April 22, 2018
by Kana Kobashi, Kensuke Nagai & Motonari Iwamoto
Do you like Japanese sake? Japan makes many kinds of sake, but did you know that some of those sake types are connected to a certain place. This is especially true of certain shrines, especially in Kyoto. In this article, we will tell you about one of those shrines: Matshuo Taisha, otherwise known as God of Sake.
Sake in Kyoto
Before anything else, it is important to understand how sake in Kyoto is made. As you probably are aware, Japanese sake is Japan’s national liquor, and there are many types. Three of the most well-known types are Junmai-shu, Honjozou-shu, and Ginjou-shu. They have different brewing processes and different levels of rice polish.
Junmai-shu is made from rice, rice mold, and water. The rice polishing ratio is below 70%. Its requirements are good flavor and shine.
Honjo-shu is made from rice, rice mold, and distilled alcohol. The rice polishing ratio is below 70%. Its requirements are also good flavor and shine.
Ginjo-shu is made from rice, rice mold, and distilled alcohol. The rice polishing ration is below 60%. Its requirements are a peculiar flavor and good shine. Every percentage of rice mold is at least 15%.
Jizake. There are many kinds of Jizake in Japan. ‘Jizake’ means Japanese sake brewed using locally grown rice grains and water from local areas. Their uniqueness varies from region to region. Kyoto has many kinds of it. Kyoto’s sake is one of the most famous Japanese sake in the world. This is because Kyoto is blessed with abundant nature. Therefore, Kyoto’s water is pure and the level of rice polish is high.
Now we will introduce two famous sake brands from Kyoto.
Eikun sake is made in the Fushimi area of south Kyoto. It is made with fresh local water from and high-quality rice. For this reason, it is delicious and therefore has become famous in world.
Kokorono-miyako is the most famous sake in Kyoto. It is produced by the sake brewing company Tamano-hikari, which has been in business since 1673. Their sake has a smooth taste. They only use Iwai sake rice which is grown in Kyoto. On the bottle’s label is an image from Tale of Genji, so you can sense the feeling of traditional Japan while drinking the delicious sake.
Matsuo Taisha Shrine
Matsuo Taisha–Shrine is called Matsuo-san by neighbor it located Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto. It about one third of Kyoto’s population serves residents Nishikyo-ku, Ukyoku, Shimogyo-ku and Minami-ku. Unlike the others shrine, it features powerful gate with two guardian gods.
Tortoises have meant in China, Korea and Japan as emblems of good fortune, about long life and good health. The water is said to be health, and the shrine is visited both by ordinary people to get good water. Manufactures of miso paste and sake brewers who pray for the success of their enterprises.
We can see figures of tortoises in the precincts. The most famous of which is called the Kame-no-i, Tortoise Well, near the entrance to the first garden. Matsuo Taisha is specify for important cultural property, and have many god statues inside here. Moreover, this shrine is known for better fortune, so many people come here from the other places.
History of Matsuo Taisha Shrine
A god is enshrined in the Matsuo Taisha who have a power for helping agricultural and farming. The name is Ooyamakui-no-kami. It is one of the big god in Japan from a very long time ago. Hiyoshi Taisha in Shiga, which is headquarters to enshrine Ooyamakui-no-kami. The near residents decided why locate at Nishikyo-ku. Because a person has the honor toward guardian of living at the top of Matsuo mountain. Agriculture developed concurrently with the other industry. And then, how to make sake imported from Shin (the old China) in this place. So, Matsuo is known for the first sake in Japan. After the end of the World War 2, it was decided not to use the title of the government secretary Taisha, due to the abolition of state management. So, in order to avoid confusion with the same name Shinto shrine was renamed Matsuo Taisha in Showa 25 and it has reached the present.
Connection between Matsuo Taisha Shrine and Sake
Matsuo Taisha shrine has a deep relationship with sake. There are two accounts of how it became the God of Sake.
The first was that in the 5th and 6th centuries, a man named Hatauji of the well-known Hata clan, a Chinese immigrant clan that came to Japan through Korea. Hatauji eventually went to Matsuo Taisha shrine and worshiped the God of Matsuo Taisha shrine. Also, Hatauji, like many of his clan member, was good at making sake using techniques from mainland Asia, so he taught Japanese people how to do it. Therefore, the God of Matsuo Taisha Shrine came to be known as the God of Sake. This account is written in the historical Nihon Shoki.
The other account is actually a myth. One day, the Gods nationwide gathered at Matsuo Taisha shrine and talked. The God of Matsuo wanted to hypnotize the other gods. Therefore, he made sake to make the other gods happy, using rice from the nearby Arashiyama district and water from the mountains of Kyoto. Because of that, he came to be called the God of Sake. The God of Matsuo Taisha Shrine is strongly followed by alcohol-related companies, who worship the God by making offerings of barrels of sake.
In addition, there is water in Matsuo Taisha, and it is said that the company will not go bankrupt if you make alcohol using that water. Besides, Matsuo Taisha shrine has rare things not found in other shrines. For example, there is barrel fortune telling. When you pay 300 yen, you receive two arrows and release an arrow in a barrel. After you have finished it you can get a talisman to take home with you.
In conclusion, there are many shrines in Kyoto, but Matsuo Taisha is the one famous for sake. Since the Muromachi period, the God of Matsuo Taisha Shrine was called the God of Sake, and from that time many tourists and worshipers have visited Matsuo Taisha. However, at present young people go to Matsuo Taisha for their annual New Year’s visit, but they do not fully understand that the God of Sake is enshrined at Matsuo Taisha. Since we researched Matsuo Taisha, we hope tourists will know more about its history and meaning.
You can get to Matsuo Taisha by bus or train.
If you use the train, take the Arashiyama line of the Hankyu train. Get off the train at Matsuo Taisha Station, and walk for two or three minutes to get there.
If you take a bus, you have to take a Kyoto City bus using the Arashiyama Daikakuji or Kokedera lines. Gett off the bus at Mastuo Taishamae and walk for one or two minutes to get there. Arashiyama, Suzumushi temple, and Saihoji are nearby. These spots are famous in Kyoto, so if you have time, we recommend that you go visit them as well.