Japanese Sake


Among the many gifts Japan has enriched the world with, nothing is a greater symbol of the country than sake.
The result of a proud brewing history of some 2,000 years, this traditional alcoholic beverage has long been the drink of
choice among Japanese, and is increasingly gathering popularity with people worldwide.

Sake is made primarily from rice, komekoji (molded rice), yeast and water of the highest purity to realize a
brewed beverage with an alcohol content of between 13-20%. Produced in regions all across Japan, sake comes in an
extensive array of flavors and aromas, and is served either warm or cold. As such, it is an ideal accompaniment to a wide
range of cuisines, both from Japan and abroad. Whether a sake connoisseur or trying it for the first time,
the delicious taste of sake is as good a reason as any to visit Japan.


Sake varieties are alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content of less
than 22% and are made according to one of the following processes.

  • 1.Fermented and filtered, and made from rice, komekoji and water.
  • 2.Fermented and filtered, and made from rice, komekoji, water and sake lees, deposits from a previous sake production, or other ingredients authorized by Ministerial ordinance.
  • 3.Alcoholic beverages made by adding sake lees to sake and then filtering.


From the northern prefecture of Hokkaido to the southern islands of Okinawa, some 2,087 kuramoto, or breweries, produce a variety of sake which the world enjoys. Kuramoto have come to be known for their traditional architectural features of white, earthen walls and tile roofs, though modern structures are increasing in number. Just as Japan boasts a proud sake-brewing history, so do kuramoto in their own right, with some having operated for 300 years or longer. Many are family affairs, passed down from generation to generation. Under the expert guidance of a toji, a brew master, certain kuramoto brew sake year-round but it is historically seasonal, beginning in autumn and peaking in the cold months of winter, ending before the arrival of spring.

Throughout Japan, Kuramoto, some of which have been designated historical landmarks, open their doors to give visitors from around the world the chance to sample their delicious sake. Some offer tours, while others house restaurants or museums exhibiting traditional sake-brewing tools and secrets. They can’t be missed — just look for a sakabayashi, a large round ball of tightly bound Japanese cedar leaves, hanging outside!


  • GINJO-SHU 吟醸酒

    Ginjo-shu is made using white rice that has been milled to 60% or less of the original grain. Additionally, it contains komekoji and water, and sometimes brewing alcohol as well. Distinguished by a fruity but sometimes floral bouquet, Ginjo-shu has a clear, crisp flavor. A subcategory of this variety is Daiginjo-shu, which is defined by a grain polished down to 50% or less.

  • JUNMAI-SHU 純米酒

    Junmai-shu, often defined by its mellow bouquet and rich, smooth flavor, is made only from white rice, komekoji and water.

  • HONJOZO-SHU 本醸造酒

    Honjozo-shu is made using rice that has been milled to 70% or less of the original grain. It also contains komekoji, brewing alcohol, and water. This sake is renowned for its mild, unobtrusive bouquet accompanied by a crisp taste.


    Namazake is never pasteurized, whereas sake is normally heated for pasteurization, twice in a process called hi-ire. Namazake also has two bottled pasteurized varieties, Nama-chozo shu and Nama-zume shu. These three types of sake are characterized by a light, fresh flavor and are best served chilled.

  • GENSHU 原酒

    Genshu contains a higher alcohol content of 17-20% that is achieved from pressing instead of diluting with added water. This sake boasts a deep, rich flavor.

  • KOSHU 古酒

    Koshu (aged sake) is aged for two or three years, or five or more, and is characterized by a sherry-like bouquet with hints of spices and nuts.


    Taruzake (cask sake) is aged in casks so it takes on the fragrance of the wood in which it is made.


    Nigorizake is characterized by its milky white color achieved from only lightly filtering the mash through a coarse cloth.


    Sparkling sake is a carbonated sake with a mouth feel similar to that of champagne.

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