Rice farming, introduced in the Yayoi Period, eventually became the center of agricultural production, opening the way for the development of a class society which saw the rise of regional states throughout the country.
In the 4th and 5th centuries, these states were gradually unified, and by the 7th century, Yamato Imperial Court, under one ruler, was formed. On a cultural aspect, it was around this time that the Emperor-led history books, "Kojiki (A Record of Ancient Matters)"(712) and "Nihonsyoki (Chronicles of Japan)"(702) were published. We find descriptions of a variety sake in these history books, providing evidence that brewing sake was starting to become common practice around the country.
Within these literatures, rice sake made by using the "Kuchihami" technique, discussed in the previous episode, is introduced. In the last volume of primitive items of "Nihonsyoki", it says that when Konohanasakuya Princess delivered of her son, she celebrated by brewing "Amano tamusake" (or amazake, a sweet liquor from fermented rice) herself. Furthermore, the famous "Yashioorino sake" (The sake is described in Kojiki and Nihonsyoki, as a potent sake), which an ancient god brewed to defeat the "Yamatanoorochi"(eight-headed dragon) is mentioned as well.
The brewing procedure of this sake is as follows. First, the liquid (green sake) is strained from the main mash prepared ahead of time. To that, a new rice malt and rice (firm gruel) is added. This is then left to ferment, strained again, and the whole process is repeated several times until a rich, potent sake is produced.
Putting aside the myth of the eight-headed dragon, (a metaphoric fable where the often uncontrollable river Hii in Izumo country (the current Tottori prefecture) was likened to an eight-headed dragon), this technique requires a far more sophisticated and advanced understanding of brewing to that of making "Amano tamusake". To have come up with this procedure in such an ancient era is just incredible to say the least.
Now, in the two literatures, the appellation of the sake found within ware most frequently, "Miki", then "Sake", and on rarer occasions "Kushi" and "Miwa". "Mi" of "Miki" is a prefix. "Ki" is thought to have been derived from the word "ke", referring to food as a whole. Nevertheless in recent times, sake that is generally consumed is not referred to as "miki". Only sake offered to the gods is called Omiki (libation).
"Kushi in Japanese" is the same as the archaic word of "Kushi (strange)" or "Kusuri (medicine)". Sake was considered medicine because people relaxed and became cheerful after a few drinks.
"Miwa" is derived from "Oomiya Shrine (commonly known as Miwa myoujin) " in Miwa, Yamato country, (the current town of Miwa in Sakurai city, Nara prefecture) where the god of sake is worshiped. Here, sake is called "Miwa".
The word "Sake", that we commonly use today, was thought to have the same origin as "Kushi". As people consumed the beverage, they became happy and the life seeded to flourish (Sakaeru in Japanese). Another theory was that it was the combination of the word "Sa" which means "the god of rice-plants" in Yamato dialect, and the word "Ke" which means "food", thus, - the food of god.
One further theory is that it came from the word, "Sasa" which is still used by some when referring to sake. The word "Sasa" was common amongst the court ladies during Muromachi Period. It is widely believed to have come from the word referring to Chainese sake, "Chikuyou (the word itself means bamboo blade, but the some variety of bamboo are called "Sasa"), within the poetry of "Hakurakuten (a poet of middle Tang) ". But, in fact, this word existed in our country much earlier.
In the middle volume of "Kojiki", there is passage where the Empress encourages a guest to drink by saying, "Sa a sa a in Japanese (Go ahead, bottoms up)". This nonsense refrain became the etymology of sake in the future.