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Sake: Unraveling the Mysteries of Japan’s Traditional Rice Wine

Sake: Unraveling the Mysteries of Japan’s Traditional Rice Wine

Shimane Prefecture, where tradition and flavors converge 

Immerse yourself in the vibrant tapestry of Japan, where the very essence of the land flows in each delicate sip of rice wine known as sake. Enter Shimane, hailed as the sacred haven where sake’s captivating journey first began. With an unwavering commitment to tradition, Shimane stands proud as the birthplace of this cherished elixir, tracing its roots back to the ancient myths that resonate within the pages of The Kojiki (an ancient Japanese text). Prepare to embark on a spirited voyage, where the artistry of sake weaves together legends and flavors, unveiling a profound connection to Japan’s rich cultural heritage. 

Depiction of Susano-o based on ancient Japanese text 

Within the fabled tale of the Yamata-no-Orochi, a mythical serpent of great power, we encounter the god Susano-o, a figure of divine valor. As the narrative unfolds in The Kojiki, Susano-o persuades Kushinada-hime’s parents to meticulously craft an exceptionally potent variant of sake. With this specially concocted libation, Susano-o skillfully inebriates the formidable eight-headed serpent Yamata-no-Orochi, causing it to succumb to a deep slumber. Only then does he seize the opportunity to vanquish the serpent, marking a significant juncture as sake finds its inaugural mention in the esteemed pages of The Kojiki. 

Depiction of Japanese gods drinking sake 

Legend also has it that during the sacred month of Kami-ari-zuki, when the gods assemble at the revered Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine, they partake in the joyous camaraderie of drinking sake together. This tradition holds a profound connection between mythology and the beloved rice wine, as elucidated in the Izumo-no-kuni Fudoki. This ancient text served to unveil the origins of various geographical names, shedding light on the captivating tale behind the name Saka. Within its pages, a story unfolds, recounting the origins of this area and its association with sake: 
“Long ago, a great number of gods gathered along the banks of a river in this area, and set up a kitchen to prepare food and drink. Then they made sake, and spent the next 180 days drinking, after which they went their separate ways.” The term used to describe this sake celebration is sakamizuki, and from that word, the area got its name of Saka. 

A Kurabito (sake brewery worker) preparing the next batch of sake 

Just like any ancient city that has stood the test of time, Shimane has undergone transformations throughout the centuries. The appearance of shrines may have evolved, and the production methods for sake may have adapted to the changing times. However, one thing remains constant: the deep-rooted presence of sake in the history and fabric of the region. To this day, Shimane Prefecture proudly hosts around 30 active sake breweries, diligently preserving the artistry of sake-making that has evolved and thrived throughout the ages. With a harmonious blend of time-honored techniques and the integration of modern advancements in science and technology, these breweries persist in their quest to craft the divine elixir, constantly striving to meet the highest standards of quality and excellence. 

Five Shimane Sake Brands to Add to Your Sake List 

  1. Fuji Shuzou Junmai Sake  

Source: Izumo Fuji 

Best served: chilled (or room temperature) 

In Japanese, “Junmai-shu” translates to “pure rice sake,” making Junmai sake the epitome of purity. It is crafted solely from the essential elements of rice, yeast, water, and koji, embodying a pristine expression of the sake-making process. This stands in stark contrast to Futsu and Hojonzo sakes, which incorporate additional ingredients such as brewer’s alcohol or sugars. 

Fuji Shuzou Junmai Sake is a semi-dry and invigorating libation that captivates the senses. With its subtle yet alluring bouquet of under ripe fruit and hints of moss, this sake tantalizes the palate with a rounded and full-bodied flavor profile. Versatile and humble, it serves as the perfect companion to any meal, elevating every dining experience with its harmonious presence. Indulge in the sheer pleasure of this exceptional table sake, designed to complement and enhance your culinary journey. 

  1. Furuhashi Shuzou Junmai Daiginjo Uijin 

Furuhashi Shuzou Junmai Daiginjo Uijin 


Best served: chilled  

Junmai daiginjo sake stands as the epitome of Japanese sake craftsmanship, representing the utmost refinement and luxury. Crafted with precision from rice polished to a minimum of 50%, this alcohol-free sake embodies the essence of a “grand cru,” boasting a distinctive aroma and exquisite complexity. With delicate fruity notes and a generally dry profile, this sake shines when served chilled, harmonizing perfectly with your finest culinary creations. Immerse yourself in the sheer elegance of junmai daiginjo, a testament to the artistry and sophistication of Japanese sake-making. 

  1. Kan-Nihonkai Junmai daiginjo Mizusumi-no-sato 

Best served: chilled (or room temperature) 

Indulge in the captivating allure of this exquisite sake, meticulously crafted from Yamada Nishiki rice polished to perfection at 40%. Prepare for a symphony of flavors as this well-balanced sake entices with its rich fruity aroma, enticing your senses from the very first pour. 

As the liquid cascades into your glass, a pale straw hue of utmost elegance catches your eye. Brace yourself for an olfactory journey as the fragrance of cherry blossoms and honey dances delightfully through your nostrils, setting the stage for an extraordinary tasting experience. 

With each sip, your palate is treated to the essence of fresh-cut ripe honeydew melon and tantalizing cantaloupe, awakening a symphony of flavors that grace your tongue. As the journey unfolds, subtle hints of pear and green apple emerge, leading to a dry and satisfying finish that leaves a lingering impression of pure satisfaction. 

  1. Oki Homare Junmai Ginjo 

Best served: chilled (or room temperature) 

Prepare to be enraptured by the captivating allure of Oki Homare Junmai Ginjo sake, celebrated for its impeccable balance and exquisite acidity. This sake stands as a timeless symbol of tradition, excellence, dependability, and trust, embodying the essence of Japan’s revered brewing heritage.  

To ensure the utmost purity and unparalleled taste, the rice undergoes a meticulous polishing process, reaching an impressive 55% polish ratio. Through carefully controlled low-temperature brewing, it unveils a symphony of captivating aromas and a palate-pleasing mosaic of rich, nuanced fruity flavors. For an elevated experience, savor it from a wine glass, allowing its complexity to unfold and tantalize your senses.  

This versatile sake is the perfect accompaniment to refreshing salads and a wide array of authentic Japanese cuisine. Immerse yourself in the extraordinary world of Oki Homare Junmai Ginjo sake and embark on a sensory journey that transcends time and tantalizes the palate. 

  1. Rihaku WANDERING POET Junmai Ginjo 

Best served: chilled 

Prepare to embark on a poetic journey for your taste buds with this extraordinary sake, a symphony of flavors that leaves an indelible mark on your palate. With its broad appeal and robust character, this sake possesses a unique ability to perfectly complement even the most challenging vegetable dishes, transforming them into culinary masterpieces. Crafted as a Junmai Ginjo, it is meticulously made with the revered Yamadanishiki rice, known as the epitome of quality for sake production.  

As an homage to the famous Chinese poet Li Po, who was believed to find inspiration in a bottle of sake, this sake captures the essence of his artistic spirit. Prepare to be enchanted as you savor this sake, where each sip whispers a hundred poems on your tongue, transporting you to a realm where poetry and flavor intertwine. 

Which Sake Should I Get First? 

Embarking on the journey of selecting the perfect sake is an exploration of personal preferences and the art of the occasion. For those venturing into the world of sake or seeking a versatile option, allow me to introduce the captivating realm of Junmai and Junmai Ginjo sake. These splendid choices strike a harmonious balance and invite you to savor a wide array of flavors. Whether sipping solo or indulging in a culinary adventure, these sakes are known to complement an array of dishes with finesse. 

Yet, the allure of sake extends beyond these familiar realms. Delve into the enchanting realm of regional sake varieties, each bearing its own distinctive character, waiting to be unveiled. Unveil the secrets of unique flavor profiles and allow your taste buds to be enthralled by the subtle nuances of different regions. 

As you embark on this captivating journey, I encourage you to seek the guidance of a knowledgeable sake sommelier who can be your trusted companion along the way. Alternatively, indulge in sake tasting sets that whisk you away on a tantalizing voyage of discovery. Allow your senses to be captivated as you explore a multitude of styles, seeking that one sake that harmonizes effortlessly with your palate, leaving an indelible mark on your soul. 

Our unwavering belief is that every soul on this planet deserves the chance to immerse themselves in the sheer delight of a remarkable sake experience. Whether you boast the refined palate of a seasoned connoisseur or are just beginning to explore the captivating world of sake, we, the passionate team at The Good Stuff, are thrilled to present our meticulously curated assortment of exquisite sake types. Brace yourself for a sensory adventure like no other as you discover the diverse and enchanting flavors that await you. 


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