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The Muromachi Period (1336-1573) - The Evolution of “Souboushu” (sake brewed in large temples)

Souboushu (sake brewed in large temples) saved temples from financial difficulties, and was gradually consumed among the ruling class.
The production of souboushu started during the Heian Period (794-1185), when temples with shoen (manors with land managed by the temple) started producing sake from rice collected as annual tributes for shrine rituals. Buildings referred to as sake shops existed in the Todai-ji and Daigoji Temples.
Temples started selling commercial sake from the late Kamakura Period (1192-1333) into the early Muromachi Period (1392-1573).
In farming villages where riots broke out repeatedly, the economic base was unstable. Sake sales were started to ensure a source of revenue for temples.
Despite the common belief that monks are prohibited from consuming sake, alcohol was prohibited in principle only.
Until the Meiji Period (1868-1912), Buddhism was not clearly distinguished from Shintoism, thus Buddhist temples were commonly built adjacent to Shinto shrines. Therefore, sake for festivities as offerings to Shinto gods was produced in Buddhist temples, and despite sake being prohibited according to temple rules, sake was commonly consumed in low volumes.


#muromachi #sake #souboushu

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Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Kura Master 2021)

By Ryuji Takahashi
Recently, the Japanese sake contest “Kura Master” held annually in France for French competitors announced the 2021 winners of the “5th Kura Master.” The sake contest held annually in France since 2017 is judged by judges based in Europe consisting of members holding the prestigious title “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” (MOF) bestowed by the French government, top sommeliers and bar men of first-class hotels across France, members of the “Le Club Des Cavistes Du Japon” (an organization of independent liquor shops directly importing wine, champagne, and food products from foreign production regions without importers acting as a middleman), culinary school associates, and professionals from the hospitality and food industries.
Kura Master is a sake competition offering an opportunity to pair sake entries with various food products, to promote Japanese sake products to France and the European market through contests, sampling events, and various events; and for small sake breweries to find new sales routes. In pursuit of such opportunities, Echi Sake Brewery of Shiga prefecture (whose operation I help manage) submitted entries in the Junmai Daiginjo and Junmai categories. This brewery with hardly any brand recognition won the top platinum award in both categories with 5 entries selected, the highest number of entries selected in both categories. Echi Sake Brewery’s path to victory was not an easy one.
Echi Sake Brewery visited my sake shop approximately three years ago and consulted me about how to revitalize their business and what type of sake to produce to enhance their brand recognition despite not having any budget to develop new products or sufficient help. As I listened and sampled different categories of their sake products, I gradually started to wonder if the sake brewery was not aware of the high potential of their own sake products. Their sake products stored for years started to produce a sophisticated umami flavor they were not aware of. I suggested they rebrand and promote their sake products in storage and to verbalize their sake flavors, which took three whole years to accomplish.
Changing the brewery’s logo also took time. The brewery required some time to get on board with the decision to change their long-established logo. The brewery’s sake was resold as premium sake targeting their intended pinpoint demographic. Also, I convinced the Echi Sake Brewery interested in jumping on the fresh sake bandwagon to verbalize and promote their delicious aged sake flavor and their local long-established reputation, which took three years to accomplish. These efforts helped to sell their sake in storage and the brewery to win the highest recognition in 2 categories of this year’s Kura Master competition. I feel Echi Sake Brewery is finally standing at the start line. I wish for the brewery to please keep working hard to survive the market. As soon as one gives up on a challenge is when one’s dream ends in my opinion.


先日、毎年フランスで行われる日本酒のコンテスト「Kura Master」の2021年の受賞酒の発表があった。このクラマスター、2017年から開催されているフランスで行うフランス人の為の日本酒コンクールで、フランス人を中心としたヨーロッパ在住の審査員で行われる。フランス国家が最高職人の資格を証明するMOFの保有者をはじめ、フランスの一流ホテルのトップソムリエやバーマン、カービスト、またレストラン、ホテル、料理学校関係者など飲食業界のプロフェッショナルで運営されている。コンクールや試飲会、各種イベントを通して、マリアージュを体験する機会を創り、フランスをはじめとした欧州市場へ日本酒などをアピールする場を酒蔵などに提供してくれるので小さい酒蔵としては新たな販路を見出すチャンスを貰えるコンクールと言えるだろう。そんな、チャンスを求めて今回、純米大吟醸酒部門と純米酒部門に酒を出品したのが、私が運営を手伝っている滋賀県の愛知酒造である。お世辞にも日本で知名度があるとは言えないこの酒蔵がなんと今回、両部門で最高位のプラチナ賞を受賞し尚且つ、2部門とも最高の5本に選出された。この受賞に至るまでは簡単な道のりでは無かった。3年程前に、私が経営する酒販店に蔵元が訪れ、どうやったら酒蔵に活気が出るのか、どの様な酒を造って行けば認知度が上がるのか相談され、新商品を造る予算も無いし、人手も足りないとのことだった。サンプルを数種飲ませてもらい話を聞いていくうちに、蔵元自身が自分の蔵の酒のポテンシャルに気付いていないのではないかと思う様になった。売れていない数年在庫となっている酒に味が乗り始め複雑な旨味が生まれていることに気付いていなかったのだ。私からの提案は、在庫をリブランディングしてアピールする場所を変える事と、自社の酒の味を言語化出来るようにしましょうという事だった。それには丸3年かかった。蔵のロゴの変更にも時間がかかった。長年使ってきたロゴの変更には蔵元もなかなか決断が出来なかった。酒も特定名称の変更をして再販売し、ピイポイントで狙い撃ちの販売を行った。そして、フレッシュ酒の流行りに乗りたい蔵元を説得して蔵の熟成の上手さを売りにする事と昔からの地元評価を大事にしつつ、それをちゃんと言語化してPR出来るようになるまで3年かかったのだ。しかし、そのおかげで在庫として蔵に眠っていた酒は売れ、今回のクラマスター2部門で最高の評価を得ることとなった。やっとスタートラインに立つ事が出来たと私は思っている。生き残るには動き続けよ。挑戦を諦めた時点で、夢は終わるのだと私は思っている。
#contest #covid19 #jizake #kura #master #nigori #sakagura #sake #tokyo

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First and foremost, get people to sample

By Yuji Matsumoto

Many people have never tried Japanese sake, and even if they have, the most they’ve tried is hot sake. Hardly any will remember the brand name., say “This is a great, try it” and offer a sample with a smile. And once a customer appears interested, take the opportunity to simply explain the information pertinent to support why the beverage is delicious. Therefore, how to create the first opportunity will be the key to success.

Deciding who to communicate the information to is important
Is sufficient training being conducted to servers and bartenders? Offering samples alone to customers will not be sufficient to understand the appeal of Japanese sake to customers. Why is this sake delicious…? This point needs to be thoroughly understood by staff members. Also, because sampling alone will not be sufficient to understand the flavors of the sake brand, always pair the sake with food for sampling. It’s important for customers to taste the drastic change in the sake flavor with their own palate.

To get the customers to try sake
Find things to say to the customer’s to get them to react, “Oh, really?” For example, “How about this dry, refreshing sake brand AAA from Niigata prefecture, that goes great with sushi?” Or perhaps, “would you like to try brand BBB from Akita prefecture, which goes great with teriyaki because of it’s full body?” During sales pitches, explain to customers in simple terms that entice the customer’s interest.





#japanese #nigori #niigata #sake #shochu

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


By Kosuke Kuji

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

酒豪大陸「コロナで余った酒米 その2」


#coronavirus #emergency #pandemic #sake

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

By Kosuke Kuji

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

酒豪大陸「コロナで余った酒米 その1」


#coronavirus #emergency #pandemic #sake

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