SakeMasters Academy 1: Brief History of Sake (When Japanese Sake Started?)

Let's begin a journey with us toward "Mastery of Sake" and be "SakeMasters" together.

There are a series of stories behind a history. We can better understand any contents with more contexts in line with those stories. So, sake is no exception. Therefore, we decided to talk about a history of Japanese sake to start our journey. It may be a little boring for those who are enthusiastic to learn "what and how to drink sake". But please kindly bear with us for a time being. Herein this article, we use a word of "sake" in a loose definition to represent "Japanese sake". We will discuss the exact definition of these wordings in our later blog of SakeMasters Academy.

In terms of the current format of Japanese sake, very roughly speaking, you can remember that Japanese sake started c. 1,000 years ago during Heian (平安) period (794-1185, Kyoto Capital), which we will discuss at the later SakeMasters Academy. However origin of primitive sake, there are a couple of theories about the origin of Japanese sake. But the exact origin is still unclear because it predates a recorded history. There is a theory that sake came from Yangtze River area of China where a rice farming started c. B.C. 4,800 although this theory is not much supported in Japan. Originally, the first alcohol appeared to be made in Jomon (縄文) period of Japan (B.C. 14th century - 10th century) from fruits and nuts. But it is not Japanese sake made from rice yet. There is a plausible theory that Japanese sake production already started c. 2,000-2,500 years ago during Yayoi (弥生) period of Japan (B.C. 10th century - A.D. 3rd century) when a rice farming came from China to Japan. During this period, it was "Kuchi Kami" (口噛み) sake (mouth chewing) that people made sake by chewing rice and spitting them into a container for a fermentation. Also it is said that "Miko" (巫女), shrine maiden, conducted this sake making as a divine work. Kuchi Kami sake was produced during the Shrine ceremonies and quickly consumed. It is a paste like sake, therefore was eaton with chopsticks rather than drunk at that time. Kuchi Kami sake has a sweet and subtle sparkling nature because of its on-going fermentation process. This Kuchi Kami sake tradition continued sporadically until the end of the Second World War when the US occupation ended it due to a sanitary reason. In the next academy, we will discuss a "Brief History of Sake (Ritual Aspect of Sake - Shinto Shrine and Sake)".

"Only fools learn from experience, the wise from history"
- Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898)

Previous blog "Start of SakeMasters Academy: Mastery of Sake to be SakeMasters"


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