on the upstream site of the Muko-gawa River gained power in such a way that they had succeeded Soboshu. These brewing districts led to the background of the development of a major brewing district in Kamigata (Kyoto and Osaka area) which was later called Sessen junigo (the 12 sake brewing districts in Settsu Province and Izumi Province shipping for Edo).
According to "the Shibata family document: The origin of sake brewing" which was written later in 1783, there are descriptions as follows.
Back in the Asuka period, Sakabe of Sake no tsukasa had brewed the small amount of sake in the Imperial Court.'
However, in the Muromachi period, the demand of sake became too high for them to supply.'
Then, since their relatives began brewing liquor in Settsu Province and it was good, their descendants moved to Ikeda district and became brewers.'
In 1600, Zenemon KONOIKE in Itami developed an efficient mass production method of seishu by improving morohaku of the Naka school. This became a powerful factor to begin full-scale sake distribution among common people gradually.
In addition, sake was exported to Japanese quarters and royal families in various places in Southeastern Asia through the trading by shogunate-licensed trading ship. Especially in Batavia (a part of Indonesia at present), the base of Dutch East India Company (abbr. VOC), sake was regularly imported and became a necessity of people's lives. Since sake had a little higher alcohol content than wine from Europe (mainly from Holland), a unique food tradition where sake was drunk as an aperitif and wine was drunk during meals in Southeastern Asia including Batavia was established.
On the other hand, in the early Edo period Japan had a technique which was later named as sake brewing in all seasons, and the sake were brewed five times throughout a year such as, new brew of sake, aishu (sake brewed in the middle season), kanmae-zake (also referred as kanmae-sake; sake brewed before winter), kanshu (sake brewed in winter) to haruzake (sake brewed in early spring).
Because sake brewing needs a large amount of rice, it always competes with the food supply including rice. Therefore, the bakufu controlled sake brewing in various forms depending on the price of rice and food situation at the time.
At first, it introduced the system of sakekabu (an official certificate of sake brewing) for the first time in 1657, which was a licensing system for the sake brewing industry as anyone who did not have sakekabu could not brew sake.
After the technique of sake made in the winter was established in Itami in 1667 by improving the preparation of kanshu, all other sake brewing was forbidden in 1673 as part the sake brewing control (the ban on sake brewing except in winter). As a result, sake brewing in all seasons was interrupted for a while.
In this way, sake brewing was limited to winter so that farmers came to take on toji as a seasonal migrant worker only in winter. Soon, various craftsmen groups of toji who had various local characteristics had been formed.
Around this time, Tsukurizakaya generally brewed and sold wholesale in various parts of Japan. Especially in Edo, which was a large market by population concentration, professional wholesale merchants group appeared. And the yoriai (gathering) of wholesale merchants which sorted shipments arrived at Edo was also formed. In Osaka, on the other hand, conventional Tsukurizakaya sold wholesale as well so a specialized wholesale merchant of sake like Edo did not appear.
In this way, the sake which was commoditized in the Edo period came to be called 'sake of merchants.'
On the other hand, how to collecting tax from merchants who got enormous profits by sake was extremely creative means for the bakufu and also was a difficult problem. The bakufu considered that the sakekabu system had a weakness in the point of the amount of sake brewing, and it was afraid that tax revenue would decrease if merchants including sake breweries hit the weak point. Therefore, bakufu implemented revisions of the sakekabu system several times since 1666. Especially the revision of the sakekabu system in the Genroku era (in 1697) was implemented seriously and business tax for sake breweries had been introduced which lasted until 1709.
The middle part of the Edo period
Itami zake (Sake of Itami) and Ikeda zake (Sake of Ikeda) gained high reputations and "Kenbishi" (sword lozenge) of Itami was designated to the gozenshu (sake for lord) of the Shogun in 1740. The market price of Itami zake and Ikeda zake in Edo were much more expensive than other sake made in other places.
However, Nadame sango (three sake-brewing districts in Nada) around Kobe and Nishinomiya had already begun to gather attention as new brewing districts since around this time. The name of Nada, which was the representative among famous brewing districts after ages, first appeared in literature in 1716. In the research on wholesalers of kudarizake (sake shipped from Kyoto and Osaka to Edo) in 1724, the Nadame sango was recorded as a production area of sake which caught up to Itami zake. These led to Nada gogo (five sake-brewing district in Nada) in the latter part of the Edo period.
These sake made in Itami, Nada, and their neighboring regions, called Sessen junigo, were sealifted from Osaka, a gathering place called 'the kitchen of Japan,' to Edo, a large consuming area with a population of 700,000 at that time. The sake which was sent from kamigata to Edo in such a way was called kudarizake.
Although it was different depending on the period, 70 to 90 percent of kudarizake were made in Sessen junigo. In addition, other sake made in the Owari, Mikawa and Mino Provinces and shipped from Ise-wan Bay and those made in the Yamashiro, Harima, Tanba, Ise, and Kii Provinces were distributed in Edo as kudarizake. On the other hand, in the Kanto region there were branch stations of the bakufu in Nakagawa and Uraga, where the goods transported into Edo were examined. The result of this examination was called Edo Nyushin (the amount of shipments arriving Edo-wan port) and was utilized by the bakufu to control the economic condition of Edo market and investigated the situation of transportation.
At first, kudarizake was shipped by higaki-kaisen (a cargo-vessel between Edo and Osaka) with other goods such as cotton and soy sauce, but it came to be shipped independently by taru-kaisen (a cargo-vessel carrying sake barrels) since 1730.
Because of the continuous good harvest during the early period of the Horeki era (1751 to 1763), the bakufu promulgated the katte-zukuri decree (the deregulation policy to promote sake brewing) in 1754, and allowed the brewing of new sake. Therefore, sake brewing in all seasons had a chance to revive. However, it did not revive as before for such reasons as toji who knew its techniques did not exist, consumers were familiar with the good taste of kanshu, and sake breweries of brewing districts competed fiercely in producing better sake. While the bakufu repeated regulation and alleviation in the control of sake brewing in such a way, the technique of sake brewing in all seasons disappeared before the end of the Edo period. It was revived by an industrial technique in the Showa period.
The latter part of the Edo period
When Mt. Asama erupted and the Tenmei Famine occurred in 1783, the bakufu promulgated genjo-rei in 1786 which ordered cutting the amount of sake brewing of various districts in half. In 1788, it implemented the revision of the sakekabu system again, and as a result, it ordered some policies such as the production restriction decree of sake brewing to one-third.
Sadanobu MATSUDAIRA continued the production restriction decree of sake brewing to one-third in the Tenmei era as part of the Kansei Reform and severely limited the Edo Nyushin of kudarizake because he thought that 'people would not drink sake if it does not come in.'
In 1802, the bakufu ordered the contribution of one-tenth of the rice for sake brewing because of the high price of rice caused by flooding and so on. This rice was called the obligatory supply of one-tenth the amount of rice for sake brewing. Sake breweries fought and protested against it and the obligatory supply of one-tenth the amount of rice for sake brewing was abolished in 1803.
Because of the continuous good harvest during the Bunka and Bunsei era (1804 to 1829), the bakufu promulgated the katte-zukuri decree of Bunka in 1806 which made it possible for a person who did not have sakekabu to brew sake as long as he or she filed it. In this way the sakekabu system lost substance again, which led to a complicated situation between the sake breweries with sakekabu and people without from the latter part of the Edo period to the end of it.
After Tazaemon YAMAMURA discovered Miyamizu (water welling up in Nishinomiya City which is said to be suitable for brewing sake) in 1837 (or in 1840 in another theory), the center of the Sessen junigo transferred from Itami, which was far from the sea, to Nada gogo which enjoyed water and port.
The Modern times
The early part of the Meiji period
Introduction to overseas countries
In 1872 sake was exhibited in the World Exposition in Vienna. According to the 'official' history of sake in Japan supported by the Japan Sake Brewers Association as of March 2006, this entry of the World Exposition in Vienna seems to be the first 'export' of sake to Europe.
However, it can not be said that this is true. In history, sake was exported to Southeastern Asia through the trading by shogunate-licensed trading ship in the early part of the Edo period. Especially after that, there are signs of that sake had already been brought to Europe including Holland through Batavia (a part of Indonesia at present) which was the base of the Dutch East India Company and where drinking sake was established as part of its unique food culture, during the Edo period. In addition, it is clear that the Russian Empire introduced sake from Kamchatka to Europe through Siberia in the latter part of Edo period.
However, it can be said to be true that sake was introduced to Europe officially with the government's approval and support after the Meiji restoration.
Atkinson, an English man who came to Japan in the period of Rokumeikan (Deer-cry Hall), watched the method of pasteurization at sake breweries in various parts of Japan in 1881. He was surprised that toji could judge 130 degrees Fahrenheit (about 55 Celsius) precisely by seeing the Japanese letter of 'no' (の) could be written somehow on the surface of sake without a thermometer, which was different from the modern way of sterilization in Western countries that had been discovered by Louis PASTEUR in 1862.
In addition, although the technique of pasteurization itself had been used since the Middle Ages, it was after this period when putrefaction, which occurred when pasteurization was not done, became to be called hiochi and the bacteria which caused it came to be called hiochi bacteria.
Liquor tax and the Freedom and People's Rights Movement
In 1875, the Meiji government totally abolished the complicated regulations on sakekabu which were determined by the Edo bakufu, simplified liquor tax into the tax of sake brewing and sales tax, and promulgated some laws and regulations for anyone who had brewing techniques and capital to be able to brew sake freely. For this reason, more than 30,000 large and small sake breweries appeared at one time within a year.
In addition, anyone could freely make home-brewed liquors (Doburoku) which was later forbidden, although there was a regulation on the amount which should be less than one koku (180 liters) in a year. In 1882, anyone who made home-brewed liquors was required to apply for a license for sake brewing and pay 80 sen (one sen is 1/100 of one yen) as a license fee. However, as long as it did not aim to be sold, home-brewing of liquors including genuine seishu had been allowed until 1886.
On the other hand, the Meiji government, who did not have tariff autonomy against exporting countries, marked down the liquor tax received from sake as the main source of revenue, because it did not need to worry about tariff problems since materials were merely imported from foreign countries and because sake was drunk broadly in Japan. In this way, the government made the liquor tax against sake breweries higher and higher and as a result, about 30 percent of the revenue of the Meiji government came to be made up by the liquor tax.
Against this tendency for heavier taxes, the sake breweries protested in various places, triggered by the submission of petitions for a reduction of liquor tax by a sake brewery in the Kochi Prefecture in 1881 supported by Emori UEKI, a leader of the Freedom and People's Rights Movement from Kochi Prefecture. The government tried to calm the protests by punishing Kuramoto (sake brewer) who signed the petition, but the battle on liquor tax between sake breweries and the Meiji government did not end and continued for more than 30 years. Among them, the incident of the Osaka sake breweries conference in 1882 was the most famous.
The sake breweries who could not bear taxation bankrupted one after another, and the number of sake breweries decreased to 16,000 in 1882. About 8,000 remained before the Showa period and was decreased to about 4,000 because of the damage from the Pacific War. Moreover, because of a continuing consumer slump in the Heisei period, the number dropped to less than 1,500 as of 2008.
The development of rice for sake
Most of the sake breweries who could survive against tax were established by rich large landowners. Until then it was common for large landowners to stock up with a certain amount of rice from the harvest every year in order to prepare for poor crops or famine. But there was a risk that these stockpiled rice became old and useless if there was no poor crop or famine. Then, they used stockpiled rice as a material for sake brewing which they managed. Among such sake breweries which were started by large landowners, many sake breweries continuously developed into 'large breweries' in today's sake brewing industry.
In the regions where rice came to be used for sake brewing more and more in this way, the study of rice which was good for sake brewing rather than meals came to be made actively. After Tomokiyo OKAYAMA in Take-gun, Ise Province, made a success in pure-line separation of the breed which was good for sake brewing from Yamato (a kind of rice) which was a native variety in 1860, other people were also successful in the selection and pure-line separation as follows and established good rice cultivars for sake brewing. In 1866, Jinzo KISHIMOTO in Okayama Prefecture established Bisen Omachi from a native variety. In 1877, Jujiro MARUO in Hyogo Prefecture established Shinriki from a native variety, Hodoyoshi. In 1889, Otoichi ITO in Yamaguchi Prefecture established Kokuryomiyako from a native variety of miyako in Hyogo Prefecture. In 1891, Shinpei WATANABE (渡邊信平) in Tottori Prefecture established Goriki from a native variety.
In addition, although there are many theories on its origin, yamadabo was established in Hyogo Prefecture in the early part of the Meiji period, which later became the representing rice for brewing sake in Japan.
However, the brewing industry during this period when scientific reproducibility was not introduced, the technique was poorer than that of today and sake often putrefied during brewing in spite of using good rice for sake brewing. Therefore, the government needed to lead the information exchanging on sake brewing all over the country and to improve the techniques of sake breweries with each other. Soon it led to the establishment of the system of Zenkoku Shinshu Kanpyokai (National New Sake Appraising and Deliberating Fair) in the latter part of the Meiji period.
Competition from beer and wine
After the Meiji Restoration, many beer brewing manufacturers joined the liquor brewing industry, but the sake breweries and wholesale merchants of sake did not favor the appearance of beer which competed with their products. The conventional wholesale merchants did not accommodate beer, and as a result, sake retail stores did not sell it. Therefore, beer came to be sold at other shops such as a wholesale drug companies instead of liquor shops, which made a different system of distribution from that of sake.
In addition, at first the Meiji government did not impose heavy taxes on beer and wine like the tax on sake because it aimed to make people consume more Western liquors as part of a policy of Europeanization. This was one of the reasons for the rapid diffusion of beer among Japanese.
Beer began to be taxed in 1901, but wine was not taxed. After that, until the end of the Pacific War, while various taxes such as a brewing tax, a commodity tax, and a tax on the total shipment were imposed on sake, wine had no imposed liquor tax except the license fee for brewing. This saved the basic power of beer and wine industry, which made its revival in the postwar period easier. The increase of the market share of beer and wine from the end of the Showa period to present was influenced by the policy of Europeanization in the beginning of the Meiji period.
The latter part of the Meiji period and the Taisho period
The modernization of the sake brewing industry
From the latter part of the Meiji period (after the Sino-Japanese War) and the Taisho period, sake brewing had been rapidly modernized. Some people say that this caused an extinction of traditional methods.
Before modern times, what we call scientific reproducibility had always been a big problem for sake brewing.
Even if a good sake was made by kimoto (a traditional method to make sake mash), it was almost impossible to 'brew the same sake again.'
Even in the middle of the Meiji period, it was brewed under the assumption that 10 percent of moromi (raw unrefined sake) were supposed to putrefy (putrefaction), be damaged by hiochi bacteria (hiochi), be deteriorated (deterioration) and become sour (acidification) before sake was completed.
As for Fermenting yeast, mainly the natural yeast in the air or the yeast living in the brewery since old times (referred to as yeast in storehouse or yeast in house) were used. But since the strain was not stable and easily mixed with contamination, the quality of sake was not stable. And once putrefaction occurred, since the bacteria causing it entered into wooden barrels or wooden buckets, it gave a bad influence for several years, which was a disaster for sake breweries for a long time.
The brewing environment which did not have any risk of such disaster was called safe brewing, which had been an important idea in the brewing industry until the middle part of the Showa period when sake brewing often suffered putrefaction.
The Meiji government, which won the Sino-Japanese War from 1894 to 1895, regarded the modernization of brewery industry which enabled safe brewing as part of national strategy and aggressively supported it by introducing microbiology of Western countries. This was because it was strongly requested to utilize the capacity from reparations gained by the Sino-Japanese War for securing national revenue of the next generation.
The percentage of liquor tax in the national revenue was still high and reached 33.0 percent in 1897. For this reason, the government considered the stability of liquor tax was the most important for restoring fiscal health and tried to spread safe brewing as part of the investment of the government and as a result, a modernization of the brewing industry.
In this way, the National Research Institute of Brewing (present National Research Institute of Brewing [NRIB]) was founded in 1904 under the control of Ministry of the Treasury. Soon, Yamahai-jikomi (a method of sake brewing) was developed there in 1909 and seed mash made by the quick fermentation method was devised in the following year, 1910. Later, the first National Seishu (sake) Competition was held by the Brewing Society of Japan in 1907, and the first Zenkoku Shinshu Kanpyokai was held by the National Research Institute of Brewing in 1911.
The stream of yeast and quality of sake in the line of the Brewing Society
After the Zenkoku Shinshu Kanpyokai was held every spring and the National Seishu Competition was held every autumn, the seishu yeast which objectively received high prize there began to be distributed to sake brewers all over Japan by the Brewing Society (present Brewing Society of Japan) after separation and pure culture. As a result, the first yeast of the Brewing Society was taken from "Sakura-Masamune" of Nada gogo, which had been famous since the latter part of the Edo period, and the second yeast of the Brewing Society was taken from "Gekkeikan" in Fushimi, Kyoto, and they were spread all over Japan.
When the Kanpyokai and competitions began, everyone predicted that the sake made in old famous brewing districts like Nada and Fushimi would get a high prize. However, the third sake yeast of the Brewing Society was selected from "Suishin" (literally drunk heart) of Hiroshima for which Senzaburo MIURA developed the soft water sake brewing method, and furthermore, the fourth and fifth yeasts were taken from the sake breweries in Hiroshima. The sake breweries in local districts were very surprised at these and inspired, and began to research and develop their sake brewing methods which were suitable for their own water and rice in various places. Among them, "Dewa no yuki" (snow in Dewa) in Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture and "Bandai" (literally, 10000 generations) in Fukuoka by Sakugoro KOBAYASHI got high reputations.
The rice for sake brewing had been continuously developed actively and established as good rice cultivars for sake brewing through selection and pure-line separation are as follows. In 1895, the Shiga prefecture agricultural experiment station established Omachi from Bizen Omachi.
In 1897, Iwajiro MIHARA (御原岩次郎) in Shimane Prefecture established hayaozeki (早大関) from a native variety, late growing rice, 'Ozeki.'
During the period from 1893 to 1897, in Yamagata Prefecture, Kameji ABE established Kame no o from a native variety, early ripening rice, 'Sobe.'
The change of distribution and consumption forms
Previously, sake usually had been locally consumed as local products except for famous brand like Nada gogo where a large amount was shipped to Edo as kudarizake. People usually drank local sake freely in the situations like festivals from yontodaru (a barrel of about 72 liters), or comparatively rich people went to sake shops with their own sake bottles and bought sake by masu (measure) from a sake cask wrapped in a rush mat. Therefore, local sake which was called jizake today merely came out of towns and villages.
However, from the latter part of the Meiji period, sake began to be sold in bottle little by little and distributed outside of the towns and villages where the sake was produced. In 1901, Hakutsuru sake brewery began to sell sake in 1.8 liter bottles and big manufacturers increasingly began to sell bottled sake. On the other hand, the sake breweries which sold sake by measure was seen until the early part of the Showa period.
Bottled sake changed how sake was drank, in other words, people's consumption form and diet.
At one time, Japanese commonly had sake only several times a year with licking salt on the corner of masu and drank heavily. But they began to buy bottled sake which they favored in liquor shops and drink it during dinner or after dinner with meals or sakana (appetizers taken with alcoholic drinks) almost every night until they got drunk to some extent (which was called 'namayoi' [a little drunk] in those days).
This change of the consumption style slowly spread from the latter part of the Meiji period to the early part of the Showa period. It is the base of today's consumption form through the War and the restoration period postwar.
Prohibition of Doburoku
The government abolished the Liquor Tax Law controlling home-brewed liquors in 1899, which prohibited the production and consumption of home-brewed liquors (Doburoku).
After it became illegal, the word 'Doburoku' also came to indicate 'bootleg.'
This measure also aimed to secure the revenue for the government. The Meiji government expected that if Doburoku, which was accounts for most of the liquor consumption, was prohibited, people would drink more seishu which was taxed and the revenue from liquor taxes would increase. However, this expectation did not come true and the ratio of liquor tax in the revenue never increased after that.
The prohibition of Doburoku had been strongly refuted as an intervention of the nation to the people's diet, which had continued until what we call 'Doburoku' districts were designated as the structural reform district in 2002 after the Doburoku Trial in the latter part of the Showa period. As of 2010, it is still prohibited to brew Doburoku at home legally outside of the Doburoku special district.
From wooden barrel to enamelware
The liquor barrels before the Meiji period were made of wood and some people said that it was unsanitary because contamination might live in barrel walls. In order to dissolve this problem, an iron sake brewing tank whose surface was covered with enamelware like the ones of today were developed and the government promoted spreading this.
Compared to this, sake breweries which thought that wooden barrel brewing was a traditional brewing method and that the flavor of sake brewed in it was also attractive, revived wooden barrel brewing in the Heisei period. On the other hand, some people say that the quality of sake brewed in enamelware brewing tanks is not inferior to the one brewed in wooden barrel and that there is no sense in daringly persisting on wooden barrel brewing with the risks of high cost and unsanitary.
The new-style shochu and synthetic seishu
The modernization of the brewing industry was the beginning of the 'industrial production of sake.'
A technique to distill very pure alcohol originally developed at a gunpowder plant of the army utilized to develop alcoholic drinks. In 1911, korui shochu, which was manufactured alcohol added with water, was sold by the Nihon Shusei company.
After it came to be drunk, the distilling technique to remove impurities which were instinctively felt was further developed. Umetaro SUZUKI applied it and got a process patent for synthetic seishu in 1920.
In those days, sake was considered to be something of a luxury because of the idea that 'sake was made of rice which should be eaten as food,' so that it was regarded as modern and preferable that 'the alcohol of synthetic seishu was not made of rice.'
The synthetic seishu was also called new seishu and was sold as scientific sake "Shinshin" (literally, new and rising) by Yamato-jozo brewery. This is one of the techniques which led to the sanbai zojoshu (tripling the sake) in the Showa period.
The early part of the Showa period
The prosperity at the beginning of the Showa period
In 1926, the ratio of liquor taxes in the annual government revenue decreased to 24.4 percent, which was still the highest, that is, higher than income tax. Sake was not a major export so it was not directly damaged by the Great Depression in 1929. However, it was rather pressed by the expanding of the beer industry and forced to reduce production consecutively by 10 percent per year from 1929 to 1931.
The long-term fermentation kept at low temperatures by Akita method which was used for "Aramasa" in Akita by Uhei SATO and got a high prize in the kanpyokai of 1928, 1930, and 1932 in a row, gathered attention and the Aramasa yeast separated from it was designated as the sixth yeast of the Brewing Society in 1935. The sixth yeast is the oldest seishu yeast among the yeasts which are still used today and the long-term fermentation kept at low temperatures became the prototype of ginjoshu (high-quality sake brewed at low temperatures from rice grains milled to 60 percent weight or less) later.
As to the rice for sake brewing, Yamadanishiki, which was crossed between general-purpose rice and Omachi in 1923 and designated as a recommendable variety by Hyogo Prefecture in 1936, topped the list in kanpyokai.
China-Japan War and shortage of rice
When the China-Japan War began in 1937, the circumstances for sake got worse.
Sake was conscripted to be sent to front-line troops and good quality sake was not to be sold in markets. In addition, in order to secure rice for food, the two million koku (approximately 360 million liters of crop yield) of rice for sake brewing was decreased by the National General Mobilization Act in 1938. Moreover, the law which controlled the milling and polishing of rice and grains (commonly called 'the law against polished rice') was promulgated by the Imperial edict No. 789, which cut the amount of production in half.
Although the technique of ginjoshu seemed to be able to develop rapidly by the invention of vertical-type rice-milling machines in 1930, it could not be fully developed for almost 30 years, damaged by the regulation of the rice-polishing ratio which was under 65 percent in the Showa 13 brewing year (1938 to 1939).
The price of sake was also controlled by an official price determined by the government, which led to the appearance of a black market where sake was sold at a real price (a black-market price) independently from the end of the Pacific War to the postwar chaotic times. This official price system remained until 1960.
In this way, the balance between supply and demand of sake was lost and many sake retail shops added water into sake barrels before displaying them. In order to police such kinds of sake, which were called goldfish sake because it was thin enough for goldfish to live in, the government determined a sake grading system which showed the standard of density of alcohol and audited it in 1940. At first there were four grades of 'tokkyu' (special), 'jokyu' (high), 'chukyu (middle), and 'nami' (regular). Although the classification of grades has been changed with times, the system itself remained until 1992.
The appearance of Zosanshu (literally, 'increased production liquor')
The first Zosanshu
In Manchukuo where many Japanese settled, the demand of sake was high. There were problems such as the water at that place was very hard, rice wasn't imported from the inland of Japan freely, and many sake breweries had poor facilities in the point of safe brewing, and ready-made sake froze in the cold climate there. Then, a sake which resolved such problems was researched by Choji NAGASHIMA, an official of the economic department of Manchukuo, and Takeo (豪雄) YASUKAWA, an engineer of the Kano Shuzo brewery in Hoten (Fengtian).
Soon, with a hint from the method to add sake alcohol to wine, the method of adding a large amount of alcohol to sake to increase quantity, then adding sugars as the sake was too dry to drink, was developed in 1939. This was called the first Zosanshu.
It was produced by adding three to five koku (5.4 to 9 liters) of diluted alcohol by 30 degrees which was purified by potassium permanganate and activated charcoal filtration into the moromi with 10 koku (18 liters) of polished rice three days before joso (extraction to separate the sake from sake lees by applying pressure). Since it was reported to have no smell of alcohol and no deterioration by pasteurization in the trial brewing of 1940, it became to be produced actually in sake breweries in all over Manchukuo in 1941.
The second Zosanshu
After the Pacific War began in 1941, since the shortage of rice became more serious in the inland of Japan, the food-control system was established in 1942, under which rice for sake brewing was rationed. In such circumstances, how to make sake without using rice was researched. The first Zosanshu in Manchukuo was brewed as a trial in 55 sake breweries of the inland of Japan, and as a result, the method to add threefold alcohol to the original seishu was developed. This was called the second Zosanshu, which directly led to the postwar sanzoshu (sake swelled by adding distilled alcohol, sugars, acidulants, monosodium glutamate, etc.).
In accordance with this, in 1943 the government streamlined relevant laws and regulations such as revising the Liquor Tax Act to enable alcohol to be added to the ingredient of seishu, and the Alcohol Monopoly Law to enable alcohol to be sold to manufacturers of liquor.
All sake breweries had switched to produce the second Zosanshu until 1944. However, since some intellectuals strongly criticized that this would result in the deterioration of purity and quality of sake, the Ministry of the Treasury issued a notification that the second Zosanshu should be basically treated as a third-grade seishu.
At first, the distilled alcohol which was added was mainly made from potato. But, after being short of potatoes as well, acorns which mobilized elementary school students collected in the fields and anhydrous alcohol made of gasoline were diverted.
In 1943, all liquors began to be rationed and they were traded mainly in the black market after that. The black-market price of sake rose at the rate of almost double per half year. Not only the sake of illegal sales but also the sake distributed to households were sold in the black market in order to get money. The sake breweries had to submit all facilities for scrap metal if secret sake brewing was discovered.
The middle of the Showa period
The widespread illegal liquor
The sake brewing industry was seriously damaged by the war. 223 sake breweries burned down in the war, and 17 percent of the amount of sake produced in the Showa 20 brewing year (1945 to 1946) was lost, and the human resources such as toji and kurabito (skilled workers at sake breweries) suffered great loses. Among them, food shortage, especially the desperate shortage of rice as ingredient, was fatal.
General Headquarters (GHQ), which oppressed 'the Mayday for food supplies' (so called 'Mayday to give us rice') on May 19, 1946, ordered the Japanese government to prohibit the production of liquors.
However, that order did not go into effect for such reasons as the National Prohibition Act in the United States was not effective in the past, illegal liquors caused many victims, and major beer companies supplied a part of the barley which they secured.
More people came to drink partly because of the demobilization of soldiers, and the demand of sake became higher affected by a dark social situation which led to the shortage of supply. Therefore, a large amount of illegal liquors such as methyl sake (moonshine), kasutori-sake (moonshine) and bomb sake (moonshine made from fuel alcohol) were actively sold. They were characterized by the higher density of alcohol, stronger and more harmful than conventional illegal liquor such as Doburoku, and also called yami-zake because they were sold in yami-ichi (black markets).
Methyl was made by daringly adding methyl alcohol to diluted ethyl alcohol which was produced as an alternative to oil fuel during the war by coloring it an eye-catching pink in order to not mistakenly drink it. Because of the food shortage in the postwar period, people drank it with half-assuming risks. It was not only the lower social class but also intellectual and educated people drank it because of the craving to lose their sight or passed away. Newspaper wrote about it as 'mechiru,' that is, their eyes were lost.
Kasutori-sake was originally a kind of traditional shochu made by distilling of sake lees, but in those days it referred to illegal potato shochu of bad quality and was characterized by soiling a glass with oil after drinking it. The area from Ota Ward to Kawasaki Ward, Kawasaki City, across the Tama-gawa River, in the Kanto region and Amagasaki City in the Kansai region were famous as production areas.
Bomb sake was made by decolorizing modified fuel alcohol by activated charcoal and diluting it with water which was left over in such as air stations during the war. It was sold at bars in the black market, called 'instant shochu' or others, and was often mixed with other liquors. It carried the highest blindness rate and mortality rate.
The appearance of sanzoshu
Since widespread illegal liquors not only damaged people's health but also led to the deterioration of social order and the decrease of tax revenue for the government, the study of legal sake which was not made of rice was strongly promoted. A blended sake with seishu and synthetic seishu was devised, but the government adopted the sanbaizojo-seishu (literally, 'threefold swelled seishu') which was an application of the second zosanshu before the war.
Sanzoshu (an abbreviation of sanbaizojo-shu) was the threefold volume sake made by adding seasoning to the alcohol which was double the volume of the seishu that was supposed to be produced from moromi before it was juiced, putting it in the moromi, and compressing it. In order to distinguish it from synthetic seishu and blended sake, the ingredient of seasoning was limited to glucose, starch syrup, lactic acid, succinic acid, monosodium glutamate and mineral salts.
In order to implement this method, a hydrolytic extraction technique of impurities in purer alcohol was required. Then, the hydrolytic distilling technique in arosupasu (アロスパス) style of Meru (メル) company, a manufacturer of distilling machines in France, was introduced to Nihon Joryu Kogyo Co. Ltd., on October 1949, which brought solutions. The production of sanzoshu was officially introduced in the Showa 24 brewing year (1949 to 1950). 200 sake breweries joined the trial brewing all over Japan.
In addition, industrial alcohol produced in such a way was later used for shochu, whisky, and wine as well as sake.
Since the brewing facilities which were instantly revived from the damage of the war were poor, sake breweries could not achieve safe fermentation in spite of getting precious rice and often resulted in putrefaction. However, the shortage of supply in market was so serious that they had to sell something as sake. Therefore they had to add a large amount of alcohol to sake and also sweeten it by seasonings if it was too dry. For this reason, most of the sake breweries added alcohol in order to increase volume, and as a result, sanzoshu became a popular legal sake. It is said that even the regulatory authorities which were responsible for making them follow the Liquor Tax Act said that 'it is no use insisting public position' and took the initiative to add more alcohol than the legal highest limit in order to preserve moromi from putrefaction.
The balance of supply and demand of sake continuously became worse than that in the early postwar years, and it was worst around the Showa 23 brewing year (1948 to 1949). The amount of production throughout Japan in 1947 was smaller than the one-tenth of that in 1926. The official price of one sho (unit of volume, approx. 1.8 liters) of rationed sake on March 1947, the same year, was 43 yen, but the actual price on the black market was over 500 yen. It was in 1951 when the amount of allocation of rice for sake returned to the same level of 1945 (at the time of defeat in war).
The restoration in the postwar period
In 1945, neither Zenkoku Shinshu Kanpyokai nor National Seishu (sake) Competitions were held, as is to be expected.
In 1946, both the kanpyokai and the competitions were barely restarted. However, the ratio of rice polishing was limited to 70 percent, reflected by the food shortage at that time.
"Masumi" of Nagano, which had an advantage in the polishing rice ratio under 70 percent, held high positions both in the kanpyokai and the competitions. Its yeast was separated and distributed as the yeast of the Brewing Society all over Japan, and came to be used for more than 80 percent of sake which were listed.
On May 6, 1949, the ration system of liquors was lifted and the sales of liquors was liberated. In accordance with the change from the ration system to liberalization, wholesalers were designated in each prefecture. These wholesalers were manufacturers of sake.
The custom to pay money and drink sake in a retail shop since the Edo period was interrupted after the ration system of liquors was introduced in 1943, but revived by this liberalization of sales.
The National Seishu Competition had been held mainly for hiyaoroshi (Autumn seasonal sake) of every other year until 1950, but was not held after that. On the other hand, Zenkoku Shinshu Kanpyokai, which aims for the learning and progress of brewing techniques rather than industrial development, has been held every spring until now in spite of arguments for and against it.
When the Korean War began in June, 1950 and brought a special procurement boom to Japan, the government, who aimed to have a chance to eliminate illegal liquors, decreased the tax of all liquors for the first time since the early Meiji period in December of the same year, 1950.
The ratio of decrease was radical and about 30 percent on average, and as a result, Japanese departed from the demand for illegal liquors which were needed as 'anything which could make people drunk.'
After the withdrawal of occupation forces in 1951, the amount of consumption of sake finally began to grow.
However, sanbaizojo-shu had persistently remained after 1955, which led to a continuing consumer slump of sake which began in the latter part of the Showa period.
In 1952, the 10th yeast of the Brewing Society was separated from "Fuku-shogun" (literally, 'vice-Shogun') of Meirishurui Co., Ltd. in Ibaragi Prefecture (there are other theories). In addition, after the ninth yeast of the Brewing Society was separated from "Koro" (literally, luscious dew) in Kumamoto Prefecture in 1953, ginjoshu was actively brewed as a trial by using it.
The appearance of ginjoshu and ginjoshu with no added alcohol
The word 'ginjoshu' existed since the Taisho period, which meant 'the sake brewed with examination' in order to submit for the kanpyokai. Before the production process was scientifically figured out, some toji who were masters knew how to make rice malt with their experience. However, they did not teach it to kurabito nor Kuramoto. It was a technique which was taught only to the first disciple who succeeded him and never allowed to be taken out of the house, or the one handed down from father to his son.
The scientific clarification began from the study of seishu yeast in the 1920's at the National Research Institute of Brewing and so on.
This study cleared that the sake brewed by a certain specific yeast included a sophisticated flavor in moromi which conventional sake did not include, and that these elements which did not dissolve in water could be derived by adding alcohol of sake.
Therefore, ginjoshu was originally an idea which was studied based on the assumption of alcohol addition which had somewhat of a bad image by the distribution of sanzoshu during the period when a new shochu and synthetic seishu were actively developed as future-oriented 'scientific sake.'
At first, it did not aim to be sold in markets. Since it needed a high brewing technique, a limited amount of it was brewed experimentally for education of kurabito or submitted for Zenkoku Shinshu Kanpyokai.
The rice polishing technique was rapidly developed such as an appearance of a vertical-type rice-milling machine in 1930, and the high ratio in rice polishing which was necessary for brewing ginjoshu became possible easily. This made it possible to produce ginjoshu, which had been enjoyed only by limited drinkers, enough for market distribution, but it was interrupted by the outbreak of the China-Japan War in 1937.
In 1953, Kinichi NOJIRO, who produced "Koro" at the Kumamoto Prefecture Sake Research Center, separated a yeast which had a strong ability of fermentation even in low temperature and gorgeous flavor, which was designated the ninth yeast of the Brewing Society. This was the base of the present ginjo yeast.
However, this resulted in the widespread formulation (YK35) that ginjoshu could be made by using Yamadanishiki (Y) which was developed before the war and became the major rice for sake brewing in those days and the yeast of 'koro' (K) and polishing rice at the higher rate of 35 percent (35).
Around 1954, some Kuramoto already put ginjoshu on the market as well as exhibiting it on competition, and others tried to blend it to a special grade of sake. However, since people had not required special grade sake yet, they were not widespread.
As to the development of ginjoshu after that, see the section of 'the spread of ginjoshu.'
The distribution of sanzoshu and its backgrounds
The generations who did not know sake
In 1956 it was said as 'no longer be termed postwar' and dangerous illegal sake such as methyl and kasutori-sake largely decreased, and even the consumption of shochu turned to decrease in 1956. It looked as if the consumption environment of sake returned to the same good level as the one in the prewar era. However, it was totally different in fact.
Although the consumption of sake continued to grow, the sanzoshu which was developed as a temporary remedy in the postwar rice shortage was taken root as the mainstream. This was also because consumers took no notice of the former good quality sake.
The generations who grew up in the postwar period without having a relation with conventional sake did not have a sense of nostalgia in the taste against the sake before zosanshu.
Therefore, they drank starting with bad quality shochu, beer, and whisky, and thought that sake meant sanzoshu which caused 'headaches' and 'nausea.'
Even younger generations began to drink low-grade whisky (it was 'third grade whisky' or 'second grade whisky' depending on the grading system at that time). It was the same as sanzoshu at the point of adding a large amount of alcohol. But it did not give a homespun impression because of containing of no seasoning, having a Western image in spite of being a domestic product and a hard liquor drunk with water. The low grade whisky was actively consumed by common people until 1968.
Losing substance of the food control system
During the days when the economy expanded year after year, even sanzoshu 'could be sold as much as it was produced.'
Therefore, few sake breweries had a doubt or sense of danger against that situation. Even if they tried to produce good quality sake, it was difficult for them to get enough materials because the rice for sake brewing was received only through the ration system under the food-control system which was established in 1942 and issued rice and grain passbooks to public.
In addition, the amount of the ration was calculated based on the production amount of the Showa 11 brewing year (1936 to 1937) when half of the farmers were tenant farmers before the outbreak of the China-Japan War. Therefore, it was far from the actual situation of Japan from 1955 to 1964 when farming had been already mechanized and affluent after the postwar agrarian reform.
The fact that the amount of the ration of rice for sake brewing of each sake brewery was determined meant that the amount of production of sake was also determined in accordance with that of the prewar era. Then, if 'more production, more sale,' 'sake for sale could be produced by making final adjustments with adding alcohol even if the brewing was cut corners' and 'even a good sake would be disregarded by consumers and it would be sold at the same price as others after all,' the producers did not make corporate efforts. It resulted in the mass production of sanzoshu and other sake disappeared from the market one after another.
Since the disparity of the production amount between big manufacturers and local small sake breweries was still small in the Showa 11 brewing year which was the standard year of calculation, the disparity of assigned amount of rice for sake brewing was also small. However, this disparity grew larger after sanzoshu, that is, 'industrial production' became the mainstream method of production. Since big manufactures which could easily invest on plants and equipments expanded rapidly and produced more, the materials tended to be short. On the other hand, small breweries who had only simple and traditional facilities were allocated more rice for sake brewing than the amount they could sell.
Therefore, big manufactures began to buy whole tanks of sake produced by small breweries. This is called okeuri (selling a sake tank) for sellers (small brewery) and okegai (buying a sake tank) for buyers (big manufacturer). Both okeuri and okegai are regarded as OEMs of sake in economics.
Since sake was taxed at the time of bottling and shipment, there was no obligation of tax payment for the trade at the former stage, that is, at the time of okeuri and okegai. For this reason, it is also called non-taxable transactions. This was an important technique of tax saving for the managements of both sides.
Big manufacturers sold the sake gathered from other breweries through okegai by mixing it, adding it to the sake they brewed in order to increase volume or packing it in bottles with their own brand.
In such a distribution system, unique flavors of each sake brewery could not reach consumers. Sake breweries did not make efforts because they did not feel it was worthwhile as a brewer, that is, a producer of a kind of handicraft. In addition, since it could make a living as long as it produced sake following what big manufacturers requested, the original characteristics of each sake brewery was lost gradually.
The ration system of the rice for sake brewing continued until the 1968 fiscal year.
The change of people's diet
An advertisement stating that 'rice is fattening, but bread brings you a nice figure,' which lacked any scientific basis, was often released, targeting Japanese who had become affluent and interested in fashion. For the life innovation index pressed by the Economic Planning Agency, 'a ratio to buy bread in the consumption of grain' was adopted in order to see the degree of 'innovation' of people's life. In these circumstances, Japanese gradually changed their staple food from rice to bread.
As a result, the food life itself tended to change from Japanese style to Western style. The amount of consumption of meat, food oil and milk products rapidly increased and the liquor coordinated with meal also changed from sake to foreign liquors.
On these backgrounds a consumption of foreign liquors, especially beer which was drunk easily, rapidly increased from 1955 to 1960.
In 1957, TAKARA HOLDINGS INC. entered into the beer market and in 1959 Nihon Biru KK began to sell Sapporo beer. Convenience of canned beer, for which steel can was used then, was received well and it entered a period of the distribution of canned beer not bottled one. Soon it became to be sold in vending machines conveniently. This was the background where the share of sake was rapidly deprived by beer later, in the 1980s.
On October 1, 1960, the government abolished official prices of liquors which were enacted in April 1939, and the price of liquors came to be determined by market principles. This was because the liquor market was being saturated around this time.
Since its convenient containers such as bottles and cans were widespread and liquor was supplied fully, people 'could drink as much as they wanted when they wanted to.'
Then, the size of liquor market was limited by people's ability to drink, furthermore, the speed of a consumer's liver to dissolve ingested alcohol physiologically. The manufacturers had to fight for a share within the market size. It was a totally different market from other markets in which demand could grow without limit in accordance with the expanding of people's desires, for example, today's IT industry.
In 1961, the gross amount of consumption of rice in Japan finally turned to decrease.
The food-control system which was far from reality invited a serious excessive production of rice which was in contrast to the former rice shortage. As a result, an acreage-reduction policy was implemented. Because of this policy, high-grade rice for sake brewing such as Omachi, Kokuryomiyako and Kamenoo gradually disappeared and many varieties were extinguished. The sake industry in Japan which faced a continuing consumer slump later had been already empty.
In 1962, the Liquor Tax Act was greatly revised and among liquors called as 'zoshu' (other liquors), whisky, spirits and liqueur were listed as the names of category as well as seishu, shochu and beer for the first time. It was a process to admit these foreign liquors in the Japanese liquor culture.
In addition, this revision made the liquor tax paid by declaration. This was because the ratio of liquor tax in revenue, which was about 30 percent in the Meiji period, had already decreased to about 12 percent, so that liquor tax was not the major source of revenue for the government. After 1979, in more recent times, it has been kept at about five percent.
In 1964, 'One CUP OZEKI' ('one cup' refers to a sake sold in a glass) appeared and the consumption style of sake changed. This was the origin of the 'One cup jizake boom' in the Heisei period.
In 1965, the 12th yeast of the Brewing Society was separated from "Uragasumi" in Miyagi Prefecture by Kazuo SATO and so on.
In 1968, the ration system of rice for brewing sake was finally ended.
Since the stock of such as old rice harvested one or two years before had continuously increased, the government introduced adjustment of production of rice in 1970 which mainly included a ban for developing new rice fields, setting up a limitation of purchase by the government, introduction of the voluntary marketed rice system and allocation of a certain area of crop diversification. As a result, non-taxable transactions came to be relatively expensive, which began to decrease. In addition, for this reason, many sake breweries were forced to change or close their businesses or participate in an intensive production under the modernization promotion plan.
The modernization of sake breweries meant an attempt to decrease costs by industrialization. As part of it, a production theory named 'the short-term steaming theory' was created from 1965 to 1974.
This was a method to shorten the time of steaming rice for brewing sake from about one hour to about 20 minutes until rice became pregelatinized (starch gelatinization). Many sake breweries adopted this theory because of the decrease of fuel cost. However, since the components other than starch, such as protein, which should have been modified by steaming could not be modified in this method, the sake became dull. But since they were supposed to produce sanzoshu by adding a large amount of alcohol, its dull taste did not become a problem.
The reduction and omission of the steaming process was promoted furthermore, and soon the method using liquefied rice, that was dissolved by adding starch saccharifying enzyme to pregelatinized or polished rice which was steamed to be impasted in other factories in advance, was developed. These new techniques actually contributed to decrease costs, but the quality of sake had to declined furthermore because they didn't go through a fundamental step using the steamed rice with its outside hard and inside soft.
1971 was a symbolic year for the Westernization of the Japanese diet.
The first McDonalds opened in Ginza and the acreage-reduction policy of rice began to be fully promoted. In the beer industry, Asahi Breweries, Ltd. introduced an aluminum can with the catchphrase 'drink, crush, and throw away' and the oligopolistic system of the four companies was established (in this year, Kirin Brewery Company, Limited, had 60.1 percent, Sapporo 21.3 percent, Asahi 14.1 percent, and Suntory Holdings Limited 4.5 percent).
In January, trade of whisky was liberalized by pressure from foreign countries, so called Gaiatsu, which enabled all liquors for drinking to be imported without any limit of quantity and transaction amount. This gave a unpleasant damage to the liquor industry of Japan.
This was because the government had introduced foreign liquors with various preferential treatments and promoted to produce and consume foreign liquors made in Japan since the Westernization policy in the early part of the Meiji period, which finally resulted in the situation that 'buy foreign liquors made in foreign countries because you have already gotten used to the taste.'
Triggered by this trade liberalization, exporting countries of foreign liquors requested Japan to change the taxation in accordance with the degree of alcohol because an ad valorem duty in Japan was imposed on imported liquors with including transport costs and insurance costs. And this change was an important background for a continuing consumer slump in the latter part of the Showa period.
In 1972, wine began to be drink rapidly and surpassed the amount of shipment of sweet fruit wine in 1975, which was the beginning of the period called the wine boom. From this time to the period of the bubble economy, wine had steadily deprived the share of sake.
The change of taste of sake to tanrei (crispy and dry) and sweet
From the Taisho period to the Showa period, when various sake such as new shochu, synthetic seishu, zosanshu and sanzoshu appeared in the market and people's taste also changed greatly because of the change of diet, the taste of popular sake also had changed reflecting its change clearly.
The graph of the average 'degree of sake/acidity' of distributed seishu, made by Kazuhide KURIYAMA of the Brewing Society of Japan, shows '+12/3.1' in 1907, '+4/2.9' in 1921, '+0/2.5' in 1941, and '-6/1.6' in 1967.
In a word, they show the change of taste from thick and dry to tanrei and sweet.
Soon, on the rebound to this sweet sake in this period, the boom of dry sake arrived from the latter part of the Showa period to the Heisei period.
The latter part of the Showa period
In the following section, the latter part of the Showa period in the history of sake is defined as the period after 1973 when the consumption of sake began to decrease.
The period of slumping consumption
Structure of the slump
The consumption of sake turned to decrease in 1973, but it did not mean that any decisive incidents for this change happened around this time. This was caused by a multilayered pile of small changes and incidents since 1937 or even far Taisho period, and the structural change happened in visible way in 1973.
It's not to say that nobody was warned about it while those small reasons were piling (see the section 'seeking in the slump'). But to conclude, they were very few in those days and were not paid any attention.
In addition, for the reasons of the consumer slump of sake, not only the problems of sake alone but also the market share competition with all alcohol drinks such as shochu, beer, whisky and wine should be considered.
Strangely, 1973 was the year when the consumption of shochu, which had continuously decreased since 1955, began to increase, contrary to sake. In addition, two years before (1971), trade liberalization of whisky was announced and in the previous year (1972) a wine boom began. 10 years later, the amount of consumption of whisky which was imported by trade liberalization became about 20 times larger.
Convenience and a special feeling
In the latter part of the Meiji period, since sake came to be distributed in 1.8 liter bottles, the way of consuming sake of the Japanese changed from a style in which they drank sake as a treat heavily only a few special days in a year to one in which they drank their favorite sake for dinner or individually almost every normal day and got drunk to some extent (namayoi) (see the section of 'The change of distribution and consumption forms'). However, the consumption style of people changed again during this period, when people could get liquors at any remote village in the heart of a mountain and buy canned beer or one cup sake from vending machines in towns after the high-growth period.
As the catchphrase 'drink, crush, and throw away' represented, people did not appreciate sake.
In addition, they did not waver over choosing at liquor shops and buy sake with a special feeling that 'I will drink this liquor today.'
Those were the changes in consciousness which technical innovations brought not only to consumption style of liquors but also various aspects of life. In those days, anything light, thin, short and small was favored and what was post-modern was seriously discussed. It was the days when only the simplicity which was represented by a phrase 'Do not say difficult things' was favored rather than a complicated system of local culture.
When illegal sake flourished in the postwar period, people were forced to choose other liquors without any special feeling and good taste because there was no sake with special feelings and good taste in the market. However, although markets are flooded with many liquors and food, people do not choose their favorite tastes with special feeling because of the above reasons. It can be said that they can not choose sake because they are deceived by a flood of information.
In this way, the degree of drinking had changed to being slight drunk daily, which was much lighter than being 'drunk heavily' and 'namayoi' in the old days.
As a result, people came to drink whisky with water and chuhai (shochu highball) or low alcohol beverages, which led to the appearance of the nonalcoholic generation.
It means that consumers came to seek 'to be drunk' rather than the 'taste' of sake in a different meaning from that in the age when people drunk heavily at the time of festivals. The sake which should be drunk to some extent with having a special feeling and tasting well, fell into a slump, apart from such trends of the period.
Behavior of consumer and convention
The demand and requirements of consumers who pursued 'to be drunk' rather than 'taste' not only promoted the consumption of sanzoshu, but also diminished a kind of culture expressed as 'shudo' (way of sake), that is, the way of bar-hopping which got sophisticated in the beginning of the Showa period, and prevented fostering the next-generation acute consumers.
In addition, alcoholism was not well known at the time and the punishment for drunk driving was not strong, so that 'extortion by senior students' and 'chugalugging' (drinking down a jug of beer in one go), which are crimes today, were done at drinking parties of universities on a daily basis.
In the background, there was a convention like the cycle of abuse such as 'Drink it, because I was forced to drink it,' and a requirement for rapid communication as 'Open your heart to me because I open my heart to you.'
For these reasons, a freshman often suffered from acute alcoholism at welcome drinking parties and died after being carried to the hospital by ambulance. It means that sake, which was originally a tool of 'pleasure,' turned into a tool of 'bullying,' 'abuse,' and 'ego battle' (See the sections of summary and scandals in the article of Taiikukaikei [people who belong to sports club in universities]).
The generations who had been born before the 1960s were often forced to drink sanzoshu by older drinkers at dining parties or other opportunities in their younger age, and they had believed that sake was 'something that caused headache or nausea' until they became middle-aged. Since the next more individualistic generations were told such stories by older generations, they had a strong fixed thinking that 'liquor was dangerous. I never drink it,' and as a result, young people avoided alcohol.
The appearance of low-alcohol drinks
In 1973, the honjozoshu (higher grade, alcohol-added sake) to which much less alcohol than sanzoshu was added began to be sold in the market. As of 2008, some consumers seem to think that honjozoshu was the same as conventional sanzoshu in the sense of adding alcohol, but it has to be said this is completely wrong.
Since safe brewing was secured in this age, the step was not for putrefaction. And since the period of the rice shortage was over, there was no need to add alcohol as a last-ditch measure in order not to use rice for materials as much as possible. Therefore, alcohol was added to honjozo (authentically-brewed) in order to adjust flavor and the ratio of adding was limited to less than one-tenth of the quantity.
From the 1990s to 2000s, there was news that some sake breweries declared brewing sake only with rice. In the 1970s, the sake breweries which 'declared brewing honjozo' were in the news, which gave the same impact as that news.
In 1974, oil crisis occurred. The crude oil price became four times higher than that in the previous year, and the economic growth recorded negative numbers for the first time after the war. Big manufactures stopped growing and few non-taxable transactions were done. For this reason, the local small sake breweries who depended on okeuri completely went bankrupt one after another, and the sake breweries which could scarcely survive had to seek a way to survive by jizake seriously.
In 1982, the light one way bottle, whose surface was coated with plastic film, was introduced in the soft drink industry, and in 1983, carbonated drink sours were sold using it. The sour was a beverage which was drunk mixed with high alcoholic beverages, especially shochu, rather than being drunk individually, and shochu with sour was called chuhai named after sho-'chu' (shochu) and high sour. Whisky with soda, which was called a highball, was also called whisky-hai around this period.
Before then, some izakaya (Japanese-style bars) had provided chuhai or something like that on the menu. The appearance of the new container changed greatly the soft drink industry, and in the aftermath, chuhai which was provided at izakaya bars could be made easily at home.
Historically, the appearance of low-alcohol drinks made the border between 'sake' and 'water,' that is, 'alcohol' and 'non-alcohol' ambiguous. The change from the style of dead drinks several times a year at the time of special events such as festivals and having no sake bottle in daily life before the early part of the Meiji period to the style of drinking with dinner after that, also made that border ambiguous historically, which was seen as an extension of the trend toward low-alcohol drinks.
It can be said that the conventional border between 'the place, time and person for drinking' and 'the place, time and person for no drinking' began to melt and coexist. It contributed to the liberation of women from an old negative image attached to drinking.
In such circumstances, TAKARA HOLDINGS INC. decided to use foreign talents such as David BOWIE and Sheena EASTON who had a different image far from conventional homespun shochu for the commercial of Jun (a name of shochu) and tried to generalize shochu and chuhai, which brought great results. As a result, big manufacturers of alcoholic beverages began to sell not only shochu but similar products, that is, Korui shochu (the higher grade shochu) which a stylish bottle was used but content was not so genuine.
The phenomenon of the low-alcohol drink itself was progressing also in countries other than Japan, and there was foreshadowing from 1965 to 1974 when whisky with water became popular in Japan. However, the appearance of sour and the rapid growth of Korui shochu as above mentioned made the chuhai boom speed up from 1983 to 1985.
The sake which was not 'mixed with water' originally delayed from such trends and its consumption slump fell furthermore.
An avoidance of alcohol from young people
The phenomenon of low-alcohol drinks led to the phenomenon of non-alcohol or an avoidance of alcohol.
In addition, in so far as sake, it seems that young people who newly drank alcoholic beverages tend to avoid sake with awe because conventional devotees tended to be seen with a bias as 'people with a dainty tooth,' 'stubborn,' and 'awful middle-aged men.'
The influence of the bubble economy
The bubble economy gave various impacts on the sake industry as well as almost all other areas of economy in Japan.
It might be a kind of good luck that people who sought to use money promoted the prevalence of ginjoshu and the tanrei dry boom. However, it was unhappy for the sake industry that some brokers who bought up rare sake made by popular small sake breweries for investment purposes, waited for its price to rise and sold it with an excessive premium in the market although it was the raw sake which had to be drunk as early as possible because it was not good for maturing.
It is because consumers could not taste original sake produced by sake breweries in such a way. People who bought it without knowing this background thought, 'Oh, it tastes bad in spite of its popularity,' so that they did not become a fan of its sake brewery and therefore it did not become a trigger for restoration of sake from the slump.
In addition, since Japanese had a complex about Western countries, they tended to put Western beverages such as wine and brandy on the table when they had plenty of money.
The overseas capital which quickly paid attention to such characteristics of Japanese succeeded especially in this period as Beaujolais Nouveau in France which introduced the propaganda, 'Japan is the first country where it's sold.'
The Japanese who put more value on 'owning' rather than the 'taste' of the beverage itself in the bubble period made desperate efforts to buy wine which was 'cultural, stylish and high graded' beverage.
It was in the 1980s, when several years passed since the patient studies such as the developments of rice for sake brewing and seishu yeasts and the improvement of junmaishu (sake made without added alcohol or sugar) in order to escape from the long-term slump. However, it was almost powerless in front of most of the consumers' trend to idolize Western cultures.
Seeking in the slump
It's not to say that nobody was warned about it while various reasons were piling in the continuing consumer slump of sake as mentioned above.
For example, led by Tetsuro TANAKA who was an Official Appraiser of the National Tax Administration Agency, some voluntary sake breweries from all over Japan organized Kenjokai (the study group of sake brewing) in 1953 in order to produce high quality sake as opposed to sanzoshu which was popular at that time.
In addition, according to Hiroshi UEHARA, the sake without any added brewed alcohol began to brew in 1967 in Tottori Prefecture for the first time after the war. It corresponded to today's junmaishu, but it was named 'Alcohol-free sake' in those days.
Although Saitama Prefecture was not a famous production area for sake, the Shinkame shuzo which produced 'Shinkame' (literally, turtle god) in Hasuda City early began to brew sake without added alcohol around 1975, and switched to produce all of its sake only by rice for the first time in Japan in 1987.
In those days, it could not receive a high reputation as the kurabito reviewed it as 'at first, it didn't sell at all, even a drop.'
However, this change encouraged other sake breweries in various places, so that Fukumitsuya in Ishikawa Prefecture which brewed 'Kagatobi' (literally, black kite in Kaga) and 'Kuroobi' (literally, black sash), Fukunishiki shuzo in Hyogo Prefecture which brewed 'Fukunishiki,' Sudo Honke in Ibaragi Prefecture which brewed 'Sato no homare' made the same decisions. In the Heisei period, more and more sake breweries have adopted what you call 'Declaration for junmaishu,' following these sake breweries.
In addition, Nagano Sake Brewery Co. Ltd insisted that 'we had continued sake brewing without any interruption, even a year, since the Genroku era (1688 to 1703) and we strongly opposed the method of sanzoshu widespread thoroughly in the postwar period because "we could not admit others which violate the technique of seishu," and kept brewing junmaishu.'
On the other hand, there are some sake breweries which make efforts to improve the quality of sake and restore the reliability as Kikuhime Joint-stock Company of 'Kikuhime' in Ishikawa Prefecture which seek a way of adding alcohol as an ultimate method to improve the quality of sake in stead of the purpose of preventing putrefaction or increasing volume like sanzoshu. In order to 'foster a specialist for the next generation who can brew sake without any compromise,' the company has introduced the Sake Meister system since 1986 and began to foster a new generation of toji who had learned both traditional techniques and know-how as a company. The graduates have already flourished as medium-level toji in the front lines of the sake industry.
In the middle of the Showa period (around 1947 to 1970) when the consumption of sake grew in number, the sake breweries who thought seriously about the future of sake were very few and were not paid any attention.
Ironically, the decrease of consumption of sake after 1973 revealed the decline of the sake industry, which gathered attention to the former minority. After that, attention was paid to the trial and efforts for restoration.
However, the slump of sake does not stop even today.
In order to get out of the slump, various trials and errors have been piled (see the section of 'the present situation of sake'). It can be said that the quality of sake is the highest it has been since sake began to be brewed in ancient times. As the growing consumption of sake in New York and Paris, and so on, shows, the above is confirmed in overseas countries, but does not result in the restoration of sake consumption in Japan as of 2010.
At present, it seems that the generations who have a deeply rooted thinking of 'Sake tastes like that' even without knowing the term 'sanzoshu' can not pay attention to true sake.
The tanrei and dry boom
The details of the slow change of taste from thick and dry to tanrei and sweet in about 70 years from the latter part of the Meiji period to the middle of the Showa period was mentioned in the section 'The change of taste of sake to tanrei and sweet.'
Once getting out of the trend of sanzoshu, 'the tanrei and dry boom' began as a reaction to the sweet taste before and continued for about 20 years.
(See the section of [the boom of dry sake])
During the period when safe brewing was an absolute must in sake brewing until the 20s of the Showa period (around 1946), a colored sake had points deducted at the Zenkoku Shinshu Kanpyokai as a guide to eliminate the sake of putrefaction. Since the premise in that age was different from that of today, the criteria for evaluation were also different.
For this reason, the sake breweries which exhibited sake in the competition usually put efforts to make golden sake, which was just finished the joso process (extraction to separate the sake from sake lees by applying pressure), clearer by filtering. Filtered in such way, sake becomes clearer but loses its savory flavor and zatsumi at the same time.
As a result, sake becomes lighter and cleared which is expressed as 'tanrei.'
Niigata Prefecture was originally a famous production area of thick jizake. On the other hand, it was the center of the Echigo toji, having many workers who specialized in activated charcoal filtration called 'Sumiya' (Professionals of charcoal). Therefore, a technique of sumigake, which was taking colors and tastes with small amount of charcoal efficiently, was developed.
In 1972, Hisako SASAKI who was an editor of a magazine introduced "Koshi no kanbai" brewed by Ishimoto Shuzo Co., Ltd., in the Niigata Prefecture, and it became famous as a phantom sake. It was at this time when the sake of Niigata began to be sold all over the country. In addition, innumerable products called 'phantom sake' have appeared since then.
The Echigo toji who built self confidence with "Koshi no kanbai" launched a large sales pitch for tanrei sake in the market around 1985. The consumers who were fed up with the major sweet sake of Nada gogo and big manufacturers of Fushimi loved this Niigata sake on the rebound. Then, a dry beer called Asahi Super Dry began to be sold by Asahi Breweries, Ltd. in 1987, which became a memorable hit. This hit affected sake and sparked the boom of dry sake.
After knowing that consumers loved sake mainly because of the 'dry' taste, Niigata sake became drier. In addition, the Japanese which was written as '端麗' (tanrei) at first changed to '淡麗' (tanrei) from the image of sake activated charcoal filtration.
After 'Koshitanrei,' a rice cultivar for sake brewing, was designated to a recommendable variety of Niigata Prefecture, the word '淡麗' had been established as another word which had a different nuance from the word '端麗.'
Niigata sake was a great commercial success and it is said that many consumers thought 'Niigata sake is the best.'
The sake breweries of other prefectures recognized this trend and changed their courses to tanrei dry one after another, and soon tanrei dry sake was brewed all over Japan. Some sake breweries added alcohol for the purpose of making sake drier rather than making it fragrant and adding a refreshing taste.
Adjusting taste by activated charcoal filtration and making it drier by alcohol addition were off from the basic points 'to create taste by brewing.'
However, this boom was overwhelming.
Most of the consumers tended to think mistakenly as 'Good sake is dry, and bad sake is sweet.'
For a long time, the consumers who could not distinguish the difference between 'sweet' and 'tasty' and whose taste was not ripe had avoided thick sake like jizake and believed only clear seishu like water as a real sake.
Behind this was the atmosphere around the period of the bubble economy which favored anything light, thin, short and small and something like post modern with the rebound of anything heavy, thick, long and large in previous generation.
In addition, there was another reason, Japanese had already been used to having oily dishes using much butter and olive oil which were different from plain Japanese dishes as a result of the Westernization of diet, and that they favored tanrei dry sake to drink on the table with those dishes as an alternative to wine in a certain sense.
In the 1990s, tasty sake and thick sake other than tanrei dry sake were actively launched, but they needed more than 10 years to restore their former reputation against the boom of dry sake. Strangely, the tanrei dry boom ended around the same time when Japan's economy was restored from the Heisei great recession which was a reaction to the bubble economy in the first quarter of 2006. As the conventional Japanese dishes got a higher reputation again, today's sake of the thick taste line has recovered its share to some extent.
The prevalence of ginjoshu and ginjoshu with no added alcohol
The ginjoshu which appeared in the early 1930s but was interrupted because of the shortage of materials although it could have been more developed, gradually came to be sold in markets in small amounts in the 1970s, since the technique of temperature control in the process of making moromi was rapidly developed and the new yeasts with aroma of ginjo, such as the seventh and the ninth yeasts of the Brewing Society were put into practical use. It received a high reputation by consumers and ginjoshu was widely distributed in the 1980s.
In the 1980s many yeasts which had strong aroma such as low acid producing yeast, high ester producing yeast and high malic acid producing yeast were produced. The development of new yeasts which were suitable for ginjoshu were promoted around the research center of prefectures and agricultural colleges. This led to the ginjoshu boom coupled with the bubble economy.
After the 1990s, the development of rice for sake brewing and yeasts which utilized the characteristics of each place were promoted. The high caproic acid ethyl producing yeasts such as Shizuoka yeast, Yamagata yeast, Akiya yeast, Fukushima yeast and Nagano yeast which were named after each development place, or the flower yeast which the Tokyo agricultural college separated from flowers such as pink, begonia and climbing rose were highly evaluated as yeasts which could make a new flavor of ginjoshu.
In the 2000s, the center of the ginjoshu boom has moved to overseas markets centered around the U.S. and France, and some people regard it trendy to drink ginjoshu made in Japan for aperitifs in New York, Paris and so on.
On the other hand, many drinkers hate ginjoshu because they 'like the sake which has an original taste and flavor of rice better.'
In addition, many sake breweries avoid yeast which makes a strong aroma of ginjoshu, partly because too strong a aroma of ginjoshu spoils the taste of sake. It can be said that the way of using such new yeasts is on the way to establishment as they are used by mixing with other yeasts or only for the sake listed at Zenkoku Shinshu Kanpyokai.
However, it should be noticed that this ginjoshu played a role of traction in the growth of consumption abroad and in the continuing consumer slump of sake in Japan.
Behind this was the fact that there are many sake breweries abroad which have enough facilities to brew regular sake today. Therefore, inevitably, the high grade sake such as ginjoshu which can be brewed only by water and techniques of Japan is exported from Japan. According to the report of the National Tax Administration Agency, the consumption amount of sake in Japan in 2006 fell to about half of that in its prime, but the amount of export of sake, mainly ginjoshu, has doubled every year.
The present situation of sake
Under increasing criticism for the sake grading system begun in 1940, the nine categories, such as regular sake and the sake with a specific class name, has been replaced as a new way of classification of sake since 1990, the details of which is mentioned later in the section of classification. The sake grading system was completely abolished in 1992.
As of February 21, 2010, not only for the succession and revival of traditional orthodox tastes and quality but also for the extension of export and restoring of domestic consumption, various ways have been continuously sought in the following directions.
Sake had usually been purchased in 1.8 liter bottles for more than 100 years since it was introduced in 1901. However, since many consumers hesitate to bring 1.8 liter bottles home, it is promoted to be changed to 720 or 300 milliliter bottles. However, some consumers are questioning about the present price system of sake in which small bottled sake is comparatively much more expensive than 1.8 liter bottles and the way of displaying the small bottles at convenience stores and others whether they can be kept at suitable temperature.
A reform of distribution channels
It is mainly for the refrigerated transport of raw sake and rare jizake produced in sake breweries to big cities.
The diversification of variety
It is the development of kijoshu, sake of low alcohol concentration, sake with low rice polishing ratio, sparkling sake and so on.
Developments for female consumers
Pink sweet sake made by red seishu yeast of the Brewing Society, and so on.
The appearance of sake made of only one variety of rice for sake brewing
The sake made of only one variety of rice other than Yamadanishiki instead of mixing durable varieties for sake brewing as before.
The development of rice for sake brewing which is suitable for each place
The development of seishu yeast which is suitable for each place
Promotion in overseas markets
Improvement of the design of labels
The revival and restoration of traditional brewing methods
Cask sake, brewing in wooden barrel, brewing by the yeast which was separated for the first time in Japan, the development of kijoshu followed by ancient documents "Engishiki" (codes and procedures on national rites and prayers), and so on.
The increase of antenna shops
Some big liquor shops manage restaurants (mainly high grade izakaya bars, dining bars of Japanese dishes and so on) with their own capital and provide local famous sake which used to be unfamiliar for common consumers for a cheap price in the sense of tasting.
Study on the effects on health and an appeal
Reevaluation of the ingredients of amino acids, a study on alpelatin (アルペラチン), anti-tumor ingredients in sake by Akita University.
Scientific denial of popular theory, that is, 'Sake is rich in calories and make you fat.'
Suggestions for sake with water, one as chaser, or one for cocktail
The appearance of space sake
The appearance of sake brewed in wine barrels
Part of a promotion for domestic consumers who have a prejudice that 'wine is cool and sake is uncool.'
Ancient documents on sake
Osumi no Kuni Fudoki
Written after 713: There is a description on kuchikami no sake in itsubun.
Harima no Kuni Fudoki
Written in c.716: There is a description on the sake made by the mold on dried boiled rice.
Written in 720 by the Imperial Prince Toneri and so on. There are many descriptions on sake such as Yashio ori no sake, rice malt making of Kuzu and presentation of kozake from the age of the gods to the era of the Emperor Jito.
Written in c.868 by KOREMUNE no Naomoto. 36 volumes among 50 volumes exist. It was a commentary of the Yoro ritsuryo code (code promulgated in the Yoro period) in which there is a description on a sake brewing method by rice malt that was guessed to be done from the Asuka period to the Nara period.
Written in 927 by FUJIWARA no Tadahira and so on. It consists of 50 volumes about detailed enforcement regulations of the Ritsuryo codes. There is a description on the sake brewing by the Imperial Court until the beginning of the Heian period.
Goshu no nikki (the technical book on sake brewing)
Written in 1355 or 1489: The writer is unclear. The sake brewing method in the medieval period is described in detail. It was the first private technical book on sake brewing which was succeeded by the Satake clan in the Akita Domain.
Written from 1478 to 1618 by the priest Eishun and so on. It is a diary which had been written for 140 years by successive priests of the Tamonin sub-temple of Kofuku-ji Temple. It includes records of producing sake, soy sauce and miso at that time.
Domoshuzoki (a technical book on sake brewing)
Written in c.1687: The writer is unclear. It was a technical book on sake brewing mainly about Zenemon KONOIKE. Among existing books of this area, it is the best both in quality and quantity through the Edo period.
Honcho shokkan (Mirror of food in our country)
Written in 1697 by Hitsudai HITOMI. An Encyclopedia on food in the early part of the Edo period.
Wakan sansai zue (an encyclopedia compiled in the Edo period)
Written in 1713 by Ryoan TERASHIMA. The first Encyclopedia with pictures in Japan.
Nihon sankai meisan zue (Special food products in Japan)
Written in 1799 by Kenkado KIMURA. It describes kudarizake produced in Itami and Nada with pictures in detail.
Tezukuri shuho (The recipe of various hand-made sake)
It was a book on gourmet food written by Ikku JUPPENSHA who was famous for "Tokai dochu hizakurige" (Shanks' Pony along the Tokaido) in 1813. In the early part, his whole stock of knowledge about various sake was described.
Morisadamanko (magazines about manners and customs published in the latter period of the Edo period)
Written in 1853 by Morisada KITAGAWA. It was described the folkways of sake, distribution and drinking vessels in the end of the Edo period. It explains common people's lives at the time through those descriptions on sake.
The incidents related with sake
Teishiin no sake kassen contest
It happened in 911 and was described in "Honcho monzui" (anthology of waka poems and prose written in classical Chinese). It was held by the Emperor Uda and dominant nobilities who loved sake competed for the heaviest drinker. Although many participants drank heavily and vomited, only FUJIWARA no Korehira could keep cool.
The koji riot in the Bunan era
It happened in 1444 and the malted rice malt industry was eliminated by an armed conflict. Since then, making rice malt was handled by sake breweries.
A tasting contest in the imperial court
It was held in 1474; there is a description in "Chikanaga kyoki" (The Diary of Chikanaga KANROJI).
Daigo no Hanami (Blossom-viewing in Daigo)
It was held in 1598; at this time, famous sake of various provinces were presented to Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI. In addition, many unique liquors were collected from overseas countries as Nanbanshu.
The sake contest in Kawasaki Daishi gawara
It happened in 1648; there is a description in "Suichoki" (Kana Zoshi [story book written in kana] on sake contests) written by Shunsaku IBARAKI. Many heavy drinkers in all social classes were gathered not only from Edo but also from Musashi and Sagami Provinces and competed, divided into the east side and west side. It is an interesting folkway from the beginning of the Edo period.
The sake contest in Senju
It was held in 1815 as a sake contest to celebrate the 60th birthday of Rokuemon NAKAYA (中屋六衛門) who lived at Senju-juku Station. There are descriptions in "Go-suichoki" (record of the sake contest in Senju) written by Nanpo OTA and "Yosho-manpitsu" (collection of essays in the Edo period) written by Tomokiyo TAKADA. It shows a part of Kasei culture.
The sake contest in Manhachiro
It was a drinking and eating contest held at Ryogokubashi in 1817. The participants were divided into the side of big eaters and the side of heavy drinkers. It was an expanded version of the sake contest in Senju.
The incident of the Osaka sake breweries conference
In 1882, the Osaka prefectural police banned the conference of sake breweries because of the growing opposition movement against a tax increase by the Meiji government. The sake breweries forced to hold the conference on a ship on the Yodo-gawa River or in Kyoto.
The sake contest in Kumagaya
It was a sake contest held at Kumagaya Town (Yorii Town), Osato County, Saitama Prefecture in 1927. Various measures were tried in order to prevent free drinking. After that, such folkways decreased early because of the unstable condition of the nation and the rise of the military in the 1930s, and the circumstances of sake had greatly changed.
The Doburoku Trial
(1984 to 1989) A trial on home-made Doburoku which was headed for the Supreme Court disputed which was more important, the pursuit of happiness in people's food culture or the procurement of tax revenue of the nation.
The incident of illegal payments of pension by the Central Committee of Japan Retail Liquor Shops Association. (In 2005) It is said that the decrease of domestic consumption of sake was one of the backgrounds. It was related to the recent pension crisis.