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A
  • Amazake is a nutritious beverage to be nicknamed as "drinking IV", which is also beneficial for beauty. As a fatigue recovery drink, it has been consumed in summer since ancient times. There are two major methods to make amazake; made from sake lees and from rice koji. There are various recipes and the mainstream method seems different depending on the region where it is made. With rice koji method, amazake is made by putting rice koji in rice porridge cooled to about 60 degrees Celsius. As koji is still in the process of fermentation, it tastes sweet but has no alcohol content. On the other hand, amazake made with sake lees, a by-product of sake, contains alcohol with no sweetness, so some sweetness such as sugar is added to enjoy it. If you make your own amazake, it would be easier to follow a sake lees recipe. However, as it contains alcohol, rice koji recipe is recommended for children, though the sake lees method has also a way to get alcohol evaporated.
  • Sake traditionally has an annual cycle where it is brewed in winter, marketed in spring, and empties out within a year. When sake passes one year old, it is classified as “koshu” or “Jukusei shu,” meaning ‘old sake’ and ‘aged sake’ respectively. Sake is quite delicate, and its quality is susceptible to storage conditions. Back when brewers did not have sufficient storage facilities, they brewed a type of sake that stored well at room temperature, and sold later as aged sake. In recent years, with the development of better storage facilities, we can now enjoy delicate sake like “Ginjo” and “Namazake (unpasteurized sake)” that are aged for a long time as well.
  • Arabashiri / Nakadori / Seme
    The final process of making Seishu, the clear sake, is to press moromi (fermenting mash). There are several methods such as machine-press, funa-shibori (using cloth bags and boxes called fune), and bag-hanging. In either way, in the process, liquid oozes due to the weight of the moromi itself. This very first sake, which naturally flows out before pressing, is called Arabashiri. At this point, sake is still young and slightly murky, tasting rough, yet has an enjoyable fresh and delightful scent. Since it is the first sake to be produced, Arabashiri is often shipped out as the season’s first specialty.
H
  • Hi-ire is heat sterilization. In Muromachi Period, by the year of 1560,, when hi-ire is said to have been conducted, it had been developed from experiences gained by brewers over years. The operation of heating sake at the temperature of 60℃ for 10-15 minutes kills micro-organisms without changing the sake quality. This is the same operation as the low-temperature sterilization that Pasteur discovered in 1866 to prevent wine’s decay, which is called “pasteurization”. The sake in those days was nama-zake (unpasteurized sake) of today, so it easily deteriorated. This heat sterilized realize the long storage of sake by killing off the micro-organisms that deteriorate sake. It has also enabled the shipment to distant places, which has contributed to a rapidly increasing demand of sake.
K
  • Rice for sake brewing is steamed and used for koji making, shubo making and shikomi (preparation). Among all the uses, part of the steamed rice to be cooled and directly added to tank for shikomi is called kakemai. Since koji rice and kakemai have different roles for sake brewing, variety of rice to be used for each roll could be different, including usage of relatively inexpensive edible rice for kakemai. In the whole amount of rice used for sake brewing, about 20% is koji rice for making koji, about 10% for making shubo, and about 70% for kakemai; this kakemai exercises considerable influence over the taste of sake. For this reason, sake breweries tend to use sake-exclusive rice for premium sake.
  • In modern days, some sake breweries are built like a large refrigerator to create an environment for year-round brewing. This environment makes brewing possible all through the year, even in summer time by providing low temperatures that are suitable for brewing. On the other hand, based on the opposite concept, sake brewing in the middle of Edo Period seemed to have been performed all through the year even though there was no refrigerator, maybe because they did not pay much attention to such a delicate processing as the modern one. Since sake brewed in winter season tasted better than other seasons, it looks like sake brewing in the coldest season had a good reputation in those days. As time goes by, high-class or premier sake has begun to be brewed mostly in the midwinter when the temperature goes down, and this is also called kanzukuri.
  • It is a sake with moromi solids that are left after moromi is pressed by using a coarse cloth or filter. When pasteurized, it becomes Nigorizake (cloudy sake), and when unpasteurized, it becomes kassei seishu. Though the flavor depends on the existence of pasteurization, unpasteurized sake keeps on fermentation at room temperature, so it may spill over when the bottle is opened. Keep the b ottle in a refrigerator and take enough time to open it.
  • The quantity of sake cake in relation to the original white rice. In recent years, sake cake has been often used, valued and focused on. For sake manufacturers, it’s natural that they want to make sake as much as possible. Unfortunately, depending on the weather of the year, sometimes harvested rice may be too hard to be solved, or koji may not be good enough or too weak to solve the rice. In such cases, kasubuai gets higher.
  • Kijo-shu is what tastes similar to noble rots or ice wines, and this is made with a different brewing process from that of usual sake. Sake is normally brewed with a starter made of koji, steamed rice, and water, but half of the water is replaced by sake when making kijo-shu. Kijo-shu, therefore, is a type of sake brewed with sake. Its complex sweetness and lasting aftertaste makes it perfect as an aperitif or with desserts. It also tastes wonderful when poured over fruit or ice cream just like port wine.
N
  • Arabashiri / Nakadori / Seme
    Also called nakatori, nakakumi, or nakadare. Nakadori is obtained after arabashiri before pressing sake. After arabashiri, clearer sake flows out in the process of pressing sake bags by gradually applying slight pressure. Nakadori has the most balanced aroma and taste. Sake labeled "Nakadori" on the bottle is relatively good in quality. Thus, sake that enter competitions is often nakadori. Especially, the pressure-free portion of nakadori is regarded as the highest quality.
O
  • It is generally called Origarami, which might be more popular among people. Traditionally, there is a stage called oribiki, being almost the last processing of sake brewing. It is to urge settlement of white floating substances that inevitably remain after the moromi is pressed, and then to remove the sediments (ori). Orizake is the sake having sediments that are purposely left by using a coarse cloth or filer for pressing the moromi. So this sake, of course, is bottled without removing sediments. Though the taste and flavor depend greatly on the existence of pasteurization, orizake seems to be often pasteurized.
R
  • The desirable components for sake brewing are locked in the core of a grain of sake rice. The outer portion of the rice, therefore, is milled away to make clear-tasting, good quality sake. The “rice polishing rate”, in other words how much of the rice grain is remaining after the polishing, is an important indicator for sake’s character, and can be found noted on its label. For example, when it is noted “rice polishing rate: 60%”, this means the grain was polished down to 60% of its original weight, and 40% of the outer portion has been milled away. There are also some special sake using rice polished at less than 10%. The more the rice is polished, the clearer the sake tastes; however, when the rice is polished, it loses the genuine umami – the flavor of the rice. In order to brew a more full-flavored sake, now, an increasing number of brewers are using less of polished rice, going against the latest trend of high rice polishing rate ranging from 60% to 80% in recent years. (Refer to “Specially Designated Sake”)
S
  • Sakabayashi, or sugitama, is hung at the entrance of sake breweries in late fall. As its name suggests, it is a large ball made up of cedar twigs and tips. A green sugitama tells us new sake had been made, and when it dries and becomes brown, it indicates that the sake has been matured. When wooden buckets were mainly used for sake brewing, barrels were made of cedar wood. For breweries that deal with microorganisms, bacteria that affect sake brewing are natural enemies. It is said that breweries hang the sugitama with hopes for cedar to keep away such enemies with its antiseptic and antimicrobial properties. The origin of sugitama is said that Oomononushino-ookami, the main shrine father of Oomiwa Shrine, in Nara, which worship Miwayama (Mt. Miwa) covered with cedar trees as the spirit of a deity, hung a bundle of cedar leaves at the entrance of a sake cellar. After the prayer festival for the safe sake brewing in November, ‘shirushi-no-sugitamas’ are bestowed as a token of the prayer to all the attended brewers across Japan to be delivered nationwide.
  • Most sake is brewed with “sake rice”, a specific variety of rice that contains components suited for sake-making. Sake rice is different from those selected for eating, and counts over 80 varieties in its own category. One of the most popular sake rice amongst sake brewers is Yamada Nishiki, which is sometimes called the “king of sake rice.” Most of this prized rice is cultivated in Hyogo Prefecture, with some in Okayama and Fukuoka Prefectures. Other popular varieties include Gohyakumangoku, Omachi, and Miyamanishiki. In addition, each prefecture promotes a few varieties of their original sake rice as well. With today’s technology, however, ordinary staple rice eaten with meals can also be brewed into delicious sake.
  • Arabashiri / Nakadori / Seme
    Also called seme, semetori, or oshikiri. Seme is the last part of the pressing after collecting nakadori. The proportion of arabashiri, nakadori, and seme is not fixed. Although it depends on toji’s judgement, seme is said to be about the last 5% that can be obtained by applying high pressure at the end of squeezing. Although seme has some unfavorable taste and is not well-balanced, thus being inferior in quality, you can still enjoy the umami and originality of the sake. Unlike arabashiri and nakadori, seme is rarely distributed alone. It is often mixed with other sake on the market. But recently, some breweries began to bottle seme without mixing it with other sake to let consumers enjoy its uniqueness.
  • Sensory evaluation allows to rate the quality felt by people’s senses, such as taste and vision. This application was developed based on specialists’ unique ingredient analysis and evaluation for rating the tastes and fragrances. The technique of the analysis made for this sensory evaluation is set in accordance to the Japanese National Tax Administration Agency’s standards, and the expressions used for its rating is based on the guidelines of Japan Sake
  • Most exported sake is made with utmost care, polishing up quality rice, then managing the brewing with precise temperature control, and this is what gets labeled as “specially designated sake.” Sake is classified into eight different categories based on many strict rules and guidelines. The quickest way to understand this, however, is either to look at the rice polishing rate, or to check how much the Sake contains added distilled alcohol, because most classifications are based on Sake a combination of these two factors. When the rice polishing rate is lower than 60%, the sake is classified as “Ginjo”, then when the polishing rate is lower than 50%, this is classified as “Daiginjyo.” When the sake is made only with rice, koji and water, without any distilled alcohol, it is classified as “jummai.” In addition, when the ginjo sake is made without distilled alcohol, this is classified as “jummai ginjo.” Similarly, “jummai daiginjo” is when the daiginjo sake had been made without any distilled alcohol. On the other hand, when the sake is made with distilled alcohol, and the polishing rate is lower than 70%, this is classified as “honjozo.” Jummai and honjozo can be further specified either as “tokubetsu jummai” or “tokubetsu honjozo” respectively if their polishing rate is lower than 60%.
Y
  • The Yamada Nishiki rice is known as the finest and most preferred rice for sake brewing. It is essential for brewing ginjo-shu. The major reasons for such high reputation are; it is a large and hard grain having the size of 1.3 times as large as table rice, which makes the rice grain hard to crack even with the higher rice-polishing ratio; the shinpaku (white core) gets bigger and clearer with the size of grain; it has less zatsumi (unrefined taste) because of a low protein content; and it is more soluble than other rice. For these reasons, some of tojis say they choose Yamada Nishiki to be on the safe side. This strain was created by cross-breeding Tankan Wataribune as father and Yamadaho as mother in 1923 at the time when rice strain improvement was promoted by the national government. It was authorized by the Hyogo Prefectural Agricultural Research Institute in 1936 and become well known with the ginjo-shu boom. The rice grown in the special A district including Miki City and Kato City is highly regarded as the finest of all.