April 17, 2004
by Yumi Moriya
Japanese sake tells us much about Japanese history and culture. Kyoto is very famous for sake because Kyoto has very clear water, so there have been many sake companies since ancient times, especially in Fushimi in the south part of Kyoto. Learning about Japanese sake is a good way to know about Japanese food culture. Also recently many people have tried to revive “slow food” in Japan. Japanese dishes are very healthy, and they go with sake very well, and Japanese sake is good for our health too.
At first, Japanese sake has a long history in Kyoto. In ancient times in Japan, sake was used for festivals and parties, but chiefly it was for the Japanese gods because sake is recognized as a pure drink. Of course, the people also enjoyed drinking Japanese sake at festivals because they believed that it was the will of the gods to share food and drink with the gods at festivals.
Still now, in Kyoto, each festival often has sake, and people enjoy festivals even more by drinking.
In Kyoto, there are two shrines which are famous for Japanese sake. Matsuo-taisha and Umemiya-taisha are shrines located in the east of Kyoto near Arashiyama. At Matsuo-taisha there is a god, called “Ooyamano-kuino-kami,” who is also well-known as a god of thunder, water, and agriculture. Every year in April, Matsuo-taisha holds a thanksgiving festival for the god, called “Chu-yuu-sai.” People pray for a rich harvest and the success of sake in the year. On the other hand, at Umemiya-taisha, there are the gods of Japanese sake called “Ooyamano-tsumino-kami” and “Kamuadatsu-hime.” When you go to these shrines,
you will find many barrels of sake because many sake companies offer them as thanks to the gods every year. Recently Japanese sake has experienced a revival in Japan because of its effects on our health, so sake is in the spotlight now. It is said that sake is effective in helping high blood pressure and allergies and as a beauty treatment.
Sometimes, people add sake to the bath for their skin because it will help our skin stay moist and warm. Japanese sake is not only for drinking, but also for a healthy life.
As I said before, Fushimi is well-known as the place where much good sake is made. There are over 30 sake companies in Fushimi because the water suits the making of sake well. Especially, sake made in Fushimi is appreciated by many people because the taste is sweeter than other sake, so it is easy to drink.
This is because the water in Fushimi, considered some of the best water in Japan, contains potassium and calcium. What’s more the traditional way of making sake results in the perfect Japanese sake.
Now there are some museums of sake in Fushimi where we can enjoy tasting sake, and we can learn the history of Japanese sake. I am sure that you can have a good time there because you can experience history of sake in the raw.
At last, I hope that people from other countries come to know about Japanese sake and love it because Japanese people are proud of sake. I believe that Japanese sake cannot be outdone by any other sake. It will reveal to you the depth of its history and also the history of Kyoto. Please enjoy drinking sake with the nice view in Kyoto.