Sake History

It is not exactly known just when people began making sake in Japan. However, it is believed that an alcoholic beverage made from rice was already being made in the Yayoi period (300BC-250AD) when rice cultivation was brought from China to Japan. It was during the last half of the Nara period (710-794) when the methods of rice growing became stable. A special organization alled Sake-no-Tsukasa was established to produce sake for the Imperial Court. During the Heian period (794-1185), sake was made in temples and shrines, as well as among the people. Sake breweries appeared in the Muromachi period (1333-1573). Because of this, the Muromachi Shogunate started charging taxes on sake production, as a source of revenue for the government. In the last half of the 16th century, people started to polish the ricegrains fro sake making, and to press the fermentation mash to separate the sake. A heat sterilization (pasteurization) process called hiire was also invented during that period. By this time, the technique to make large wooden tubs had been developed, which enabled sake breweries to make and store a large volume of sake at one time. 


Manufacturing sake became a thriving industry during the Edo period (1603-1868). During that period, they revised a technique to add distilled alcohol to sake in order to adjust the flavor and preserve it from bacterial contamination. From ancient times, sake was regarded as a special beverage made from precious rice. People drank sake on special occasions, such as festivals, marriages, and funerals.