Closeup of Sake Production: Shubo

Greetings Sake Lovers, welcome to another KURAND Magazine article that introduces you to the world of sake.

So far in this series taking you on a tour of the sake production process, KURAND Magazine has looked at how the brewer prepares the rice, polishing, washing, soaking and steaming it before malting it to create koji in the seigiku stage. A batch of that steamed rice is now taken to a special room to create something called the shubo. You may remember that we explained that the 1,2,3s of sake brewing are koji, moto, and moromi. Moto (origin or base) is another word for the shubo, so in other words, we are about to dive into the second most important stage in the process.

Sake Making in a Nutshell

A very basic diagram of the sake brewing flow can be found in the chart above. This is just a very basic outline. The process varies depending on the variety of rice and the target style of sake.

What is the Shubo?

Shubo is basically a mini-fermentation, a starter or seed mash where the yeast is propagated or bred into a big enough healthy population to facilitate the rest of the fermentation process. Without a large enough population of yeast, the fermentation may stop prematurely or become contaminated by wild bacteria or yeast because the yeast cannot defend itself in small numbers. But what is the yeast defending itself from? you may ask.

A very key difference with other fermented beverages is that the tank in which sake is fermented does not have a lid. The nutrient-rich mash is an open invitation to wild bacteria and other microbes and to those bacteria, a sake mash is the nutrient shake from heaven. If the yeast is eliminated, the wild bacteria will take hold of the moromi and spoil it, a condition called fuzo (literally, rotten mash) in Japanese.

The size of the shubo tank is a 10th (600l) of the fermentation tank (6000l). If the yeast was thrown straight into a large tank, the sheer volume of ingredients and space would overwhelm it and it would struggle to propagate.

Sokujo vs Kimoto

The shubo is basically a battle for survival among microbes and it is the brewer’s job to insure the yeast comes out as the victor. Wild bacteria and other microbes have no problem surviving the conditions of the fermentation tank that is except for one condition: acidity. In general, microbes have a low tolerance for acidity. But yeast is a different beast in that it is able to survive high acidity. So all the brewer has to do to give the yeast an advantage and the other microbes a handicap is to raise the acidity levels in the shubo. The modern way to do this is to add lactic acid. There are two methods to add lactic acid.


The easiest way to add lactic acid is to do just that, add it. This is the way the modern shubo is made. Sokujo is a very fast method of making the shubo. It takes just 14 days. This method also produces the most consistency and balance of flavor.


Back in the early days of brewing, brewers lacked the scientific knowledge to understand why the shubo worked. They didn’t yet fully comprehend the relation between acidity and the yeast. But somehow, perhaps through trial and error, they developed a method to create the shubo.

This method is called kimoto. This method is all about exploiting the lactic acid bacteria that congregate around the tank when the conditions are right and eventually fall into it. In this method, the lactic acid is not added but created by these bacteria. The first challenge is enticing them into the tank. Generally, lactic acid bacteria are searching for the same thing as other microbes, namely, nutrients, in particular glucose. And what creates glucose in sake brewing? That’s right, the koji. At first, glucose, conversion happens slowly, too slowly at first and leaves the tank open to contamination. In order to speed up the conversion, the brewer pounds the mixture of steamed rice, water, and koji to increase contact between the starch and koji enzymes. This stage of making a kimoto shubo is called either motosuri or yamaoroshi. A specialized tool called a kaibo, which is basically a long wooden oar, is used. In order to limit unwanted microbial activity as much as possible, yamaoroshi is normally performed at very cold temperatures.

As the mixture is pureed and the glucose conversion is sped up, the lactic acid bacteria enter the tank. At first, the lactic acid bacteria is joined by other undesirable types of microbes and bacteria but over time it weeds them out and kills them. Once all the other bacteria have been eradicated and only the lactic acid bacteria remain, their job is done. For reasons not fully understood, the bacteria itself then dies. One theory is that the lactic acid they created is too strong even for them to survive. Whatever the reason, they have made the ultimate sacrifice.

This brewing method originated during the beginning of the Edo period meaning around the latter half of the 17th century.

Is the Yamaoroshi Really Necessary?

Traditionally, the yamaoroshi is carried out through the night into the early hours. So was this back-breaking work really necessary? It’s a question that went on unanswered for a long time. And then, in the early 20th century, a professor at a university in Tokyo, found the answer: It wasn’t. The professor discovered that if koji enzymes were dissolved in water first and this mixture called mizukoji (mizu is Japanese for water or liquid) was added before the steamed rice, there was no need for the yamaoroshi. In other words, the brewer simply has to switch the order that the ingredients are added. The water effectively acts as an alternative catalyst bringing the starch into contact with the enzymes. A little heat is sometimes required to activate the enzymes and the starch conversion process. Although this stripped down version of the kimoto removes a lot of the manual labor it doesn’t make the process any faster because the brewer still has to wait for the lactic acid bacteria to do its work.

The result is still the same as for the regular kimoto. This version of kimoto is called yamahai, which is an abbreviation for yamaoroshi-haishi (literally, omitting the yamaoroshi). All kimoto- made sake has a more rustic quality to it, higher acidity — in particular, lactic acid derived acidity — and in some cases, although not a dead cert, higher umami. In the case of regular kimoto, the extra lactic acid provides a sharp backbone to the sake with buttery, milky notes. Some people say kimoto tastes cleaner than sokujo, but a number of breweries purposefully create a funkier, wilder style of yamahai. They do this by exploiting the wild bacteria before they are eradicated, leaving them alive just long enough to produce the desired flavors. Sake in this style is quirky, with notes of mushroom, spice, chocolate, nuts, and game.

Commercial Grade Lactic Acid

It was not until after the end of World War II, that lactic acid was available to buy in liquid form. This is another reason sokujo came after kimoto and not the other way around. But liquid lactic acid removed the hassle of having to make lactic acid. The advantage of having lactic acid, to begin with, is that you can add the yeast a lot earlier. In the kimoto method, it is too risky to add yeast before the lactic acid bacteria has created lactic acid which can be as late as 14 days after starting the shubo. That is why while it takes only 14 days to make sokujo compared to the 30 days it takes to make kimoto. Another reason the kimoto process takes so long is that by keeping the temperature low for much longer to reduce the activity of undesirable microbes also slows down the desirable ones. The effect is that the entire process runs at a snail’s pace. But with sokujo, with all the unwanted bacteria eradicated from day one, the brewer can increase the temperature much earlier to speed up the process. There is even now a super version of sokujo which can be completed in half the time of sokujo, simply by increasing the temperature even more.

Which Method is Best?

Deciding which shubo method to use is a question of time, cost, practicality and flavor and aroma. Kimoto is a much more complicated process and requires a great amount of skill, so many breweries stick to sokujo. As well as skill, kimoto requires a room with a certain microbial balance. This is not something you can create overnight.

For many breweries, challenging kimoto is all about honoring the traditions of their ancestors. For others, it is the trademark of their style and part of their story.

By the end of the shubo, the sake already has an average abv of 8−10%.

Sometimes, the shubo method used to make the sake is printed on the label (sokujo is rarely printed on the label, but if nothing is printed on the label, chances are it’s a sokujo). Why not see if you can’t find the odd kimoto or yamahai or two the next time you are scanning the shelves of your local sake shop or menu of your favorite restaurant.

At KURAND, we always try to include at least one or two kimoto or yamahai in our 100 strong sake lineup, all available to taste at your own leisure, with no time limits, for just one flat fee. Each sake comes with a story of how it was made and no two sake are made 100% the same way. We look forward to welcoming you very soon! In this next article in this series, we will finally put all the ingredients together and explain how the sake is fermented.

Rice Preparation Stages: Recap

Koji Making Recap
Koji Making

Three Sake Related Terms Everyone should know

Many people’s first visit to KURAND SAKE MARKET is actually their first real experience with sake, so they are not yet familiar with some of the terms that appear on the bottle, some of which can be difficult to understand and memorize.

It’s a challenge faced by many of our writers who are not all necessarily inherent sake pros. Many hours of study and research has to be done before fingers even touch the keyboard.

As many of the terms are rarely used in daily life, it’s really only sake lovers, or people working in the sake industry, who ever have a need to learn them in the first place. Or is it?
While, it is still possible to enjoy sake without knowing a single one, it doesn’t hurt to learn a few of them and will certainly help you to navigate your way around choice on offer and more importantly, discern the quality levels.

In today’s article we will look at three of these terms.
All of the terms covered can usually be found on the label of the sake, or on the restaurant’s drink menu. With these terms, what you see is what you get. So, ordering sake based on them is a reliable way to find sake that is to your liking.


1. Junmai Daiginjo

Junmai means that the sake was made with just three ingredients: rice, water and koji. Daiginjo means that the outer layers of the rice have been removed (polished) until only 50% of the rice grain remains. Junmai Daiginjo is the special designation name for super premium sake. In fact, most sake from the famous brand “Dassai” are usually Junmai Daiginjo.

The taste of Junmai Daiginjo is as subtle and clear as water. The Daiginjo polishing process removes essential nutrients for the yeast which forces it to work harder. It is in these conditions, that some of the most amazing, fruity and floral aromas are produced. A slower fermentation with less acids all adds up to a much smoother, quaffable sake.

However, Junmai Daiginjo sake is a little more expensive than other styles because due to the high polishing ratio, more rice is required for the production process.

Junmai daiginjo is super premium sake. Why not treat yourself with a glass from time to time.

2. Muroka Nama Genshu


The fresh taste of muroka nama genshu hooks many first-time sake drinkers and leaves with them with the curiosity to try more.

Since the sake is still alive, it has a youthful taste at first, which develops and becomes more bold and complex as time goes on.

Muroka means that the sake is not filtered. Nama means that the sake is not heat-treated (unpasteurized), and genshu means that the sake is not diluted with water.

To adjust the alcohol content of the sake, most sake are filtered, heat-treated (pasteurized), and diluted during the brewing process, but the brewing process of muroka nama genshu skips all of these methods.

The down sides of muroka nama genshu is its heavy taste, and difficult preservation method as you need a fridge to store it. However, since muroka nama genshu is a fresh brewed sake, it is still an exclusive drink to try, as in the past only brewers can enjoy this type of sake.


Many visits to sake breweries will include an opportunity to taste sake fresh out of the tanks. It is a flavour that blows many people away. In most cases, the sake will be freshly brewed muroka nama genshu. Even some of KURAND’s writers will confess the same.

When ordering muroka nama genshu at a restaurant, pay attention to the conditions of storage. Since the microbes and organisms, which includes the yeast, are still alive in the bottle, the sake flavour will change quickly if the temperature is too high. Drink sake at a restaurant specializing in sake for the best experience.

3. Nihonshudo (SMV)

Nihonshudo, which is also known as the sake meter value (SMV), is a term used to describe the level of dryness and sweetness of the sake.

Nihonshudo is written in positive and negative numbers. The higher the positive number is, the drier the sake is, and the higher the negative number is, the sweeter the sake is (e.g.: if the Nihonshudo of a sake is +10, the sake has a dry taste, and if the Nihonshudo of a sake is -10, the sake has a sweet taste).

If you are new to sake, we strongly recommend the sake with negative Nihonshudo. Many people’s preconceptions about sake change after drinking these types of sake, some of which taste sweet just like a dessert wine!

However, if you love dry taste, you should definitely try sake with higher positive Nihonshudo!

※ Nihonshudo sometimes is not printed on the sake label

Bonus Term: Yamada Nishiki

Which brings us to the bonus term, which is actually a variety of sakamai (sake specific rice, special rice for brewing).

There are a lot of varieties of sakamai, but perhaps the most famous, the so-called “king of sakamai” is Yamada Nishiki. Whether or not the choice of rice actually plays that much of a role on the end flavour is a trickier question to answer. But the influence is certainly not as big as that of grapes in wine making.

Since the grain is big and easy to polish, Yamada Nishiki is a perfect ingredient for junmai daiginjo sake. In fact, most of sake from Dassai are made from Yamada Nishiki.

Hyogo prefecture produces the highest amount of Yamada Nishiki, but recently, other prefectures have started producing Yamada Nishiki too.

First Impressions are Key

As with anything, whether or not your experience with sake is short or long term, is all down to that first impression. If a sake impresses, it is sure to remain in your heart for a long time. Therefore, we strongly recommend you to avoid the cheap Izakaya bars. Storage is poorly managed which will affect the quality and the taste of the sake.

You can find many different types of sake at KURAND SAKE MARKET. The taste of sake changes depending on its types, brewing process, types of rice, and fermentation method. KURAND is all about providing you with the space to try lots of different types and find something to your liking. We look forward to welcoming you soon.

Only Drinking Junmaishu is Such a Waste!

Roughly speaking, there are two categories of sake in Japan: one is made from just rice, water and koji mold, while the other is made with an additional ingredient in the form of distilled alcohol (brewer’s alcohol).

The first category is called junmaishu. There are purists who will swear that it is the best and that anything else just isn’t sake.

The second category is called honjozoshu (lit: alcohol-added sake), and because it is made with the same three core ingredients, and despite what the purists think, it tastes just as good.

Today’s article will attempt to argue the case for alcohol-added sake.

Reasons Why Alcohol Is Added to Sake


Most junmaishu lovers think that alcohol is added to sake just to increase the volume of the sake, or just to cut down the cost of brewing. However, these presumptions are wrong, since alcohol is usually added for positive reasons related to improving the flavour or tailoring it towards a different audience.

One of the best ways to improve the image of alcohol-added sake is to explains the reasons that alcohol is added in the first place, so here we go.


In the past, before the strict hygiene management of today had been established, sake was sometimes contaminated by unwanted bacteria and mold. Alcohol addition one way to prevent this.

These days, however, alcohol is added to maintain the quality of the sake, not for preservation.

・To Enhance The Aroma

Sake definitely has the nose to rival most aromatic wines, The aroma compounds which are called esters attach better to the molecules of alcohol than water. Thus, it is the fact that added-alcohol traps more of those precious esters that it is considerably more fragrant than junmaishu. In fact, most sake award ceremonies serve daiginjo sake (sake with alcohol added) instead of junmai daiginjo (notice the absence of the word junmai).

More about ginjokou

・To Tailor the Flavour Profile

The alcohol added to sake during the brewing process is called jouzou alcohol. The alcohol also reduces unpleasantly excess sweetness and acidity by decreasing the sugar levels. The result is sake with a sharp and dry after-taste.

・To Stop The Fermentation of The Yeast

Yeast is needed to turn the sugar into alcohol. It has a low alcohol tolerance, so to stop the fermentation, the brewers simply adds extra alcohol.

Will Alcohol-added Sake Get You More Drunk?


Some people think that alcohol-added sake gets you more drunk, but there is no scientific basis for this claim.

Since the alcoholic strength of junmaishu and alcohol-added sake is more or less the same, both types of sake have the same potential to intoxicate.

However, it is true that alcohol-added sake is less punchy and aggressive which makes is more quaffable, and people tend to drink more of it. So in that sense, it is easier for to get drunk on alcohol added sake.

Negative Image of Sanbai Jozoshu


The negative image of alcohol-added sake that exists today was inherited from the negative image of sanbai zojoshu, a type of sake produced after the second world war, when Japan was suffering from a shortage of rice.

Sanbai zojoshu was made by diluting the sake with two parts alcohol. The intention of this addition was definitely to make the sake stronger and not for any positive reasons.

Nowadays, the production of sanbai zojoshu illegal, and the alcohol content of sake is strictly regulated to less than 280 liter per 1,000 ton of rice. This is referred to as nibai zojoshu.

Is It Normal To Use Alcohol-addition for Sake Competition Entry Sake?


Most breweries adjust the flavor and aroma of the sake by adding alcohol prior to its submission for sake award ceremonies. Since the purpose of these competition is to win awards for quality and flavour, creating a high quality sake is important, and adding alcohol to the sake is one of the ways of snatching the crown.

In conclusion,
Adding alcohol to sake is not a negative thing. On the contrary, it actually gives new flavor to the sake. In addition, there are many ways to enjoy sake made with added alcohol.

Even though the terms “added” and “artificially” will always carry a negative connotation in Japan, alcohol-added sake is not always bad.

The best way to get the full sake experience, is to keep an open mind and try everything until you find something you like. And there is no better place to do this than KURAND SAKE MARKET. We look forward to welcoming you soon!

Nigorizake: So Much More Variety than Meets the Eye

Greetings sake lovers!

One of the most popular types of sake at KURAND SAKE MARKET has got to be the opaque white styles. There are several different types but all of them are listed under one category: nigorizake.

In this article we take a look at the different types in more detail.

The Definition of Nigorizake

First, what is nigorizake?.

In order for sake to legally be labelled as nihonshu or seishu (clear sake), the solids must be separated from the liquid which is done by filtering the mixture through a cloth mesh.

However, the law doesn’t say anything about filtering all the solids away. Breweries have simply found a loophole whereby, a mesh with bigger holes is used to allow some of the solids to pass through with the liquid—some breweries completely filter and then return some of the solids. The result is a cloudy sake that we lovingly call nigorizake. Nigorizake literally translates to muddy, but as this isn’t a particularly appealing title to bear, it is often named after its ‘cloudy’ appearance—cloudy sake.

Detailed information about filtration

Types of Nigorizake

No sake experience would be complete without at least one nigorizake, but why not go the whole hog and try them all. At KURAND, that’s certainly possible as we stock various different types for your drinking pleasure.


Ori is basically a sediment made up of koji, yeast, rice particles and anything else that is too fine for the filtration to remove it. Brewers remove it by returning the sake to the tank and simply letting gravity pull the sediment down to the bottom where it can be extracted. Fining agents can help speed the process up as they clump the sediment together making it heavy. Nigorisake which has been filtered like ordinary sake but sediment remains is called orizake. The orthodox way of enjoying this is to mix the clear part with the sediment by gently tilting the bottle sideways at 180 degrees once or twice (do not shake as the vibrations harm the sake). But, many aficionados will tell you the only way to enjoy it is to drink the cloudy part and the clear part separately, because by doing so, you get two different taste experiences.


Sasanigori literally means “lightly clouded”, and sasanigori is the least cloudiest nigorizake. The color of sasanigori is almost as clear as the water, but if you look a bit closer, you can still spot those tiny rice particles.


The same level of cloudiness as sasanigori.


Kasseinigori is a type of nigorizake where the sake entered a second fermentation creating gas in the bottle just like champagne.

Foods To Pair With Nigorizake

So what food would you pair with nigorizake?

Nigorizake is quite rich, so the food you pair with it ideally needs to be also: Chinese food and meat dish, cheese. Sashimi and hiyayakko (Cold Tofu)pair better with kasseinigori.

Why not try different styles of nigori the next time you visit KURAND SAKE MARKET. We look forward to welcoming you soon!

Unfamiliar Sake Terms: Genshu

The first hurdle when buying sake is the label and navigating your way around unfamiliar terms like hiyaoroshi, origarami, or nigorizake, but these terms give little hints about the taste profile of the contents in the bottle, so understanding their meaning makes it that bit easier to find something that matches your preference.

In this article we will decipher the term genshu. Genshu is a term used not only for sake, but also for shochu and other alcoholic drinks as well. So, what does genshu mean?

Type of Sake That Is Labelled as Genshu


Genshu is the term used for undiluted sake. In sake brewing, water is sometimes added to the sake after filtration (pressing) to adjust the alcohol content in a process called kasui. Genshu is quite simply the version that omits this kasui, so genshu tends to have a higher alcohol content than standard diluted fayre: normally, the alcohol content for diluted sake is around 15%, but the alcohol content of genshu is around 20%.

Undiluted sake can also be labelled with the word mukasui instead of genshu—and as they mean the same thing, both terms are used interchangeably.

Taste Characteristics

As it’s not diluted with water, the taste of genshu is bold and rich. Because of the slightly higher alcohol content, some people might find that it’s a bit too strong for them, but others argue that undiluted is the only way to enjoy the real taste of sake.

The Diluting Process: Kasui


As already explained, kasui is a step in sake brewing process, and the process is done to adjust the taste and the alcohol content of the sake. The amount of the water used to dilute the sake varies depending on the sake types and the brewery.

Ways To Enjoy Genshu


Sake is usually served cold or warm, but for genshu, we recommend on the rocks: as the ice melts, it slowly reduces the genshu’s kick, so that you can avoid getting drunk too quickly. Genshu also makes for a great cocktail base; mixing it with your favourite fruits juices or soft drinks is a great easy way to make a simple sake cocktail.

Enjoy The Taste of Genshu!

It’s the fact that genshu is not diluted with water that allows you to experience the real taste and fragrance of sake. That’s why many breweries make it this way in the first place. And there is no better place to enjoy genshu than at KURAND SAKE MARKET, where you can find many different types from different boutique breweries. We look forward to welcoming you soon.

Reasons Why You Should Drink Amazake in The Summer

Thank to the spread of various elements of Japanese cuisine overseas, it’s probably quite well known that Amazake is a low, or—very often—non-alcoholic drink made from fermented rice, which Japanese people like to drink in the winter. A lesser known fact is that it actually makes a nice drink in the summer too—and in fact that is when you should drink it.

As it is rich in vitamins and minerals there are many health benefits from consuming Amazake—so much so, that it is often compared to an “IV Drip”.

In this article we look at some of the reasons why Amazake is particularly suitable for the summer months. We will also share a few easy recipes so that you can try to make it at home.

Is Amazake best enjoyed in The Winter?


Many people think of Amazake as a winter drink, and it’s true that most Japanese people drink warm Amazake in the winter to warm up their bodies. But it might surprise you to learn that Amazake is actually originally a summer drink.

Amazake was invented in the Edo period as a summer energy drink, which is why Amazake is rich in vitamins and minerals. In the ancient times, many people drank Amazake in the summer to recover from chronic fatigue.

The drink was sold on the street by hawkers, who walked around the cities shouting “Amazake, Amazake”.

In short, drinking Amazake in the summer is a practice in Japan that dates way back.

Why People Compare Amazake to an IV Drip


Amazake is rich in vitamins and minerals like Vitamin B-complex, Folic Acid, Fiber, Oligofructose, Cysteine, Arginine, Glutamine, Amino Acid, and Glucose. Many Japanese people compare it to an IV Drip”. In fact, the drink has many other health benefits.

・It Relieves Fatigue

We all crave sweet stuff when we are tired. That’s because our brain is designed to give signals when the body is tired. The high levels of glucose in Amazake helps aid a rapid recover from fatigue.

・It Prevents Cold

Amazake is rich in good protein and vitamins, which help boost metabolism and immunity. That’s why this drink prevents you from catching a cold, and it is one of the best remedies for cold as well.

・It Improves Your Digestive System

Amazake is rich in fibers, and since the drink is made from fermented rice, is also a good source of probiotics. You can improve your digestive system by drinking Amazake.

・It Is Good For Your Skin

Amazake is rich in Kojic Acid, which is good for skin brightening and skin conditioning. Amazake is also rich in Vitamin C, Amino Acid, Oxygen, and Biotin, which brighten and condition your skin.

・It Helps You Lose Weight

Consuming foods that are rich in fat is the main cause of weight gain. If you want to lose weight while drinking sweet drink, you should definitely drink Amazake, which is rich in Vitamin B Complex that also helps you burn the body fat.

How To get the most out of Amazake


There are a few things you should remember to enjoy all the benefits of Amazake.

・Too Much Heat Is Bad

Preheated Amazake will warm up your body, and many Japanese people love to drink Amazake in the winter. However, too much heat will destroy the Vitamin B1 and Vitamin C in Amazake, so the ideal temperature of Amazake is around human’s body temperature.

・Check The Ingredients of Amazake

There are two different types of Amazake, one is made from sake lees, and the other one is made from malted rice.

Amazake made from sake lees is rich in fibers, but it is also high in calories since it is rich in sugar as well. This type of Amazake contains alcohol, and will warm up body your body if you drink it. It is not really suitable for children, pregnant women, and people who will partake in sporting activity.

Amazake made from malted rice is rich in minerals, but lacks fiber. This type of Amazake has no alcohol and no sugar is added, but it still tastes sweet as it is rich in glucose.

Both types of Amazake are rich in nutrients, and both of them are good for your health.

Easy Amazake Recipe for The Summer!

You can of course drink Amazake just the way it is, but where would the fun be in that. Here are a few recipes to turn it into a refreshing summer drink.

Easy Amazake and Milk Sorbet


■Ingredients: Amazake 200 ml, Milk
■How to make: Mix Amazake & Milk altogether, and put them in the freezer. Mix the frozen sorbet with spoon before eating.

Easy Amazake Fruits Ice Cream


■Ingredients: Condensed Amazake 200 g, Fruit Juice
■How to make: Mix condensed Amazake and fruit juice with blender or food processor, and put them in the freezer. Mix the frozen ice cream with blender or food processor before eating.

Easy Amazake Soy Milkshake


■Ingredients: Amazake 100 ml, Soy Milk 100 ml, lemon juice
■How to make: Mix Amazake, soy milk, and lemon juice with blender.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Why not try a little Amazake this summer and reap its health benefits. You could even bring one of the non-alcoholic types along when you visit KURAND SAKE MARKET. We look forward to welcoming you!

A Winter-Exclusive Style of New Sake: Shiboritate

As the mercury continues to drop here in Tokyo, the temptations of atsukan (Hot Sake) can be difficult to resist. But, resist you must, because atsukan isn’t the only way to go in winter.

Here at KURAND SAKE MARKET, our fridges are already filling up with shiboritate. shiboritate literally translates to freshly pressed (freshly filtered) and is new-sake that is exclusive to the winter.

What is Shiboritate


In the latter half of the sake making process, there is a process where the finished moromi (raw unrefined sake) is divided into sake and lees. This pressing (filtration) process goes by the terms shibori, agefune, jyousou or funegake.
Sake normally also goes through a process of pasteurization called hiire where it is placed in water heated to about 50-60 degrees to kill all remaining bacteria, enzymes and yeast before being shipped. This has to happen because sulfites are not used to stabilize sake; they don’t work because the acidity is too low. Shiboritate however, is shipped right after it has been pressed, bypassing the hiire. In other words, it’s raw and fresh.

Note: The opposite of shiboritate at the other end of sake’s life cycle is hiyaoroshi (fall sake), which does undergo the hiire and a little storage over the summer.

Some shiboritate are a little fizzy as not all the CO2 has dissipated yet and some has dissolved into the sake.


The first batch of shiboritate sake to be pressed is called hatsushibori (LIT: The first to be pressed).


The broader term for ‘new’ sake produced during the current brewing year is shinshu (from July of one year to June of the next).

To elaborate further, shinshu is sake produced from shinmai (new rice), harvested in October of that brewing year. After the summer (July 1st), Shinshu changes its name and becomes koshu (old sake).

It’s all a little complicated, but with no rules on how to label new-sake, each brewery defines it differently.

Generally, any sake pressed during that brewing year is called shinshu, but shiboritate tends to only be available around December and January. Make sure you don’t miss out on this season’s shiboritate and enjoy its youthful, vibrant, refreshing flavour!

Why are there so many sakes with ‘Masamune’ in their name?

Greetings sake lovers,

You will do doubt have come across more than the odd sake brand containing the word ‘Masamune’ (正宗). Apart from being the name of a famous samurai sword and beyond just sounding cool, the name itself carries very little meaning, so we wondered what possible other reasons there could be for its popularity. There was only one way to find out. It was time to turn to our partner breweries for some insight.

How many brands are there with the word Masamune?

The first question we had to answer was of course: just how many examples of Masamune sake are there?
The answer: as many as 180.

The results of our research confirmed what we already new to be true; that for some reason this name is popular among sake brewers. In Japan, outside the sake world, the word Masamune is synonymous with the famous Shogun Date Masamune — although his name uses different Chinese characters; in the west, it would probably have to be the samurai sword named after the master swordsmith who created it. Could it be that all those Masamune sakes out there were named in a similar vein?

Time to ask the brewers

Tochigi Prefecture, Sugita Shuzo


Q1.Why are there so many sakes using the word ‘Masamune’

[taidan img=”” alt=”なとみ様” width=”300″ height=”300″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-13704″]Unfortunately, I am no wiser than you are on the subject.[/taidan]

Q. What is the meaning of your company’s brand name: Yuutou Masamune 雄東正宗 ?

[taidan img=”” alt=”なとみ様” width=”300″ height=”300″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-13704″] Oh, it’s just a simple play on words. We took the similar sounding word for excellence in Japanese yuutou 優等 but switched the Chinese characters. In our version we took the second character from the word for this part of Japan Kanto 関(東) and the second character from the word hero eiyuu 英(雄). There is a saying you see: the hero of Kanto: Kanto no Yuu 関東の雄 (there is a similar saying for the Kansai region of Japan too: Kansai no Yuu). We hoped that this brand would become the new ‘hero of Kanto’. The word Masamune is tagged on the end for auspicious effect.[/taidan]

So there you have it. This brewery opted for Masamune because it augurs well. We think the ‘hero of Kanto’ idea is pretty cool too!

Tokyo, Koyama Shuzo


Q1. Why are there so many sakes using the word ‘Masamune’?

[taidan img=”” alt=”なとみ様” width=”300″ height=”300″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-13704″]Sadly, I don’t know.[/taidan]

Q2. What is the significance of the word in your brand name Marushin Masamune?

[taidan img=”” alt=”なとみ様” width=”300″ height=”300″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-13704″]It’s a part of our brewing ethos which is ‘honest brewing that delivers sake to the customer with sincerity’. The first generation of the brewery, Koyama Shinshichi believed that trading was based on a basic principle of honesty and so embedded that belief in the brand name, the first part of which reads ‘completely true or authentic’ (marushin). [/taidan]

Even a brewery that has been around since the early Meiji era is none the wiser. This is yet another example of a brand name that was derived from the company’s ethos.

Nagano Prefecture, Maruse Shuzo


Q1. Why are there so many sakes using the word ‘Masamune’?

[taidan img=”” alt=”なとみ様” width=”300″ height=”300″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-13704″] Actually, I am hardly an expert on the subject either. The story I heard was that a brewery in Nada (the old name for an inlet in modern day Kobe) called Sakura Masamune were the ones who started it and as their sake rose to acclaim during the Edo period, the name was adopted as a pronoun for delicious sake everywhere.[/taidan]

Q2.What is the significance of the word in your brand name: Ikioi Masamune 勢正宗

[taidan img=”” alt=”なとみ様” width=”300″ height=”300″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-13704″]Our brand name is based on an episode in Chinese legend where a carp climbs a waterfall and becomes a dragon which we abbreviated into the Chinese character for momentum, Ikioi. (勢) The name also embodies our desire to achieve steady growth. The word Masamune was added to lend it a more sake-esque feel.[/taidan]

Among all the different theories of the origin behind this naming, the idea that the word simply became synonymous with sake itself has got to be the most likely and the most convinving.

The most unthinkable answer


After investigating the story we gleamed from Maruse Shuzo in a little more detail, we can assert that the most likely origin of the word Masamune in sake naming appears to be nothing more than a simple ‘play on words’.

The origin dates all the way back to the Edo Period. The author does indeed seem to be none other than the fabled Sakura Masamune. The story goes that when the head of the family was thinking up a new name for his brand, he one day decided to visit a temple he was friends with in Kyoto. “Eureka!”, he suddenly exclaimed. It was a tabletop scripture that had caught his eye, inscribed on the front with the phrase “Rinzai Seishu” (臨済正宗), written using the same Chinese characters as for Masamune.

Have you figured it out yet?

Basically, he instantly saw the potential play on words between the word Seishu (other reading for Masamune) and the alternative word for sake in the sake industry — also pronounced the same way —: Seishu (清酒) — literally meaning clear sake. Realising the fun he could have and the prosperous ring it had to it, he instantly adopted it for his new brand name. Things didn’t quite go to plan though; even though he had intended for his brand to be read ‘Seishu’, the locals misread it as ‘Masamune’.

And so there you have it, a simple misunderstanding has shrouded the origin of this naming in mystery — so much so that even now, there are breweries using it oblivious of its true origin and meaning.



For some reason it still doesn’t feel like we have found the whole truth. Whatever the truth, the popularity of Masamune doesn’t show any signs of waning.

Why not pop down to KURAND and see how many Masamune brands you can find.

We look forward to bringing you another little sake story very soon.

Head down to KURAND for a bargain midsummer’s sake lunchbreak

Greetings sake lovers,

First of all, allow us to take this moment to thank all our customer dearly for the continued support and patronage.

We bring you great news! From 20th August until 25th September inclusive, during lunchtimes, we will be running a campaign at all our branches offering our all-you-can-taste sake plan at the super low price of 2000 yen per person.

Bookings can be made online via the usual booking forms, or if you can read Japanese, please feel free to use our online booking system which confirms your booking in real time.

Booking forms (confirmation of booking within 48 hours)


Real time booking


Campaign operation hours


You might think that sake drinking is reserved for the after hours, but you would be wrong. Actually, those of us who are from some of the more boozy western countries will no doubt be familiar with the beer before noon habit. The fact is that sake tastes just as good earlier in the day and chilled sake with a block or two of ice is great way of cooling down from the merciless Tokyo summer heat.

Campaign Details

Name Midsummer Lunchtime Special
Campaign validity 20/08/2016 – 25/09/2016, Saturday, Sunday, Public Holidays
Operation Hours 12:00 – 16:00(15:30 Last Order)
(Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Asakusa)
Applicable to All customers on all-you-can-taste plan
Contents All-you-can-taste sake for 2000 yen (Incl Tax)

So that’s it. Basically your sake life is 1000 yen better off!

We are looking forward to welcoming you to KURAND!

What’s the obsession with putting turtles on sake labels?

Greetings sake lovers,

Have you ever come across a sake label featuring a turtle? The fact is that believe it or not, turtles have always been a popular animal with sake brewers for some reason. But why? We decided to research a bit more and interview one or two of our turtle loving partner breweries for the answer.

How many brands are there with a ‘turtle’ in the name?

After just a spot of research, we found a total of 25-30 brand names featuring the little amphibious green critter by name. We wanted to find out more about what the appeal of the turtle was. We would half expect most breweries to tell us that “their founding forefather was very fond of them” or something along those lines. But perhaps their answer would surprise us. We decided to put the question to two breweries to find out.

Ask the breweries

Ehime Prefecture, Chiyo no Kame Shuzo, Mr.Kimura

First up was Chiyo no kame Shuzo (Kame = Turtle in Japanese).Established in 1716, Chiyonokame has carved out 300 years of history in Uchiko Town, Ehime Prefecture.The brewers each help with the rice sowing to deepen their understanding of the rice which in keeping with local farming practices is free of pesticides. Their product development is bold and challenging and their Ginga Tetsudo (galaxy railroad) brand which is aged below freezing continues to have just as many fans outside the prefecture as inside. Additionally, Chiyonokame is the first brewery to use a centrifuge. It is a brewery that cheerfully brews sake that can’t be made anywhere else: Charming sake that puts a smile on thousands of faces. We interviewed Mr. Kimura

Q1. Why is there a turtle in your brand name?

[taidan img=”” alt=”なとみ様” width=”300″ height=”300″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-13704″] Well first, the first word ‘Chiyo’ (millennia) has the same meaning to that in the line from the Japanese national anthem: “chiyo ni yachiyo” (to continue, to prosper for millennia and millenia).  In other words, an eternity. Just as the crane is associated with a life-span of 1000 years, the turtle is associated with a life-span of 10,000 years. If for nothing else, we chose this name for its auspicious connotations.   [/taidan]

Q2. Why are there so many turtle themed sake brands in Japan?
[taidan img=”” alt=”なとみ様” width=”300″ height=”300″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-13704″] It’s not just turtles, cranes also pop up a lot in sake nameology because they both carry the meaning of “eternity”. Incidentally, quite a lot of these brands use the word Chiyo as well.   [/taidan]

So both the turtle and the Japanese word Chiyo carry the meaning of “lasting for an eternity”. Well, this brewery has already carved out 300 years of history so they must be aiming for at least another 1000.

Nagano Prefecture, Syouki Shuzo, Mr. Maruyama

Another brewery that uses the turtle directly in their brewery name. In 1883, first generation Maruyama Monichiro established a brewing business in the alps facing Shinshu Shiojiri Yado, the remains of a manor house, and started brewing the brand Syouki Masamune. 133 years since the production brewery got its big roof, the brand has changed names but still retains the traditional flavour of Shiojiri. Last year, in the brewery’s 131st year, master brewer Morikawa Takashi who recorded a string of gold awards in his previous brewery turns a new page in history with his passion to brew sake in the place where he was born. Sake that moves people is born from the skills and passion of the brewer.

Q1. Why is there a turtle in your brand name?
[taidan img=”” alt=”なとみ様” width=”300″ height=”300″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-13704″] sadly, the meaning was never passed down from previous generations. [/taidan]

Q2. Why are there so many turtle themed sake brands in Japan?

[taidan img=”” alt=”なとみ様” width=”300″ height=”300″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-13704″] The turtle is particularly popular because of its auspicious connotations and because it signifies eternity.   [/taidan]

Over time they simply forgot the reason. But when we first saw this brand name we felt a real affinity towards it; the turtle often looks as if it’s smiling. Perhaps one of the earlier generations kept one as a pet…?


It seems there may be various theories out there for the turtle on the label. Above all, it seems that most breweries use it as a good omen. And if the long histories of those that do are anything to go by, it’s certainly a powerful totem that lives up to its name.

Just as the definition of eternity suggests, turtles are nothing short of living legends of both sea and land. The average pet turtle can live up to 20-30 years, while the elephant turtle outlive humans at 150 years.

The turtle also makes an appearance in various famous tales such as the tale of Urashima Taro as an envoy of the Ryukyu Castle; in ancient China, it was believed to be an envoy of Horaisan, the land believed to be the dwelling place of  perpetual youth inhabited by immortals — its always been a very propitious being.

It is even suggested that the shape of the shell on the turtle’s back is in itself a symbol of good fortune.

It’s not difficult to see why the turtle has found its way into the hearts of brewers everywhere.

And the moral of the story? Drink sake adorned with a turtle and you too may live for a thousand years….