Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Shall we go to a sakagura?

   Breweries where they make Japanese sake are called 'Sakagura'. Kochi has 18 sakagura in total. For this edition I interviewed Mr.Ogi, who is the 'Toji', or chief sake brewer, at the Arimitsu Shuzo sakagura in Aki City and talked about some of the traditions in the sake industry.

   At Arimitsu Shuzo, the first sake of the year isn't ready until the middle of November, but preparations begin in early October after the rice have just been harvested. By the middle of January all the sake would have been brewed and in early February customers are invited to the brewery to taste the sake and to celebrate the finishing of the sake making. These public events are known as ‘Sakagurabiraki’.

   On that day, workers and their families cook traditional Japanese food, including Oden (Japanese stew) and Kasujiru (sake cake soup). Often as many as 200 people may attend and it can be an exciting and bustling day.

   For many people the highlight of the day is the tasting of the new sake, or 'Namashu Genshu', which has just been pressed. The Namashu Genshu would not have been heated for pasteurization and water not added to reduce the alcohol content. Usually the bottles of sake we buy in the shops have already been heat-treated and the sake have stood for some time, so we don't get the full taste of real fresh sake. This fresh and fruity flavor is very special! There really is no reason to miss out on this unique and wonderful experience,which comes only once each year.

   In the new sake season you can find green balls hanging beneath the eaves of some of the sake breweries. They are known as Sugidama and they are made of cedar leaves. As well as telling customers that the new sake has been made, they also represent their thanks to the sake guardian deity. As the leaves turn brown it shows people that the sake have been aged and matured. The world of the sake industry is so mysterious that you can make a lot of discoveries there.

   If you contact them in advance, Arimitsu Shuzo and several of the other sake makers offer tours inside their breweries. Go ahead and experience more of the depth and history of the sake world.

HP: (Japanese only)
Other information of breweries: (Japanese only)

Taken from vol.34 PDF

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