Bring a Little Order Into Your Sake Tasting Routine Part 1 of 2

Greetings Sake Lovers,

There will come a point along your sake tasting journey when you pause to ask yourself a question: am I doing this in the right order? The fact is that just like everything in life, the order in which you enjoy sake can be important.

Take for instance that age-old pairing of sake and sushi. If you eat strong flavored sushi first it is difficult to appreciate the lighter flavoured sushi afterwards. Thus, the correct order is light flavor sushi followed by stronger flavor sushi. Sushi is just one of many examples where this order works best.

Now before we delve into today’s article, it is worth mentioning, that if you like a little chaos in your tasting lineup sake can be enjoyed in any order. Caution should be taken particularly when pairing sake with food though, especially food and sake with varying levels of body and flavor.

The General Order

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To elaborate further on the sushi pairing, you begin with egg, before moving on to white fish, red fish, finishing off with river fish like anago.

Seasoned Drinkers

Should You Save the Best for Last?

The biggest problem with sake is the higher level of alcohol. This combined with its addictive nature makes it notoriously easy to get drunk on. If you wait until the end to try your favorite sake, chances are you might be too inebriated to really appreciate it so, although they say you should always save the best to last, perhaps starting with your favorite type of sake first is not such a bad idea. Even if your preferred type of sake is something with a strong flavor profile, you can reset the palate by drinking a large chaser of water.

How Much Can You Drink?

If you know you can drink quite a lot, without causing a nuisance to others, and the hangover from hell the next morning, why not run the sake-tasting gauntlet – from delicate, silky and light to rich, full-bodied and brimming with flavor.

You might start your tasting off in style with a premium or even super premium sake. These are sake which have been made with rice milled down to the core to remove off-flavors and idiosyncrasies and produce a more refined style. Look out for the words daiginjo and ginjo which are made with just 60% to 50% of the rice grain remaining. These tend to be more expensive because of the extra time and skill required to make them. Putting their price to one side, while not always the case, ginjo and daiginjo tends to have a lighter body and more delicate flavor profile. You may sometimes find sake in the less-premium categories that cross over into this territory and give the super premium guys a run for their money. At the end of the day, all sake is made with the same dedication and tender loving care, so why not experiment.

For those who aren’t quite ready to experiment, the recommended drinking order is daiginjo / junmai daiginjoginjo / junmai ginjo → special junmai / special authentically brewed → junmai / authentically brewed → normal sake. The logic behind this order is pretty much the same as that of the sushi example we gave at the start of this article: light to medium to heavy body / light flavors to strong (rich) flavors.

What If You are New to Sake?

If you are new to sake and not quite sure how much you can drink, or perhaps you know you have a low tolerance, fear not, let KURAND be your guide.

Taste Special Designation Sake

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First, we recommend you taste your way through the tokutei meishoshu (special designation sake). This is the category for premium sake. Sake that falls into this category is assigned one of six grades under the liquor laws in Japan based on ingredients and something else called the polishing ratio. For premium sake, the brewer removes the outer layers of the rice grain to remove unwanted off-flavours and create a more refined product. The leftover portion is called the polishing ratio and is displayed as a percentage on the bottle. The various grades of premium sake and their polishing ratios can be seen in the chart below.

Note: Ever since the mid 90s, junmai can have any polishing ratio.

Premium sake can further be broken down into two bigger categories. Some premium sake has a little jozo (brewer’s) alcohol added after fermentation and before filtering. The addition is not increase alcohol strength, but to help enhance aromas and lower the body. The category which has had alcohol added is called the honjozo category; the first grade in this category is honjozo. The category which has not had any extra alcohol added is called the junmai category, the first grade of which is called junmai.

Honjozo vs Junmai

A great place to start is by comparing honjozo and junmai.
Honjozo and junmai really are polar opposites. You might liken this comparison to white and red wine. Indeed, sometimes wine and sake preferences match. If you like full-bodied reds, try junmai. If you like lighter whites, try honjozo. But do take this idea with a pinch of salt, because it doesn’t always quite work.

Just as red should follow white, the best order to taste honjozo and junmai is honjozo and then junmai.

Junmai vs Ginjo

Another really good taste comparison is junmai vs ginjo. Typical ginjo tend to have a very delicate, fruity and floral profile. Again, this couldn’t be any more different from junmai. In a sense, junmai represents the traditional flavor of sake; while ginjo represents modern-day sake. But, again, take this comparison with a pinch of salt, because the differences between the two have begun to blur.

If you fancy just working your way through the entire special designation spectrum, the recommended order is:

Daiginjo type/ sparkling type → ginjo type / authentically brewed type → junmai ginjo type → junmai type → yamahai / kimoto (sake brewing using natural yeast) → aged sake type

Tasting in Order of Prefectures

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Another great way to taste sake is by prefecture. It is often said that Japanese sake made in cold regions has a light taste, whereas in the warmer climates of the south, the opposite is true.

The recommended order is as follows:

Sake from Tohoku (sake from a cold region) → Sake from Kanto Koshinetsu → Sake from Kinki / Chubu region → Sake from Kansai → Sake from Kyushu

Once again the logic behind this order is light to heavy.

In the second part of this article, we introduce more types of sake and in which order to drink them. To be continued……..


At KURAND our fridges showcase over 100 types of sake, so whatever order you choose to taste, you are sure to discover something to suit your preference. We look forward to welcoming you soon.

Sake’s Myriad of Health & Beauty Effects.

Greetings Sake Lovers,

At KURAND SAKE MARKET, we see quite a wide customer demographic enjoying sake, from young to old, male and female, both native Japanese and foreigners.

Traditionally, sake was viewed as an older man’s tipple (we emphasize man). But efforts to make it appeal more to a younger audience and women are paying dividends. One thing that both young and old people, in particular women, have in common is that they are naturally very health conscious. It certainly helps then that sake is chock full of a number of health and beauty benefits. So much so that recent years have seen a bit of a boom in sake based health and beauty products.

In this article, we will look at the scientifically proven benefits of sake.

Beautiful Skin

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First a look at the beauty benefits of sake. Sake contains a-EG (α-Ethyl-D-Glucoside) a principal constituent of collagen, which has the power to suppress melanin, the cause of maculas and freckles. The koji (malted rice), another essential ingredient of sake, contributes kojic acid which suppresses melanin from forming and is effective in solving other skin problems.

And you don’t have to consume sake to take advantage of its beauty benefits. On meeting a brewer, the first thing that strikes you is how beautiful their skin is. Some male and female brewers have revealed that the secret behind this almost superhumanly beautiful complexion is the close contact their skin has with koji. Male brewers half jokingly claim that their wife / mother takes a bath in sake to keep her skin as white as snow. It’s hard to work out if they are joking or being serious, but this is not as crazy as it sounds. In fact, some breweries have even created their own soap from sake kasu (lees). It is even said that the reason sumo wrestlers have such beautiful skin because they regularly drink Japanese sake. Sake brewers (their wives and mothers) and sumo wrestlers – the message here is clear: if you want beautiful skin, drink sake.

Thermoregulation / Moisturizing effect

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The umami component of Japanese sake, aGG (α- glucosyl glycerol) helps collagen and hyaluronic acid form which help stop moisture and heat escaping from the skin. Sake contain lots of amino acids, 10 times than wine, which are necessary components for the stratum corneum.

Improved Blood Circulation

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Japanese sake is effective in raising body temperature. Body temperatures after consuming sake is 2-3 degrees more than for other alcoholic drinks. Sake is also effective in retaining body heat. An increase in body temperature makes the blood flow better and an increase in blood flow in turn stimulates the body’s metabolism, which also cleanses the body of waste products. And as an added bonus, improved blood circulation translates to more essential nutrients penetrating into the tiny nooks and crannies of the skin.

Increased blood flow will help prevent sensitivity to the cold. Warming sake enhances these effects further and can even prevent edema.

Anti-aging

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The kojic acid mentioned earlier is also effective in preventing aging that comes from increased cell activity. Sake also increases levels of urokinase which makes it harder for blood to clot and decreases tropoxanthin A2 which helps the blood to clot. It prevents senile dementia by improving blood flow.

Relaxing Effect

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Japanese sake contain more adenosine compared to other alcoholic drinks. Adenosine is effective in making sure blood vessels do not contract. Better blood flow relieves muscle stiffness helping you to relax.

Whether it’s the strangely soothing aroma of steamed rice, flowers fluttering in the breeze, or fresh mint aromas, the aroma alone of sake can be quite relaxing.

Nutritional Effect

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One of the necessary nutrients for the human body is amino acid. As mentioned earlier, Japanese sake contains large quantities of amino acids. These amino acids work at the upper part of the stomach to increase hunger, especially while eating and drinking, Japanese sake makes the stomach wall thick and strong.

The stomach will become strong, however if you eat too much it will have the opposite effect.

Cancer Prevention

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In recent years, scientists have discovered that sake is effective in preventing liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, digestive system, etc. Sake is effective in strengthening the activity of so-called natural defence cells which kill cancer cells. It has also been confirmed that Japanese sake helps suppress toxohormone, the secretion of cancer cells, from breaking down lipolytic substances.

Lifestyle Disease Prevention

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Japanese sake is effective against the lifestyle disease, arteriosclerosis. Arteriosclerosis is caused by bad cholesterol, in the blood, the fallout of free radical induced oxidation called oxidative stress. Antioxidants in sake improve cholesterol by reducing this oxidative stress. In addition to Arteriosclerosis, sake’s ability to dissolve blood clots, makes it effective in prevention of cerebral infarction and myocardial infarction.


It is clear that sake has plenty of health benefits, but alcohol consumption has just has many negative benefits, so, as with everything in life, enjoy it in moderation. KURAND, we operate a self-pour system so that you can regulate exactly how much you drink and taste over 100 different types of sake at your own pace. Why not pop in the next time you are in Tokyo, we look forward to welcoming you soon.

Unfamiliar Sake Terms: Jikagumi

Greetings Sake Lovers

Welcome to another article that decipher tricky jargon found on sake labels. These are terms that you may often come across while tasting with friends but are too embarrassed to ask about. Previous articles have covered terms like genshu, nigorizake, kimoto,etc.

This article explains the meaning of the term jikagumi.

In Pursuit of Freshness From Filter to Bottle


Jikagumi literally translates to “straight to bottle”. That might offer some clue about its meaning.

First, let’s recap over the production process. As explained in earlier articles, following fermentation, sake passes through a filter (press) to separate the solids, kasu (lees) from the liquid. This process is called joso in Japanese.

The aim of joso is to filter the sake while making as little contact with oxygen as feasibly possible. While in wine making, a little oxygen contact can actually help to develop flavours and for some styles is generally regarded as a positive thing, in sake brewing it is generally avoided, except in the case when sake is deliberately aged.

That’s because sake tastes better when it is fresher, more youthful and of a more delicate nature. As you might expect, this is not easy to achieve. Most brewers use high air pressure to force the sake through as quickly as possible and limit air contact.

Just like in wine making, sake is also filtered into fractions. The first filtration applying very little pressure normally produces quite rough sake. This is called arabashiri (literally, rough run). Brewers then apply more pressure and filter a second time. This fraction is called nakadori, (literally middle fraction), so-called because it normally comprises of most of the contents of the middle of the tank where the aromas and flavours are in perfect balance. Nakadori is generally regarded as the best. The third and final fraction is called seme. The final fraction contains a lot of off-flavours and is not as balanced as the middle one.

Now, the thing is that sake brewing is not a consistent art. That is because, every year, the rice is slightly different. The only reason, your favourite sake tastes the same year on year is largely thanks to the skill of the brewer. But in actual fact, while not immediately obvious to the untrained palate, every sake is unique, one of a kind. Sometimes skill is not enough, but brewers can also blend different tanks and fractions together to achieve the desired flavour. This is normally what happens after the sake has been pressed; the sake is returned to the tank and for tax reasons it has to be weighed.

Jikagumi is basically sake that goes direct from the filter to the bottle without any blending or weighing. Don’t worry about the taxman, there are ways around weighing in the tank that keep him happy. In other words, jikagumi locks in the exact same uniqueness that standard brewing practices try to avoid. Jikagumi can also be called funabagumi if the traditional fune filter was used. (see this past article about different types of filtration devices)

Jikagumi is normally bottled and shipped direct without any fining or pasteurization. It is the closest thing to visiting a brewer and tasting sake out of their tank. It really doesn’t get any fresher than this.

Jikagumi is not a legally defined term; it is simply something the brewers invented.

Perhaps because of the omission of blending, jikagumi often comes in quite sweet, rich styles.


KURAND SAKE MARKET’s sake showcase of over 100 different types of sake sometimes include jikagumi. We also offer fresh sake out of an air-compressed draft keg. Simply turn the tap and pour into your favourite glass. The sake in this keg was transferred straight from the tank under inert conditions so technically it is even fresher than jikagumi. Be sure to stop by KURAND and experience many different types of sake the next time you are in Tokyo. We look forward to welcoming you soon.

An Often Overlooked Ingredient of Modern Sake: Yeast – Kyokai No.7 (Masumi Yeast)

Greetings Sake Lovers!

Welcome to another article introducing little nuggets of sake knowledge. The rice is undoubtedly one of the more talked about ingredients in sake making, it is after all the main ingredient. But one other important ingredient that doesn’t get as much attention is the yeast. Which is a bit of an injustice considering that alcohol fermentation is not even possible without it.

Nowadays, brewers have a number of proprietary yeast to choose from.
The current industry standard is called Kyokai No.7 and it is this that we will be looking at in this article.

The Evolution of the Sake Yeast

In sake brewing there is an old saying: First, koji; second, moto (yeast starter); third, moromi (mash / main fermentation). In other words, the yeast is the key ingredient in the second most important stage of brewing. (see these past articles about moto or shubo as it is also called).

The Japanese word for yeast is kobo. Brewers originally used ambient, naturally occurring wild yeast living inside the brewery environment; on the walls, in the air, even on the equipment. This yeast was unpredictable though and produced unreliable, inconsistent results: varying aroma, acidity, fermentation vigor and stability, etc. By the early 1900s, thanks to advances in science and technology brewers had become able to isolate particular wild yeast from successful fermentation batches and breed them in the laboratory.

Ever since the early 1900s, these yeasts have been distributed by the Brewing Society of Japan. These proprietary yeast which are available for brewers to purchase are aptly called Kyokai Kobo (society yeast). There are over 20 varieties, each discovered at a different brewery in Japan. For the breweries that discovered them, the yeast have earned them fame throughout the industry. New yeast are still being discovered and the society’s scientists are always on the lookout for clues which might lead to the next eureka moment. A new discovery normally happens by tracing new interesting flavors or aromas back to the brewery and narrowing the source down to the yeast they are using. Suffice to say, these so-called eureka moments don’t happen every day, but sometimes wild yeast finds its way into the sake and leaves a little calling card.

Instead of naming the yeast after the brewery, the yeast are given numbers such as No.3, No.4 No.7, etc and abbreviated to Kyokai and the number or even just the number.

The society discovered Kyokai No. 7 at Nagano prefecture at a brewery called Miyasaka Jouzou, which makes the brand: Masumi. Some people refer to it as the Masumi Kobo, but even the brewery prefers to refer to it as just No.7.

The Story Behind the Discovery and Development of Kyokai No.7


The main purpose of the early Kyokai Kobo such as No.1, discovered in Sakuramasamune, Kobe and the 4 yeast that followed was reliable, stable yeast that reduced the number of failed batches, a big problem in the early days of brewing. But by the mid 1900s, there was demand for yeast that could influence the final sake style. The breakthrough discovery came with Kyokai No.7.

Masumi explains more on their homepage:
“In 1946, Masumi swept the top awards at the regional and national sake appraisals, which got the attention of the brewing institute’s yeast scientist, Dr. Shoichi Yamada. Dr. Yamada visited us and confirmed the presence of a very fine yeast in the fermentation tanks. “Brewing Association Yeast Number Seven” soon became the favorite of brewers across the nation and remains even today the most widely used sake yeast in the world.”

The characteristic in Masumi sake that had caught the attention of the scientist was an aroma profile called a ginjo aroma, so-called because it is more commonly found in ginjo sake. More about ginjo here. A ginjo aroma is a gorgeous fruity / floral aroma; aromas of banana, melon and white flowers. Scientists realized that somewhere in Masumi’s brewery there was a yeast producing these aromas.

Was it just luck that this had chosen to appear in Miyasaka Jozo?

“While number seven was originally our “house” yeast, it cannot be said that our president at the time, Masaru Miyasaka, or his master brewer Chisato Kubota “developed” this yeast. Rather, their insistence on keeping the brewery clean provided the right environment for fine yeast to thrive.”

In other words, luck might have played a small part, but Masumi had provided the right environment for the yeast to thrive in the first place.

Characteristics of Kyokai No.7


Over time, the gorgeous ginjo aroma of Kyokai No.7 has mellowed and now produces more balanced flavour profiles. This balance which produces sake with a more mature taste is the reason that Kyokai No.7 is now the industry standard. Often referred to as the yokozuna of sake yeast, breweries up and down the country use Kyokai No.7 to produce not only ginjo, but inexpensive sake. One of the great things about Kyokai No.7 is its vigor; a vigor that is essential for a fast fermentation, which is essential to yield high volumes. But what sets inexpensive sake made with this yeast apart is the mild fruity, floral aroma.

Many people assume that Masumi benefited financially from this discovery, but as the brewery explains that is not necessarily the case:

“In fact, we have no patent for it and do not sell it. Even so, it is still a great honor to be among the few sake makers that gave birth to a numbered yeast. Of course, this also gives us greater incentive to live up to that honor by continuing to produce exceptional sake”.

A modest statement that makes their story all the more inspirational.


It is not so common for breweries to denote the yeast variety on the sake label, so it can be a little tricky to locate sake made with particular varieties. That said, so many breweries use Kyokai No.7, that the probability of tasting a sake made with it is very high. At KURAND, with over 100 types to choose from in our all-you-can-taste extravaganza, this probability is greatly increased. Sometimes we do showcase sake that clearly list No.7 as one of the ingredients. It is also possible to taste in wine glasses which allow these type of sake to better express itself. Why not pop by the next time you are in Tokyo, and discover sake the KURAND way. Sometimes you can even meet the brewers themselves. We look forward to welcoming you soon.

A Look Into the Benefits and History of Warm Sake

Greetings Sake Lovers

With the stifling heat of this year’s summer, warming your sake is probably the last thing you want to do. But as we explained in previous articles, warm sake in the summer can actually have the opposite effect of cooling you down and cooler months are just around the corner. It is never the wrong time to think about warm sake or okan as it is called in Japanese. And in fact warm sake has many hidden benefits and a long history which we will attempt to delve into in this article.

Actually for okan, there are three delightful benefits that can be received from drinking it.
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Improves cold-chill

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We already covered this one in previous articles, but let’s look at okan’s cooling effects in a little more detail.
Okan is probably best known for warming the body. When you drink okan, blood vessels expand and capillary blood vessels become more active. The warm sensation you feel in your body when drinking okan is because of increased blood activity.

Okan is especially effective for women who are suffering from sensitivity to the cold, so when choosing an alcoholic drink during a year end party, be sure to try okan.

Relieves shoulder stiffness and migraines.

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As okan increases the activity of capillary blood vessels. This activity will also help the blood circulation around the surface skin. For this reason, it is helps with stiff shoulders and migraines, a common complaint among many women.

One of the causes for stiff shoulders and migraines is deteriorating blood circulation. Just one sip is enough to send a warm sensation through your body, so before long you will be feeling its effects.

Prevents over-drinking

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Alcohol is generally absorbed at around body temperature. Cold sake is first warmed inside the body and then absorbed. For this reason, when drinking cold sake, there is a time lag between feeling drunk and actually becoming drunk. This is what makes sake notoriously easy to overdrink.

Heat shortens the lag reducing the chance of over-drinking, although you should take care even with okan.

The History of Okan

And now for the history bit.

The first question at which point in history did people obtain the tools to warm sake!?
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In Engi-Shiki, a document written during the Heian period, there are entries about the regulations and rules of the time such as the use of coal.

One item that pops up a lot is something called a douka. This was perhaps the first sake heating pot. There is plenty of other evidence that okan was enjoyed as far back as the Heian period.

Warm Sake for Every Season

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Around this era, okan was generally restricted to the period called kikunosekku of the lunar calendar (early October in the solar calendar) and momo-no-sekku (beginning of April). However, in the Edo period, as people learned new skills to heat sake, a trend of enjoying okan regardless of the seasons began to spread.

Another reason for the change in okan culture was the concept that serving okan was a symbol of omotenashi, a form of untranslatable Japanese hospitality which is all about taking the time and energy to welcome someone. This type of thinking had already permeated people’s way of thinking. Even in modern times, making okan takes time and effort. The entire okan ritual is a mark of trust between customer and store. Stores that take the extra time and effort to do it properly are showing a deep respect for their customers.


Because the KURAND experience is all about providing a casual experience, we don’t perform the okan ritual, but we do provide all the equipment needed to prepare okan yourself and the freedom to experiment with temperature as your heart desires. Temperature is another dimension of the sake experience that sets it apart from other alcoholic beverages. Why not pop in and further your sake journey of discovery the next time you are in Tokyo. We look forward to welcoming you.

Does Sake Really Have its Own God?

Greetings Sake Lovers

Welcome to another KURAND article that delves into the sake history, religion and myths.
In this article we will answering the question of whether sake has its own god.

In Japanese a god of alcohol is called a shushin. You probably already know various shushin. The first thing that probably comes to mind is Bacchus, a god in Greek mythology which is also a famous brand of white wine. Bacchus was the god of not only wine, but also fertility and prophecies (nothing like a glass of wine to get you prophesizing).

To answer the question, sake does have its own god, whose existence has been passed down from ancient times.

The Unlikely Relationship Between Sake & Religion

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There is something rather inevitable about the link between religion and alcohol. They shouldn’t mix. Most religions frown against their priests or monks drinking. And yet, the majority of alcoholic beverages start off with a deeper religious meaning. Take wine being compared to the blood of christ and being offered by churches during holy communion. Beer originated in the monasteries and many spirits also have roots than trace back to one religion or another.


Sake is no exception, and in fact it too began life with a deeper religious meaning. In fact, the first sake was brewed not for consumption purposes, but as an offering to the gods. Even today, sake has a close link with religion and plays a big role in traditional Japanese weddings.
See this article for more information.

Sake has the power to heighten emotions and put people in a jovial mood. Seeing this effect, people long ago viewed sake as a mystical drink. Sake was viewed as “a sacred thing” and “a thing to get closer to god’s territory.” Prior to the arrival of Buddhism to Japan, during the Yamato period (538AD), praying to the gods during “religious services” was a way of life. These services always included a sake offering to the gods, which in Japanese is called omiki.

Even sake brewing itself is not without its religious rituals. At the start of every brewing season, a special shrine called a hokora is prepared. Shinto prayer rituals are also performed during the brewing process. Sake brewing itself has strong ritualistic meanings. These rituals are the last vestige of brewing in its original form, which, was carried out by, yes you’ve guessed it, monks. Monks are not actually allowed to produce sake, but they rather sneakily found a way around this technicality by producing it under the guise of another type of (low alcohol) beverage called hanya —they were allowed to make this because it was thought to bring them closer to buddha. The reason the brewers pray today is to show respect to the gods who give birth to nature. If you want evidence of brewing’s roots in religion look no further than the shrines themselves. Even today, most shrine entrances are adorned with piles of sake barrels as a nod to their sake heritage.

Representative Japanese Shrines that worship shushin

It is said that there are over 8 millions gods. It’s perhaps no surprise them that there is one for sake too. There are many shrines that worship the god of sake, below we introduce a few of the more famous.

Oomiwa-jinja (Oomiwa shrine)

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Oomiwa-jinja is said to be one of the oldest shrines in Japan and is located in Miwa Sakurai city, Nara prefecture. Here two major gods, Oomononushinoookami and Sukunahikonanokami are worshiped.
Every year on November 14th, there is a famous festival for praying to safely brew shinshu (new sake). Sake brewers and toji (chief brewer at a sake brewery) gather from all over Japan at the festival to pray for a safe brewing year.
This is also the place where the sugidama, balls made from sprigs of Japanese cedar that are hung outside sake shops and breweries, originate. Sugidama were originally made from leaves from kamisugi (scared cedar) that grew on Mount Miwa. Brewers would gather these leaves and make them into small sugidama to take them home. When the shinshu was done, they would take the sugidama and hang it up outside of their store. Perhaps the most vivid piece of evidence of the historical importance of Oomiwa-jinja for sake brewing.

Matsuo-taisha

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Matsuo-taisha is the oldest shrine in Kyoto. It was built in AD 701 (first year of Daiei) by Hatauji (Hata clan) who ruled the western part of the Kyoto basin. Because the Hata clan had many skilled sake brewers, from around the end of the Muromachi period, they were worshiped as “Shuzo daiichi shoshin (sake brewing first deity).”

The deity of the first shrine is “Ooyamakuinokami.” This deity is the god of war and the god of bow and arrow. Ooyamakuinokami was worshiped at Shimogamo shrine and Kamigamo shrine as the protector of the imperial palace.
Every year, a festival is held to pray for a safe brewing season, called jou-usai (early November, day of the hare) followed by a festival at the end of the season to give thanks for completion of brewing called chuyusai (during April, day of the cock). Brewers and toji flock from all over Japan to the site which includes a museum of sake where sake brewing equipment and sake drinking vessels donated from sake makers from all over Japan are on display.

Umemiya-jinja

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Umemiya-jinja is located on the eastern side of the Katsura River / northern side of Shijo street in Kyoto city Ukyo-ku area.

This shrine is truly dedicated to shushin. The main gods are saketokenokami and saketokenomiko. The Tachibanauji (Tachibana clan) originally lived in southern Kyoto in the Tsuzsukigun Ide-cho area, but moved when the shinto god was moved to its current location, the Heian capital. They hold the same festivals as Matsuo Taisha.

Next to the main shrine, there are two ancient round stones called “matage-seki.” It is said that the empress of Emperor Saga prayed to this stone before becoming pregnant with a child who would later become Emperor Ninomi. Women who straddle it are said to be blessed with children. This shrine is famous for granting safe birth and blessing women with many children.

That is about the shushin in Japan that has been passed along. What do you think? Sake brewing has a long history that has developed this skill. Knowing this background will expand the ways to enjoy Japanese sake. For those who drink sake, if you ever have the opportunity, perhaps go visit the gods of sake?


And that completes our little written pilgrimage of the various sake shrines. Why not make a short pilgrimage part of your next trip to Japan.

And be sure to stop along the way in Tokyo to KURAND for one of the best ways to experience sake in the form of an unlimited tasting of over 100 different styles of sake from all over Japan.

Ever Blurring Autumn Sake: Difference Between Hiyaoroshi & Akiagari

Greetings Sake Lovers,

Perhaps the tastiest sake season is just around the corner. By tastiest we are of course referring to the autumn. The season when the flavour of sake comes full circle.

There are two specific types of autumn sake: hiyaoroshi and akiagari.
But there is still a lot of confusion about the difference between the two.

In this article we attempt to explain the difference between the two and perhaps even clear up the confusion.

What is Hiyaoroshi?

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Traditionally, hiyaoroshi begins life as freshly filtered (pressed) sake, completed at the end of the winter just as the trees start to regrow their leaves. This sake is then pasteurized once before being put into storage where it remains over the summer months. This sake is only released when the ambient temperature outside the brewery is the same as storage and the leaves on the trees have started to turn orange (the last bit about the trees is less important). The word hiyaoroshi is made up of the words hiya (cool) and oroshi (shipping). So hiyaoroshi literally means cool shipping.

As sulfites are not used for sake, completed sake is microbially unstable: the koji enzymes, yeast, and other microbes are still alive. In this state it would be difficult to store the sake for long periods without significant changes in flavour and quality. Brewers stabilize the sake by pasteurizing it. Traditionally, this was done twice. Twice was considered the minimum to keep the sake in check. The key is temperature. Super hot temperatures kill microbes, warm temperatures reactivate them and cool temperatures put them in a dormant state. The idea behind hiyaoroshi is that as long as the ambient temperature is the same as the cool storage temperature, none of the microbial processes are reactivated and the sake retains its quality and flavour, even with just one pasteurization.

What is Akiagari?

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Early attempts to mature sake over the summer often ended in failure. The results were so bad this sake would rarely see the light of day, certainly not for the consumer. This was called akiochi (literally, fall sake, which makes for an ironic play on words). The word akiochi points to the negative decline in flavour. Eventually, brewers started to have some success with summer ageing. This sake was called akiagari which translates with the opposite nuance, i,e. increase in quality after autumn.

As explained above, due to the unstable nature of sake, up until now the tradition was to pasteurize akiagari sake twice to seal in the quality. And that was the definition of akiagari. We emphasize, was.

Sake Evolution

Sake brewing is constantly evolving. The sake of today is much more stable and higher quality than its descendants. This improvement in quality means that the second pasteurization has become almost redundant. Sake can be shipped with just one pasteurization even when it is still quite warm outside at the end of August. In fact, many breweries now pasteurize all their sake just once as standard.

This evolution means that the difference that existed between akiagari and hiyaoroshi is blurring.

Some breweries have even begun label their autumn sake as simply akishu (autumun sake).

In a way, it’s kind of sad that we have essentially said goodbye to hiyaoroshi and akiagari. But not to worry, there are surely new developments on the horizon to take its place. Hiyaoroshi and akiagari are not completely extinct yet; you will still find many breweries who refuse to give them up just yet.

Autumn Sake Comes Full Circle

Whether the sake is labelled akishu, hiyaoroshi or otherwise, autumn sake is sake that has come full circle. Due to the ageing, the flavour has matured and is generally a lot milder and rounded. Just the sort of flavour profile that matches popular autumnal dishes like mackerel.

For sake pros, autumn is the best season for sake. But don’t take their word for it, try yourself and make your own mind up. But be quick, the season will be over before you know it, and sadly, autumn only comes around once a year.

Unfamiliar Sake Terms: Origarami

Greetings Sake Lovers

Welcome to another article that explains tricky terms found on sake labels. These are terms that you may often come across while tasting with friends but are too embarrassed to ask about. Previous articles have covered terms like genshu, nigorizake, kimoto,etc.

In this article we look at the term origarami.

What is Origarami?

The appearance of sake labeled with the word origarami might offer a clue about the meaning behind this term. Served in a clear vessel, you will see that it is slightly white in color. This is the clue. This opaque appearance is linked to the way the sake is produced.

Ori

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Freshly fermented sake is called the moromi. It is not yet the clear liquid we are used to seeing our glass. In fact it is more akin to porridge. Leftover solid components from the rice and other ingredients called kasu (lees) are what give it this appearance. To recap, the key ingredients of the sake fermentation are steamed rice, koji (malted rice) and water. After fermentation, the kasu is filtered from the moromi using a fine cloth and returned to the tank. Even after filtering, the sake is not completely clear. Some particles are so small they get through the filter. These are called ori. Ori is made up of a mixture of rice and yeast.

What is Origarami

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One of the purposes of returning sake to the tank is to allow time for the ori to sink to the bottom of the tank where it can be extracted. This process is called oribiki. Chemical agents can be added to make the ori clump together so it becomes heavy and sinks much faster. Origarami is sake that is packaged and shipped off without the extracting the ori. It has a slight cloudy, opaque appearance. As it often appears slightly hazy, it is often referred to as kasumizake Japanese (literally, hazy sake).

The Characteristics and Appeal of Origaramizake

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The defining characteristic of origarami is the strong rice-forward flavour which is a lot stronger than standard sake.

Difference Between Origaramizake and Nigorizake

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There is another style of sake that contains leftover rice and yeast called nigorizake. This too can be opaque and cloudy in appearance which is why in English it is often labelled: cloudy sake. Nigorizake is sake that was filtered through a coarser cloth to allow some of the solids though. The opaqueness and density of solids depends on the coarseness of the cloth. Apart from the way each is made, the biggest difference between origarami and nigorizake is the size of the leftover solids. The latter tends to have larger particles of sediment which is why it is often much more opaque in appearance. As both contain leftover rice, yeast and koji (malted rice), both are quite strong tasting, but origarami tends to be a little less strong, so it may be best to try this first.

Check out this article for more information about nigorizake.


KURAND’s lineup of over 100 different types of sake often includes a selection of nigorizake and sometimes even the odd origarami (depending on stock). Why not pop by and give them a try.

We look forward to welcoming you soon.

Facts About Kimoto, The Traditional Yeast Starter Method

Greetings Sake Lovers

At some point during your sake journey, you are bound to come across the word kimoto, either as a style of sake or as some seemingly random jargon printed on the label somewhere. In Japanese, it looks like this: 生酛 or this き酛. But be careful not to get mixed up with the Japanese word for namazake which looks very similar: 生酒. Easier said than done after a few glasses of sake.

What is Kimoto?

This article will introduce a few facts about kimoto as well as explaining what it means.

The Traditional Method of Yeast Starter

Similar to some types of strong strength beer, sake uses a yeast starter, a smaller fermentation which forms the base for the main fermentation. Why the need for a starter you might ask. The tank that sake is fermented in is open (lidless), an open door to wild bacteria from outside. In order to keep these bacteria from coming in and spoiling the sake, the brewer must grow the yeast into a big enough population to be able to defend itself (a large population is also required to drive the fermentation). Yeast is tolerant to high acidity but wild bacteria is not so this is the key. The logic behind using a starter is the same as building a campfire. If you put the big logs on first before the fire is able to kindle, it suffocates and goes out. Similarly throwing all the ingredients into a big tank with the yeast overwhelms it and stunts its growth. That is why brewers use a smaller version. Although this article doesn’t cover the rest of the production process in that much detail, the name for the starter in Japanese is shubo and moromi for the main fermentation.

As explained, the starter is essentially just a smaller version of the main fermentation so the ingredients are the same:
steamed rice, malted rice, and water.

The key question is how does the brewer increase the acidity. In modern brewing, the answer is lactic acid. Hundreds of years ago, when the science behind brewing sake was still very much a mystery, through trial and error and a bit of luck, brewers discovered a starter method that borrows the help of lactic acid bacteria in the air. They begin to enter the tank when there are enough nutrients in the starter. Nutrients are created by converting the starch in the rice into glucose by the action of the koji. Lactic acid bacteria then produces lactic acid which, just as in modern brewing, raises the acidity level killing off all the unwanted bacteria. It is only when all the bacteria is dead that the yeast can then grow inhibited. The modern method is called sokujomoto (the quick method) and the old one is called kimoto.

Making Kimoto Requires Hard Work


Kimoto is much more labour intensive. The brewer has to create the starter at a low temperature to avoid the growth of unwanted bacteria, but this also slows the rate of conversion of starch into sugar and without sugar there is no yeast growth. The alternative is to purée the mixture of koji and steamed rice to forcefully put the koji enzymes in contact with starch. The brewer transfers the mixture into small wooden buckets and pounds it with wooden oars until it is a porridge mixture. The technique is called yamaoroshi (literally, knocking the mountains down) so-called because of the way the brewer piles up the mixture before ramming it. The process is divided into 3 4 hours shifts. It is very labour intensive and takes 2 weeks longer to complete than the modern sokujo method with more risk of contamination. The rate of pureeing has to be uniform so many brewers sing a song to keep in rhythm with each other.

As the texture thickens, the lactic acid bacteria starts producing lactic acid raising the acidity beyond the point that wild bacteria can survive. In fact, even the lactic acid bacteria itself eventually dies. Exactly what kills off it is still a bit of a mystery. But by this time it has fulfilled its role so its sacrifice is not in vain.

Kimoto is often carried out in the middle of the night, often continuing into early morning hours which in the winter is really hard work.

In short, kimoto is a traditional method of sake brewing that uses the power of natural lactic acid bacteria!

Replacement of Yamaoroshi: Yamahai

Around 1920, a scientist succeeded in making kimoto without yamaoroshi by dissolving the ingredients in hot water.
They discovered that the starch comes into closer contact with the koji enzymes in water and heat speeds up the dissolving of the starch into the water.

The process was named yamahai which is short for yamaoroshi haishi (literally, omitting yamaoroshi).

The Flavor of Kimoto Sake


Sake made with the kimoto method is more bold and pairs really well with the sort of rich, oily dishes that other styles struggle to get on with. Kimoto sake tends to be much more acidic. Yamahai often has wild gamey flavours which are produced by the wild bacteria before it is killed off.

Thanks to the more robust character and clear finish, kimoto is a great sake for serving warm.

At KURAND, we often showcase one or two kimoto and even the odd yamahai among the 100 different types of sake in our fridge. Why not come to KURAND and continue your sake journey the next time you are in Tokyo. We look forward to welcoming you.

The Miracle Prevention For Over-drinking, Hangovers, Dehydration: Yawaragimizu

Greetings Sake Lovers

The season when sake tastes its best is just around the corner. (although this is true of every season…). Regardless of the season, it is easy to drink too much if you are not careful. Drinking too much while eating too much can come back to haunt you the next morning. Most likely everybody has experienced this before. We are of course talking about the dreaded hangover.

Fortunately, there is a way to mitigate some of the worst effects. But as they say, prevention is better than the cure and this is definitely the case when it comes to drinking sake. In this article we introduce you to the miracle prevention, yawaragimizu.

What is Yawaragimizu?

Yawaragimizu literally translates to something like soothing water. That is because it is in fact nothing more complicated than a plain old glass of water, the gift of mother nature herself. As sake begins to find a new audience among the younger age group after the decline of the 80s and 90s, the sake industry has begun promoting this concept in Japan to try to prevent fatalities and accidents caused by over-drinking. The advice is to follow every glass of sake with a chaser that has 1.5 times more water. As well as preventing the sake from returning after you have drunk it, it also helps to prevent headaches and generally slow down the effects of the alcohol. This doesn’t mean you can drink as much as sake as you like with water with zero effects. Rather the water dilutes the effects. The majority of establishments serving sake will now give you water with your order. Let’s look at the merits in more detail.

The Merits of Yawaragimizu

1. Prevents Over-drinking

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Yawaragimizu helps reduce the body’s alcohol level and slows the rate of getting intoxicated. It does this by lowering the alcohol level in the stomach by supplying fluids to aid the body in breaking down the alcohol. Taking a breather between drinks and rehydrating with water also helps prevent you for getting carried away. It’s like a natural deterrent from drinking too much.

2. Prevents Hangovers

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Hangovers occurs when all the alcohol in the body is not completely broken down and a toxic substance, acetaldehyde, is left over. Yawaragimizu neutralizes the alcohol in your body. The water speeds up your metabolism and prevents nausea from setting in after drinking.

3.Prevents Dehydration

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Alcohol consumption can cause perspiration and have diuretic effect. Also, when alcohol is being broken down, fluids are being used up from inside the body. Salt is also taken in so it is easy to become dehydrated when very intoxicated. Yawaragimizu helps your body store water and prevent dehydration that occurs from drinking too much.

Over consumption of sake leads to an increase in appetite, which means overindulging in all those salty side dishes. Increased salt intake reduces the number of fluids in your body. Yawaragimizu helps restore your body’s balance.

4. Refreshes Palate

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Yawaragimizu helps refresh the palate between sake so that in you can pair various sake with different side dishes without the taste of the last sake getting in the way. Even sake with a particularly long finish that might linger between courses can be enjoyed. In some countries, water is used to bring sensation back to the tongue after drinking whiskey with a high alcohol content. High alcohol content has a very intense effect on the tongue. Thus yawaragimizu is important to keep the tongue sensitive so that people can clearly enjoy the deep flavors of Japanese sake and food.

5. Reduces Strain on Stomach

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As lowering the temperature lowers the acidity in sake making it easier to drink, it is very easy to over drink reishu (chilled sake) delicious to drink reishu (cold Japanese sake). Overconsumption can effectively end up lowering the temperature in your stomach. Drinking room temperature water or slightly warm (hot water) in between will help mitigate the stomach chill and reduce the strain on your stomach.

What Kind of Water is Good For Yawaragimizu?

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There is no rule, but we recommend room temperature. Alcohol often makes you sweat and dehydrates you. Most people end up ordering water with ice in it, however cold water is hard on the body. Room temperature water is the easiest on the body, so please drink about the same amount of water as you drink alcohol.

If possible, mineral water is recommended. Mineral water restores minerals lost through the consumption of alcohol. The best water is that which the brewers use to brew sake. It is naturally high in minerals but also extremely soft. And it just so happens that at KURAND all our water is brewing water (the same water they use for brewing) shipped directly from the brewers.
Also just for reference: Green tea, even though it is not water, is also effective in reducing the negative effects of alcohol. Sipping green tea after consuming alcohol is great way to prepare for the next day. Green tea works because it contains caffeine and vitamin C. These two working together can help prevent people from feeling sick after drinking. Vitamin C is very good at breaking down acetaldehyde and caffeine as well as stimulating the cerebral cortex which causes sobering.


The last point is simple: drink yawaragimizu to make sure your experience sake is an enjoyable one without any regrets the next morning. Drink sensibly and healthily and spread sake drinking culture to the world. At KURAND, we often carry out a little parody toast with water to make sure everyone is rehydrating themselves sufficiently and to avoid over-drinking. It really works. The manager normally leads the toast, although we sometimes ask brewers to step in when they are visiting. When staff give the signal, please fill a water cup with water and join in. KURAND is one of the only experiences in Tokyo where you can try over 100 different types of sake at your own leisure and your own pace for just one flat fee. We look forward to welcoming you to KURAND very soon.