About Sake

Sake is not just a drink but it is a culture and the spirit of Japanese people.


Sake is made primarily from rice and water which interact with microbes known as Koji(a mold) .Only highly polished rice goes into making sake and lends the drink its refined character.

The rice used for brewing sake is called saka mai (sake rice), or officially shuzō kōtekimai (sake-brewing suitable rice). The grain is larger, stronger, and contains less protein and lipid than the ordinary rice eaten by the Japanese. The rice has a starch component called shinpaku in the center of the grains. Since sake made from rice containing only starch has a more commonly desired taste, the rice is polished to remove the bran. There are at least 80 types of sake rice in Japan. Among these, Yamadanishiki, Gohyakumangoku, are very popular.
Water quality is extremely important because the mineral content of the water affects the taste of sake.
Semi-hard water is ideal for sake production due to its lower iron and manganese content.
Koji is steamed rice inoculated with koji mold . This mold's enzymes convert rice starch into sugar, which the kobo (yeast) feeds on.
  • Rice
  • Water
  • Koji

About Sake Brewing in Fukushima

Fukushima prefecture is located in the southernmost portion of the Tohoku region. Boasting the third largest area in all of Japan after Hokkaido and Iwate, Fukushima is divided into three areas, "Nakadori, Aizu, and Hamadori," due to the Abukuma Plateau and the Ou Mountains that extend from north to south. Despite all being a part of the same prefecture, the climate and natural features of each area differ, and each possesses a unique history and culture. Fukushima is also home to delicious rice and beautiful water, and the local sakes born from the use of these local ingredients have become classic specialty products in each area. Fukushima's sake receives high praise because of Fukushima prefecture's expansive area, its climate blessed with temperature variation, its abundant supply of delicious water, its high quality brewer's rice, and above all else, the passion and dedication for sake brewing of Fukushima's sake brewers. Sake cannot be brewed without a great deal of time and labor, but Fukushima's sake is made with care by people with a genuine love for sake.

Rice in Fukushima
Fukushima's brewer's rice is of high quality because it is cultivated making use of each area of Fukushima's unique climate, and using soil care based on quantified soil data and thorough quality control. Additionally, in order to produce rice that will not absorb radioactive material, the Nakadori and Hamadori regions successfully utilize potassium fertilizer in pursuit of producing a safer product. In 2000, they also completed development of their original variety of brewer's rice, "Yume no Kaori."
Water in Fukushima
As for the water that is so crucial to Fukushima prefecture's sake brewing, each area utilizes its own delicious water, like the medium hard water from the Abukuma limestone cave, and the underground water at Mount Bandai. As the water influences the taste and flavor of the sake, each brewery uses its own unique water source in its sake brewing each year.
Technology and Prizes
Technological Strength Fukushima prefecture makes great efforts in the research and development of new varieties of rice suitable for sake brewing, and yeasts. They created a sake brewed with rice, water, and yeast all from Fukushima, and they continue to raise the bar each year. 23 breweries won a gold medal in the 2005 National New Sake Awards Ceremony, and Fukushima took first place in all of Japan. Fukushima shone again three years in a row, taking first place in 2013, 2014, and 2015 as well. The strong cooperation between the prefecture and the breweries also supports their ongoing development. In 1991, the Prefectural Sake Brewing Cooperative Society offered a human resources development program called "Sake Academy." Prefectural civil servants and brewing veterans act as lecturers and share brewing knowledge and basic techniques. As a result, young brewmasters coming out of the Sake Academy have been able to develop popular new brands.


RIe Yoshitake / Reporter

Sake Samurai Association UK Representative

Rie Yoshitake(吉武理恵)

Rie Yoshitake is a recognised sake promoter and international strategy and communications expert. She represents the Sake Samurai Association, the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association in the UK and is the Sake Ambassador for the International Wine Challenge.

Rie has been working in Japan – UK relations for the last 25 years, since she came to London to pursue her ambition to be a bridge between two countries and two cultures. She represented a Japanese trading company for the first 10 years and gained broad experience in international markets, developing strong business connections, especially in the fine wine industry.

increasing mutual understanding between the UK and Japan. She has organised prestigious events at the UK Houses of Parliament, the Embassy of Japan, Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and multi-national companies in the City of London. In 2011, she was featured in the Guardian Media’s series of online videos introducing sake (see below), and has become known as the “Sake Lady” in London, her adopted home.

Rie has established her international consultancy ‘Yoshitake & Associates’ to initiate and develop multifaceted projects that build bridges between Japanese and UK businesses. She is also a director and the UK representative of Claret Co. Ltd., Japan, and the Goodwill Ambassador for the Munakata ECO-100 International Forum to promote her home town of Fukuoka, Japan.

Her continuing support of Japan and the promotion of sake was honoured by the Government of Japan in November 2014 when Rie Yoshitake was presented with the Japanese Minister’s Award for Promoting Japanese Food Overseas.