日本酒を語る

Talk about sake

2020.03.13

Knowledge

Women and Sake Brewing

Just as men, women have played important roles in sake brewing since the old days. This is supported by a theory that the word toji, a brew master, comes from a word representing an honorific title for women. What is more, in the Yayoi period (300BC-AD300), women produced kuchikamizake by chewing cooked rice well to let rice and saliva mixed in a container for the fermentation. Human saliva contains saccharified enzyme just as rice koji so that it works well for sake. This work was limited to young healthy shrine maidens because it was considered very sacred. Women’s active engagement in sake brewing in those days is written in old literature, and moreover, the society used to count on women’s work at the time when there were few men in the society. However, as time went by, sake breweries came to forbid women from brewing for such reasons that sake quality would be degraded because of women’s body temperature being higher or that women should be protected from hard work, coldness and sexual harassment. Except for family-owned breweries, women who were highly motivated to brew sake were also forbidden. However, in recent years, with the penetration of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law (1972) and the advance of technologies, sake brewing has gradually become open to women. In 1999 when there were still few women joining sake brewing, the Kura Josei Summit (Sake Brewery Women Summit) was established, where women engaged in sake brewing gathered for interaction. They exchanged information, learned more about sake brewing and started to spread information such as holding biennial events. In the present day, more and more women are active in a wider field of sake brewing, such as female brewers, tojis and researchers, and there is even a foreign female kurabito working actively in Japan.



Photo at Kobayashi Sake Brewery [Tochigi Prefecture]
Photo at Kobayashi Sake Brewery [Tochigi Prefecture]