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SHUDO-The Way of Sake

Japanese Sake Story


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Episode 4:

 As the Yamato Imperial Court arranged itself, the political system based on the ritsuryo codes (the legal codes) was enacted and the centralized government was established. A public office called "Sake no tsukasa (public office for sake brewing)" in the Imperial Household Ministry was introduced. Thereon, sake was brewed for Imperial Court exclusively.
  In those days, since the Imperial Court and the nobles opened banquets on every possible occasion, "Sake no tsukasa" was seen as on important post. To prove that, the position as chief of "Sake no tsukasa" known as "Sake no kami"was held by high ranked officials.
  Even after the capital moved to Heian-kyo where the Fujiwara dynasty was established, this situation did not change and the life of nobles became more lavish. On the other side of the table, prohibition towards the common people was strict, they couldn't be allowed to eat fish and to drink sake.
  In the early Heian era, a compilation of the regulations (such as the annual ceremony of the Imperial Courts) was put together on orders from Emperor Daigo. (the inchoation in the Engi 5, 905: the completion in the Encho 5, 927) The "Engishiki", as it was named, details more than 10 varieties of sake from the primitive era.
  In here, we find "Shiroki (white sake)" and "Kuroki (black sake)" which are still brewed in the Grand Shrine of Ise and the Imperial Court. Just like the present method, these sake are brewed with rice, rice malt and water, allowing 10 days for the maturing process.
  The resulting sake in its natural state is called "Shiroki". The sake with wood ashes added to "Shiroki" to neutralize its acid is called "Kuroki".

 In addition to the two previous sakes, luxury sakes such as "Goshu", "Reishu (amazake, a sweet drink made from fermented rice)" and "Sanshuso" along with "Tonshu", "Jyuso" and "Kosake" known as commoner's sake were brewed as well. Both were the sweet with luxury sake used for banquets and ceremonies within the Imperial Court and commoner's sake for the consumption by low ranked officials.
  Interestingly, the procedure to brew "Goshu" is very similer to that of "Shiroki". Same ingredients and maturing process are used. But after the main mash is squeezed and separated, steamed rice and rice malt is added again. This process is repeated four times. This procedure is identical to that of making "Yashiori no sake" used to defeat the eight-headed dragon.
  But the biggest surprise is the "Sanshuso". This is because a portion of its ingredient uses malt and millet, both of which are used to brew beer. Since "Engishiki"was compiled within the new ritsuryo state, where the legal codes were modeled on the Tang system, it is likely that our methods of sake brewing may have been influenced by China as well.

 Now, how did the public who were forbidden from consuming sake cope with this ban? To tell you the truth, there were many liquor shops within Kyoto opened by the descendants of Qin clan, who is said to have brought sake brewing into country. Consequently, the ban could not be strictly enforced and sake brewing became a household thing. The sake of the nobles soon became the sake of the common people.
  Incidentally, the Shrine of sake, Matuo Grand Shrine (in western part of Kyoto) is said to have been built at the request of the ancestors of Qin clan.

Author: Hiroyuki Kouda
Translation: Mami Kobayashi
Proofreading: Kazuto Sakamoto
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