The much-celebrated sake of Itami, together with the neighboring Ikeda's sake,
gained immense popularity in Edo as well. Two casks, each containing
approximately 63 liters of sake, were carried to Nada (the generic name of the
northern coastline of Osaka Bay in the current Hyogo Prefecture) on horseback,
then, transported by ship to make the long journey to Edo.
However, in the middle of Edo Period, Houreki 4 (1754), the decline in the price of rice forced the shogunate to abolish the sake licensing system in order to encourage free production and trade of sake. Sparked by this decision, sake brewers gathered into Nada where the sake could be loaded and shipped out straight away. From those days, sake from Itami and Ikeda slowly lost its prestige, in turn, the sake brewed in Nada came to prominence.
Until the middle of Edo Period, the primary method of rice polishing was by a
manual method where people treaded on the rice by foot. However, people learned
to utilize the rivers flowing through Nada from the Rokko Ranges (the mountain
range in the southeast of Hyogo Prefecture), and started using water wheels for
rice polishing. By the manual method, only 8% of rice could be polished, but, by
using the water wheels, 25% to 35% of rice could be polished, resulting in
better quality sake.
Furthermore, the most revolutionary change in Nada sake brewing was that the amount of water was increased to 1 Koku (180 liter) for 10 Koku (1800 liter) of steamed rice. This enabled sake, close to what we drink at the present time, to be brewed in large quantities. With the increase in brewing volume, increases in the size of shikomi vats were also required. Large-scale warehouses, to accommodate the vats, appeared as well.
Many hands are needed to brew large volumes of sake. For that reason, a lot of
the farmers started to look for part-time work in breweries within Nada. Many of
these farmers came from Tanba (around current Kyoto Prefecture) where, in the
days gone by, its sake was as famous as the ones from Nada. Therefore, the
farmers had good, practical knowledge of brewing. Here, the chief brewers from
Tanba, perfected their brewing skills, and in doing so, set the standard by
which all brewers were measured by.
The sake of Nada became even more famous in the latter stages of Edo Period. Tazaemon Yamamura, a sake brewer in Uozaki town (current Uozaki, Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture), owned breweries in both Uozaki and Nishinomiya. For some reason, the sake made in the brewery in Nishinomiya always turned out better than the ones from Uozaki. He was baffled. He started experimenting by using the same brand of rice in both breweries. He even tried switching the brewers. But, whatever he tried, the sake of Nishinomiya consistently turned out better.
Finally, he came to the conclusion that the different must be in the water. He used the water of Nishinomiya at the brewery of Uozaki and, as expected, was able to duplicate the sake from Nishinomiya. Thanks to this sake, Yamamura's sake received excellent response in the markets of Edo.
The water's origin is in the Rokko Ranges. The water, seeping through the underground conchiferous layer, mixes with the salt that is deposited from the seashores. The result is a "hard water" with its hardness measured to be around 8. It is collected from a shallow well, only 4-5 meters underground.
This water is rich in phosphate and potassium, which speeds up fermentation of the main mash. Especially, the amount of phosphate was over 10 times as compared to the sake brewing water of other regions.
The water of Nishinomiya is called "Miyamizu" and even after all these years, it is still known as the "miracle water for sake brewing".