The Japanese and Sake: RICE WINE

Sake is made from rice. Kõji (malted rice) and water are added to steamed rice, and this mixture placed in a vat is left to ferment with yeast for 20 days. After fermentation the mixture is ready for pressing, filtration and heating.

Sake, often called seishu (lit. clear sake), is a fermented alcoholic beverage made from rice. Of all brewed alcoholic beverages, it is the highest proof. this has been a Japanese alcoholic beverage since ancient times.

Sake has a wine-like aroma

When drunk cold, good sake has a taste similar to fine quality wine. As a result, there are some kinds of sake that have won prizes when submitted for exhibition at European wine competitions. Some kinds of sake are massproduced and sold throughout Japan. However, there are local sake breweries in every region across the country, which make their respective characteristic tastes based on the quality of rice and water and differences in brewing processes.

This is called “jizake” (locally brewed sake) and has played the main role in the recent sake boom. With the alcohol concentration at around 15%, it is comparatively easy to drink, resulting in increasing numbers of female fans.


It is often said that where there is good water there is good sake. Nada in Hyōgo and Fushimi in Kyoto are well known for their good sake, and sake from local breweries in various parts of the country has also become popular, much like wines from various vineyards around the world.

Sake is traditionally made in wintertime. In addition to high quality rice and water, the coldness of winter is also an important factor in making delicious sake. However, most sake now is manufactured in large breweries throughout the year.


Sake and Shintoism

Sake is deeply related to Shintoism, and is always a part of Shinto ceremonies. It is also an indispensable beverage for ceremonial occasions in Japanese life.

Sake is essential to Shinto festivals. Festivals are a series of rites when people welcome the kami, entertain them with offerings of all sorts of delicacies and sake, ask for an oracle, drink and eat together a portion of the offerings, and send kami back to mountains. The way of drinking sake in the old days was to pass a large cup around from person to person. It was believed that to drink from the same cup gave a person a sense of oneness not only with the others but also with kami. Drinking with individual cups is a general custom now, but we sometimes see people exchanging sake cups on some formal occasions even nowadays, carrying on the traditional style of drinking in the old days.


How to drink sake

Kan and reishu

Sake is normally heated to body temperature before drinking, a serving style called kan. Sometimes it is served cold according to the season or preference. Many kinds of reishu (lit. cool sake) are available now.


O-shaku (pouring sake for others)

As it was customary in the old days for people to drink sake together in a group and exchange sake cups on formal occasions, it is thought to be inappropriate to pour for oneself even today. Rather, one should pour for others.

This is not only for sake , but is general practice for beer as well.


Are Japanese people easy to get drunk?

”Drinking seems to be important in Japanese men's society.”

The Japanese are constitutionally more susceptible to alcohol than Europeans and Americans, and are said to get drunk more easily. Moreover, drinking together with colleagues or friends is believed to help improve human relationships in daily life. The Japanese also think that as you drink, you become more frank and can say what you really think. In result, they sometimes drink too much and create a situation called "drunkards' paradise'. Recently, however, drunkenness is coming to be viewed as reflecting incapacity for self-control, and is seen more as a problem.

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I am a Japanese living in Mie prefecture. I work in a supermarket. You will often find information about Japan from anime and manga. However, in reality, it is slightly different. I want to convey the true Japanese culture and lifestyle.


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