DISCOVER ANOTHER JAPAN SAN'IN Vol.2
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The secret to delicious sake isthe climate and natural features of San`inand the skill of the mastersAlthough, because it does require some training to taste those five flavors, the taste of sake is commonly described using sweet, dry, strong, weak, off-flavor or aroma.The sweetness or dryness depends on the amount of water that’s used during the brewing process. The less water the sweeter it becomes, more and it’s drier. The strength of the flavor changes according to the type of rice, type or the amount of yeast mash, type of koji mold, tempera-ture and amount used during the koji production.Off-flavor is often used to mean a heavy taste, strong and com-plicated taste or unclear flavor. Some people feel that it’s umami (a savory taste), so don’t think off-flavor is disgusting.To create the off-flavor a different rate of rice polishing and temperature of fermentation of the main fermenting mash (the stage of production during fermentation before sake becomes a liquid) is used.The characteristic aroma is called Ginjyoka.When you pour Daiginjyo into your mouth, you can smell the rich and elegant aroma. Because of that, the image that Ginjyo tastes good has spread far and wide. As I was mentioning before, sometimes this strong aroma can feel overpowering, depending on the situation.How did Japanese sake brewing begin?First off, not just sake but making alcohol started about 4000 to 5000 years ago. Scores of jars and cups with elderberry seeds and wild vine grapes were excavated from the San-nai-Maruyama special historical site in Aomori Prefecture. It seems that people enjoyed making sake from fruit at that time.Sake making using rice is thought to have arrived in Southern Kyushu when slash-and- burn agriculture was brought, around the end of the Jomon period. The method used at that time is called Kuchikami-sake, literally meaning you ferment rice that you have chewed in your mouth. This method was used till the middle of the Meiji period in the Sakishima Islands, Tokara Islands, Okinawa and Monbetsu Ainu in Hokkaido.Around 600 BC, the method that uses koji mold, steamed rice and water, which originated in the Yangtze River basin in China, was brought to Northern Kyushu with rice-paddy culti-vation.This sake making method made it across the Seto Inland Sea and down the Yamato River that runs into the Yodo River, the main stream that goes into Osaka Bay. The method was received and much further developed in Nara Prefecture.On the other hand, the method that adds koji mold to rice por-ridge originated from the Northeastern part of China. This was brought to the Izumo region around the end of Yayoi period and it is still used at Izumo Grand Shrine or Susa Shrine when there is a religious service or festival.At the beginning of the Nara period, the different methods used in each provincial capital started to be nationally standardized.Around that time, sake was quite sweet and had a very strong flavor.When the Heian period began, the technique was developed, and a greater variety of sake was made. During the Muromachi period, a method using lactic fermentation and a sterilization technique using fire were brought from China. This is where the foundation of modern sake brewing is derived.Because of the mythology from Izumo, like Yamata no Orochi (the eight-headed monster serpent), some people think that sake originated in the San’in region. What do you think about the connection between sake and San’in? When we talk about the connection between sake and San’in, Izumo mythology is frequently brought up. For sure, in Izumo mythology, Yamata no Orochi was destroyed by getting drunk and killed. Yashiori-no-sake (the name of sake that helped kill Orochi) is also mentioned in Nihonshoki (The Chronicles of Japan), where different methods of making this sake are intro-duced, even from fruits.Sake making is mentioned in many other mythologies; however, rice-paddy cultivation was brought to the Izumo region about 300 years later than North Kyushu. It is difficult to say that the origin of sake making is the San’in region.Rice cultivars suitable for making sake are called Shuzo-kotekimai.The oldest confirmed Shuzo-kotekimai is called Omachi from Okayama Prefecture. It is said that 70% of sake brewing rice distributed in Japan is from the Omachi family.By the way, the most famous sake brewing rice Yamadanishiki is a crossbreed of Omachi and Yamadaho from Hyogo Prefecture.It is said that there was a hard-working farmer in Omachi, Takashima-mura, Joutou-gun, Okayama (present day Omachi, Naka-ku, Okayama-city). His name was Jinzo Kishimoto and in 1859 he went on a trip to Daisen, Houki (present day Tottori Prefecture) for a new year’s visit. On his way back home he saw some tall rice-plants in full ear near Mimasaka. After asking and receiving two ears from the owner of the rice field he returned home. He repeated prototyping in his own field and managed to make rice perfectly suited for sake making and named it Omachi.Derived from Omachi, research institutes both in Shimane and Tottori developed sake rice suitable for brewing in the San’in climate. Many varieties were created.In this way, the San’in area has rice cultivars and the right envi-ronment to make sake. I think this area has a lot to be proud of, what with the traditional techniques from Izumo brewers or Tajima brewers.13

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