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The development of the liquor industry and brewing techniques

 

Although repeated incidents of alcohol abuse and alcohol-related violence led to restrictions on alcohol (kinshurei) in the Kamakura Period (1336–1573), during the Muromachi Period these restrictions were dispensed with and sake came to be promoted.

 

The aim was to boost revenue by imposing taxes on alcohol rather than suppressing it. As a consequence, this period was one in which the culture of sake brewing and consumption developed significantly.

 

The development of the liquor industry
Liquor stores whose businesses were for a time damaged by the restrictions of kinshurei saw things turn around in the Muromachi Period when trade in alcohol and brewing came to be encouraged.

 

The industry expanded significantly, particularly in Kyoto. A document stored in Kyoto’s Kitano Shrine notes that in 1425, the number of sake shops in Kyoto had reached 342.

 

Demand grew so fast in this period that it outstripped supply. With sake so much in demand, selling sake had become a lucrative business.

 

The sake shops of this period were not only involved in production and sales of sake; they also engaged in money lending and broking. The word used for this aspect of the business was dosō. As they were engaged in activities such as storing sums of money and debt collection, they employed bodyguards and became influential elements of society.

 

There were also kōji producers during this period. Kōji is an ingredient that plays an extremely important role in sake brewing. Indeed, it determines the flavor and quality of a brew.

 

The sake shops, as they became wealthy, branched out into the domain of the kōji producers, leading to a confrontation between the two groups of producers, with the result that kōji producers ultimately disappeared from Kyoto. Their role was absorbed and became just one part of the brewing process.

 

After a time, sake came to be brewed in other places as well as Kyoto. In all parts of Japan, sake adapted to the area began to be produced. Local brands came to the fore.

 

Danjikomi (multi-stage fermentation), hi-ire (pasteurization), and lactic acid bacteria
In brewing sake, steamed rice, kōji, water, and shubo (yeast culture) are mixed together to cause fermentation. However, the entire quantity of ingredients is not combined all at once. Instead, the mixing is separated into three stages. Brewing sake in this way, with ingredients added in stages, is called danjikomi.

 

Also, freshly pressed sake (genshu) is heated to a temperature of 60°C to destroy enzymes and yeast so that the sake will not perish. This form of pasteurization is called hi-ire.

 

It is known that these procedures were undertaken as long ago as the Muromachi Period. The evidence for that is that there exists a privately produced record of brewing techniques from that period, the first one of its type, called the Goshu no Nikki.

 

The Goshu no Nikki is a book that was written in the Muromachi Period. It describes various techniques that are used in brewing sake to this day, such as danjikomi, hi-ire, carbon filtering, etc. From this, it is clear that sake brewing was well advanced by that time.

 

French microbiologist Louis Pasteur developed his method of low-temperature sterilization (pasteurization) in 1862, but in fact his method was being practiced some 500 years before that in Japan.


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