Types of Japanese SAKE (Nihonshu)

Japanese Sake is a kind of brewed beverages basically made using rice, water, and rice koji (microorganism).
Various kinds of Sake are made all over Japan, and many “Jizake” (local Sake) are distributed.

Sake has been absolutely necessary for celebratory occasions. Traditionally, it was a holy beverage dedicated to the God. “San-san-kudo (exchanging nuptial cups at a wedding), “Otoso” (New Year’s spiced sake), newly-built house ceremony etc. trace back to this custom.

# As an agricultural tribe, Japanese people may have granted rice as what is a godsend and to be grateful.

Specially designated sake (premium sake)

– “The Standards for Manufacturing Methods and Quality Indication for Sake” by Japanese National Tax Agency –

Junmai-shu (pure-rice sake)

Rice-polishing rate: 70 % or less
Brewers alcohol: non-use
Saccharides: non-use
Percentage of rice for making koji: 15% or more
Grade of rice: 3 rating or more

Junmai-shu “Kurosawa”
Junmai-shu “Kurosawa”

Honjozo-shu

Rice-polishing rate: 70 % or less
Brewers alcohol: 10 % or less
Saccharides: non-use
Percentage of rice for making koji: 15% or more
Grade of rice: 3 rating or more

Honjozo-shu “Shizuka”
Honjozo-shu “Shizuka”

Junmai ginjo-shu

Rice-polishing rate: 60 % or less
Brewers alcohol: non-use
Saccharides: non-use
Percentage of rice for making koji: 15% or more
Grade of rice: 3 rating or more

Junmai ginjo-shu “Fujin Raijin”
Junmai ginjo “FUJIN RAIJIN”


Ginjo-shu

Rice-polishing rate: 60 % or less
Brewers alcohol: 10 % or less
Saccharides: non-use
Percentage of rice for making koji: 15% or more
Grade of rice: 3 rating or more

Ginjo-shu "Kodo"
Ginjo-shu “Kodo”, also tastes good on the rocks.


Junmai daiginjo-shu

Rice-polishing rate: 50 % or less
Brewers alcohol: non-use
Saccharides: non-use
Percentage of rice for making koji: 15% or more
Grade of rice: 3 rating or more

Junmai daiginjo-shu “Mizuo”
Junmai daiginjo “Mizuo”

Daiginjo-shu

Rice-polishing rate: 50 % or less
Brewers alcohol: 10 % or less
Saccharides: non-use
Percentage of rice for making koji: 15% or more
Grade of rice: 3 rating or more

Daiginjo-shu "Kikusakari"
Daiginjo-shu “Kikusakari”

Tokubetsu junmai-shu (special junmai-shu)

All of standards satisfy those of Junmai-shu, and that fall under any of the following; a) The rice-polishing rate is 60% or less b) A special production method is used.

Tokubetsu junmai-shu “Nakagawamura no Tamako”. The illustration on the label is a tadpole in Tanada (terraced rice-fields) where the brewer harvests rice.
Tokubetsu junmai-shu “Nakagawamura no Tamako”. The illustration on the label is a tadpole in Tanada (terraced rice-fields) where the brewer harvests rice.

Tokubetsu honjozo-shu (special honjozo-shu)

All of standards satisfy those of Honjozo-shu, and that fall under any of the following; a) The rice-polishing rate is 60% or less b) A special production method is used.

Other classificated sake

Futsu-shu (ordinary sake for daily life)

Nothing of the above

Futsu-shu “Hokko Masamune Yusen”
Futsu-shu “Hokko Masamune Yusen”

Main categories of SAKE

– according to the type of fragrances and tastes –

Kunshu (Literally “Fragrant Sake”)

It has fruity and floral fragrances and clear and brisk flavors.
Daiginjo-shu, Junmai daiginjo-shu, ginjo-shu, junmai ginjo-shu are often included in this category.

Soshu (Literally “Fresh Sake”)

Sake that has fruity fragrances and fresh and clear flavors, and contains only a little sourness and bitterness..
You can feel that in SAKE such as; “Namazake” (not heated for pasteurization) and “Honjozoshu“, and sometimes “Junmaishu” etc.
It is suited to drink as “Reishu” (cold sake).

# We can say Soshu and Beaujolais Nouveau are alike in the type of flavor (fresh and fruty, and not astringent). The body is light.

Junshu (Literally “Pure Sake”)

Junmaishu” is often included in this category. It has a wide range of flavor from mild to rich body which lasts long time.
Flavor and test of rice can be feeled.
Suited for hot sake.

Jukushu (Literally “Mature Sake”)

Jukushu” means aged sake, and has deep flavors mixed with the sweet, sour and bitter tastes and a wealth of fragrance including spicy, nutty, woody and more.
It tends to be full-body.

Four seasons and Sake

Japan has a clear change of four seasons and is rich in the nature’s things. So Japanese people have developed a peculiar culture of enjoying sake and nature at the same time.
“Hanamizake” in spring, “Natugosi no sake” (sake for beating the summer heat) in summer, “Tsukimizake” (sake for the moonlight party) in autumn and “Yukimizake” (sake for enjoying the beauty of snow) are integral.

* “Shu” is another way of reading the Chinese character of “sake”.
* When two words are united in one word, the pronunciation of the initial letter ‘s’ changed to ‘z’ or ‘j’ in the latter word.
(e.g. sake -> zake)