Hotel Ryumeikan Ochanomizu Honten



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For the theme of this month I would like to introduce you about "Japanese Sake". These days many women and foreign people are tend to be attracted with Japanese sake. Additionally WASHOKU (traditional Japanese cuisine) was added to UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list 2013, which accelerate its boom to wider recognition. So here is a practically summarized information about Japanese sake for beginners of drinking sake and attractive topics you might want to try sake immediately.


Variety of Japanese Sake

Firstly please let me tell you what is Japanese sake and how many kinds of sake we have. Japanese sake implies a fermented beverage obtained from rice and usually called SEISHU (refined sake). (Fermented beverage: an alcohol content beverage (sake) fermented by yeast and converted into alcohol. Basically raw material is rice and water. The brewing process of sake is first converted from starch of rice into sugar. And after then sugar converted into alcohol occurs. You might think "that's all to make sake?" However, there are several ways of combination to make sake with raw materials, besides on those such as rice, water, aspergillums (koji) and yeat are widely various. Furthermore various kinds of Japanese sake are divided by brewing process. There are mainly 6 different kinds of process as below. Let me focus on" taste and flavor "of sake here.

variety of Japanese Sake

■Junmai-shu (Special pure rice sake)
Rich and flavored taste of rice. Easy to drink for sake beginners.
■Junmai Ginjo-shu (Pure rice, special brew)
Rich and fruity in flavor. Similar to Ginjo-shu, very flavored but milder and rich taste of rice.
■Junmai Daiginjo-shu
Taste sweet of rice and fruit flavored. More solid and flavored taste than Junmai Ginjo-shu.
Fruity flavor. Flowery apple flavor and clear taste. Semi-dry.
Very fruit flavored. Strong flavor and clear taste than Ginjo-shu.
Not too flat but mild taste. Sharp and dry. Goes with foods.

So how do you think looking several variety of sake? By literally it seems just a small different from each other. But once you taste these, you will find each has different flavor, taste and clearness. Please pick up one you like and take a note for reminder.

How to drink and order Japanese sake

So now I would like to recommend you to know"how you ask for drinking sake" when you make an order. Some people who already experienced to order might have found the following description in a drinking menu, such as with "brand of sake, amount of one order and price".
Description of weight for Japanese sake is used "go"(one "go" is 0.18ℓ) In fact there is rare to order like whiskey and wine asking for "straight" "by shot glass" "on the rocks". However you can order how you want for drinking sake as well as for whiskey. Japanese sake is very unique beverage among many others all over the world. You can drink sake either way by "warm and cold". Suitable temperature for drinking sake is also wide range from 5 to 60 degrees to compare with the other alcohol beverages. Depending on how you want sake with temperature makes different flavor and taste. Here are 4 typical ways for drinking sake.

■Cold sake (Reishu)
Literally it means chilled cold sake. Suitable temperature for cold sake is almost the same as beer between 7 -10 degrees, which refers the degree of storing in the refrigerator or of chilled with ice. Ginjo-shu is suited for cold sake especially to rise smooth and fresh taste.
■Warmed sake (Okan)
This means to be warmed with the temperature between 40-60 degrees. When sake is warmed with around 50 degrees, we call Atsukan (hot sake), with around 40 degrees we call Nurukan (lukewarm). When sake temperature is around 45 degrees we call Tekikan or Jokan (suitably warmed)。 It gets more tasty and full-body and acid taste. Many people like warm sake while the time of autumn and winter.
■Normal temperature (Hiya-sake)
In another words "Hiya"is called "hiyazake". So in order not to make it misunderstood with cold sake above described with cold sake, you may better order exactly "Jyo-on-de onegai shimasu" (please bring sake by normal temperature). You can really enjoy the essense of Japanese sake.
■On the rocks
Very chilled sake with a big ice cube putting in a rock glass. Suits for raw sake, Junmai-shu or pure sake.

Warmed sake (Okan)

(図表)**** Temperature description how to drink sake(酒の温度別 飲み方表示)
5 degrees: Yuki-hie
10 degrees: Hana-hie
15 degrees: Suzu-hie
20 degrees: Hiya (normal temperature)
30 degrees: Hinaeta-kan
35 degrees: Hitohada-kan
40 degrees: Nuru-kan
45 degrees: Jo-kan
50 degrees: Atsu-kan
Over 55 degrees: Tobikiri-kan
*It's fun to order with expertise description.Each has name by every 5 degrees.

For the beginner of drinking sake, we recommend you to try first with "Hiya sake. (normal temperature). You will enjoy the essence of sake itself. And you might want to go different temperature for the next sake to extend your fun. Also it is good idea to ask shop staff for their recommendation.

Manner for drinking Japanese sake

Now you know what you want and how you drink for Japanese sake, so let's go ahead to taste sake! You can drink as you like when you are served sake on the rocks or glass, also by a sake bottle and a sake cup. But there is a proper manner to remember when it is be served with "masu"(a measuring wooden cup).


<How to follow the manner>
1. You drink sake in the glass first without picking it up.
2. When sake in the glass became less, you can pick the glass up from the masu (wooden measuring cup)and wipe the glass with oshibori (towels). Then you put the glass on a table and leave it, not to put it back again to the wooden cup.
3. When you finish drinking sake in the glass on the table, then you can add the rest of sake left in masu.
4. When you drink up all sake, you can order another cup but still leaving your masu cup in your hand.

There was a custom since Edo era Japanse people drank sake by masu cup. Why don't you challenge to keep the same custom of traditional way to drink sake? We see some people drink sake by wine glass these days as well. Good point to drink sake by wine glass is said you can enjoy more flavor of sake than by a small sake cup, because a glass surface is wider. Additionally other hot topic is a"sparkling sake" served by a champaign glass. There are many various ways of drinking sake you can take depending on celebrative occasions such as taking Kanpai (Toasts) and the other opportunities.

Touring Sake Kuramoto

For the people who have more interests on Japanese sake, I recommend you to "visit Sake kuramoto" Kuramoto means a sake brewery. There are some spots of sake kuramoto in Tokyo. Here is one brewer SAWANOI where you can visit.


Touring: Process of making SAWANOI sake, Sake brewery, Kiki sake (Sake tasting)
※About Kiki-sake: Evaluate sake with coloration ,transparency, flavor by tasting sake.
Fee: Free
Touring time: 45 minutes
Starting time: 11:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00
Closing time: Mondays (Tuesday when Monday is a national holiday)
New Year's Holidays.
Reservation: By telephone or website
For foreigners: English brochure available

In the brewery there are entertainment spots such as standing shops, gallery garden and kiki-sake tasting corner (charged), where you can always taste about 10 kinds of sake.
※ *Above information is valid in the time of September 1,2015. Please check website for further details.

Address:2-779 Sawai Oume-city,Tokyo
About one hour and half for one way by train as far as Sawai station from JR Ochanomizu station. 5 minutes by walk from Sawai station.
Train fare is 1,080 yen.
▽ Please check about train map and time table as bellowed.

You can drop by a ravine nearby the Sawanoi station where is well known for a good spot to see colored leaves in autumn. Some restaurants and rest stations are also nearby.
Further information of possible brewery tours in Tokyo are introduced in the below website.
「NOMOOO Best 5 selection of sake brewery tour inside Tokyo !」


the day of October 1 is registered as"the day of Japanese sake" in Japan. Japanese sake brewery starts making new sake after they harvest the new ricein October. So it became the historical custom to celebrate the first day of October for the new year's day of making sake. And sake brewery brings a sake named "Hiya-oroshi"into the market during this season.


Generally speaking the name called "Japanese sake"has the making process with two times of sterilization by heat and stop fermentation to stabilize flavor. On the other hand "Hiyaoroshi"has the process of taking new sake made in earlier spring to sterilize only once by heat and let it rape till autumn in a cool sake brewery during summer time. Best time to taste this sake is September, October and November when the sake rapes enough to become gentle and rich in taste.

In short, autumn is the best season to enjoy Japanese sake including Hiyaoroshi♪ Please try many various sake this autumn and find your favorite sake.

【These are references.】
3) 「秋のお酒、ひやおろしの美味しい飲み方をご紹介」
6) 「日本名門酒会公式サイト 10月1日は日本酒の日」
7) 「ワイングラスで日本酒が何倍も楽しめる!好相性の理由をご紹介」

1st,September 2015