Sake: the alcohol of Japan お酒

Japanese rice alcohol

Sake is not only one of the most consumed drinks in Japan, but it is also one of the oldest. From religious rites to feats, sake is an essential part of Japanese culture.

To make good sake, the master brewer (toji ) uses a category of rice specially cultivated for making sake, shuzokotekimai (commonly called sakamai ) which contains more starch than ordinary rice and of which there are many varieties. The degree of polishing of the rice ( seimaibuai), between 40 and 70%, determines the quality of this alcohol. The more polished the rice, the better the sake.

After the polishing step, the rice is washed, soaked, and then steamed. The master brewer then first adds koji-kin or koji, a fungus that releases an enzyme, then yeast. The yeasts, all different from each other, are the subject of special attention and are cultivated and preserved either by toji, or by the Japanese Association of Sake Brewers, or by prefectural research institutes.

Le moromi

La préparation du moromi

Wikimedia Commons

L'ancienne brasserie de saké

The old sake brewery

Le brassage du saké à Saijo / Higashi hiroshima

Le brassage du saké à Saijo / Higashi hiroshima


Gekkeikan Sake factory

Tank factory Gekkeikan sake.


Rice for producing sake

Rice for producing sake

Flickr - JMacPherson (

Sake is served in a set called shuki, made up of a pitcher (tokkuri) and small cups (chokko) in ceramic or more rarely in porcelain, glass, bamboo, or even in a wooden container. Be careful, if you are with guests or even with friends, never help yourself! Serve the sake in your guests' cup - holding the tokkuri in both hands - and wait to be served by the member of your party.

Depending on the season but also the event (wedding, New Year, etc.), the type of sake consumed will differ.

Différents sakés

Different types of sake

Trois échantillons de saké

Three samples of sake


Bouteilles de saké

Sake bottles

Wikimedia Commons


A sake so diluted that a fish could swim in it!

Asako Watanabe, one of only 7 female sake producers in Japan.

Asako Watanabe, one of only 7 female sake producers in Japan.

Brasserie Shuzojo

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