Have you ever heard of the story of monkeys making sake? It is the anecdote of "monkey sake", where the leftover wild grapes, squirreled away in tree holes and rock hollows by monkeys on a full moon, turns into sake by the next full moon.
Though it is said that the woodcutters drank the sake on the sly; and since the sake brewing skills of the monkeys most probably has not changed, it may sound reasonable to hear some news of people in the forestry industry discovering the "monkey sake" somewhere in the wild. But unfortunately, we have never received word of such incidents.
However, a near certain evidence has been found, revealing that sake similar to this was made by our very own ancestors.
It dates back to around from 4000 B.C. to 3000 B.C., the middle Jomon period. Within the pieces of relic being excavated from the Idojiri ruins in Fujimi-town (Suwa-gun, Nagano prefecture), several pieces of earthenware, thought to have been used as the sake pots, were discovered. Called the "Han-jin han-amon, earthenware vessel with perforated brim", these were large pots, reaching heights of 51 centimeters. In the wide mouth of the earthenware, there were eighteen holes to release the gas produced from natural fermentation. Furthermore, the wild grape seeds were found clung to the inside the pots.
In light of these evidences, it is believed that the oldest berry liquor (the juicy and seedy fruit) in Japan was made from this era.
Another liquor, thought to have existed until the same middle Jomon period, is "Kuchihami sake", made from nuts and cereals.
This liquor was made by chewing (kamu or hamu) the each racial foods with high starchy contents in their mouth (kuchi), thus the name "Kuchihami sake". Not only were the liquor made by ancient people of our country, but also by aboriginal people of Andes Plateau in the South American and upper waters of the Amazon.
Therefore, it is widely acknowledged that the berry liquors, the nuts and cereal liquors are the origin of alcoholic beverages, being the first to appear on the face of the Earth.
Before long, in the latter Jomon period, rice farming was introduced into Japan form China. Thereafter, the techniques used for "Kuchikami sake" making were applied to brew sake from rice.