Sake Specific Rice

We Japanese eat rice as our main foods. Japanese Sake is made from the rice. The rice that we usually eat is called "table rice" and the rice that is used for Sake is called Sake specific rice. Grain size, its nature nad taste are different. I would like to list up some major Sake specific rices which are produced in Japan and some Sake specific rices which are developed in our local Toyama prefecture.  

Sake specific rice has following characteristics;

・A low protein content 

   Rice has proteins and lipids on the outside of Shinpapku in endsperm part. This nutrient is undesirable components for making Sake, especially, making Ginjo or Daiginjo grade. When the rice is highly polished, the pourpose is to remove this compnents as much as possible. On the other hand, table rice has high nutrient contents compared with Sake specific rice.

・A well-difined Shinpaku (pure starch)

   Shinpaku is white pure starch at the center of the rice. This is particular part which is missing in the table rice. This part starch structure is soft and has good warter absorbancy so that Koji mould can penetrate into Shinkpaku. This characteristics are good for making Koji and makes saccharification more easier.

・Large grains

   If the rice has large grains, it can be more highly polished. 

・Resistant to cracking

   This good point is also the same as the above point. If the rice is resistant to cracking, it can be more highly polished and ensures that the undesirable components are completely removed. 

・Good water absorbancy

   Water can penetrate into the grain, and the rice is broken down easily by Koji enzymes during fermentation starter or main fermentation process. 


Sake Specific Rice (Major varieties) 

1, Yamadanishiki

   Yamadanishiki is known as "King of Sake specific rice " in Japan. Production percentage of Yamadanishiki is about 30% of the total Sake specific rice production in Japan. Main production region is Hyogo prefecutre and south west area of Japan. Yamadanishiki has a large grain, well-defined Shinpaku and low-protein content. This characteristic is ideal for low rice polishing ratios. The Sake which uese this rice tends to be full, soft texture, pure and depth of flavour with a generous. This rice allows the brewers and the yeasts to express themselves.


(Photo from Masuda Sake Company. Polishing ratio is 50%)

2, Gohyakumangoku

   Grain size is slightly smaller than Yamadanishiki. Main cultivation region is Niigata prefecture and neighbouring prefectures. Production percentage of Gohyakumangoku is about 25% of the total Sake specific rice production in Japan. Gohyakumangoku is said that it is easy to make good Koji because it doesn't become sticky and become "hard outside and soft inside" condition when it is steamed. The Sake which uses this rice tends to be light textures and light aroma, simple and clean. This is very suitable for the style of Niigata "Tanrei Karakuchi".

(Photo from Hayashi Brewery. Polishing ratio: 55%)

3, Miyamanishiki

   Miyamanishiki is suitable for cultivating in cool temperature and mountain condition areas. Miyamanishiki is mutated rice developed in Nagano prefecture. Main clutivation region is Nagano prefecture and north east area in Japan. Production percentage of Miyamanishiki is about 10% of total Sake specific rice production in Japan. "Miyama" means "beautiful mountain". The meaning of Miyamanishiki is that the rice which has beautiful Shinpaku like the summit of beautiful mountain. Grain size of Miyamanishiki is similar to Gohyakumangoku. The Sake which uses Miyamanishiki is light, smooth and sharp taste.

(Photo from Hayashi Brewery. Polishing ratio: 55%)


4, Omachi

   Omachi is the oldest variety which is kept cultivating more than 100 years without stopping cultivating even during world war. Omachi is the ancestor of Yamadanishiki and Gohyakumagoku. Main cultivation region is Okayama prefecture. Omachi is renamed from "Nihongusa". A big farmer in Okayama visited a shrine in Tottori in 1859 and he founded well growed ear of rice on the road on the way back home. He took over the two ears of rice from the farmer, and cultivated them in his town. He named the rice "Nihongusa" from "the two ears for rice". Omachi has tall stem and the yield is lower than the other rice, so, production of Omachi was decreased during the world war. Currently, the cultivation are is spreading in Okayama prefecture. Omachi has large grain and large Shinpaku, but the texture is soft so that it is difficult to polish. The Sake of Omachi is rich and rounded texture, more umami, and less purity, complicated taste.

(Photo from Hayashi Brewery. Polishing ratio: 55%)


Sake Specific Rice developed in Toyama prefecture 

5, Oyamanishiki

   Oyamanishiki is developed in Toyama prefecture. The name comes from the mountain "Oyama" whish is the higher mountain about 3,000 m in Toyama prefecture. This rice has a large grains and large Shinpaku. Some brewers in Toyama uses this Sake specific rice.

(Photo from Hayashi Brewery. Polishing ratio: 55%)

6, Tominokaori

   The mother of Tominokaori is Yamadanishiki and the father is Oyamanishiki. Tominokaori means "Kaori of Tomi". "Kaori" means the aroma in Japanese. The name meaning is the Sake which has beautiful aroma which links to the nature of Toyama. This rice has large grains and well defined Shinkpaku. This is suitable for making premium Sake at the level of Ginjo or Daiginjo.

(Photo from Hayashi Brewery. Polishing ratio: 55%)


Featured Variety

Here are two intresting rices, the one is Sake Specific Rice and the other is table rice. Both of them are used for Sake brewing by Masuizumi. 

7, Yamadabo (or Yamadaho)

   Yamadabo is the mother of Yamadanishiki, but, its origin is unknown. Yamadabo has longer stem than Yamadanishiki. Rice grain is slightly smaller than Yamabanishiki. After the birth of Yamadanishiki, Yamadabo has been a "phantom rice". Thesedays, some places started to cultivate Yamadabo again. Masuizumi uses this Sake specific rice, and the Sake "BO Junmaidaiginjo" is line up in our online shopping site. The taste of this Sake is very gentle and clam.

(Ears of rice. From left; Tominokaori, Tankanwataribune (Wataribune 2), Yamadanishiki, Yamadabo, Yamadanishiki (special A area of Yamadanishiki production) I took this photo at Masuda Sake Company.)

8, Isehikari (Table rice)

   Isehikari is one of table rices. Isehikari is orign from Ise Jingu (Shinto shurine). Mauizumi uses the organic Isehikari which is cultivated in Toyama. The compnay name is 土遊野 called do-yuu-no. So, the name of Sake is "Do you know 土遊野 (do-yuu-no)".  


The following Sake specific rice is used by Hayashi brewery. Their young generation launched new brand series. The following two varieties were developed in Yamagata prefecture.  

9, Dewasansan

   This Sake specific rice is developed in Yamagata prefecture and has become a speciality rice of Yamagata. Junmaiginjo grade with local water, yeast (Yamagata yeast), Koji (oryzae Yamagata), and with using 100% Dewasansan brands themselves "Dewa 33", if the strict test passed. The rice has large grains, well defined Shinpaku, and good water absorbancy. This is suitable for cool climate condition like Miyamanishiki. The Sake which uses this rice is pure, depth of flavour and taste, subtle herbal element.

(Photo from Hayashi Brewery. Polishing ratio: 55%)


10, Dewanosato

   This Sake specific rice is developed in Yamagata prefecture,too. This is also suitable for cool climate condition. The rice has large grains, well defined Shinpaku, but, it is not suitable for low polishing ratio. The Sake which uses this rice is pure, clean, elegant, and depth in the taste. 

(Photo from Hayashi Brewery. Polishing ratio: 55%)


I wrote down here about Sake specific rice. There are about more than 100 varieties cultivated in Japan. Each prefecure has each variety rice and keeps developing new variety. In California, U.S., there is typical rice variety "Calrose", and some brewers in U.S. produces the Sake which uses Calrose. I hope that Japanese Sake brewing expand more in the world, and there are a lof of varieties rice and taste in the world. That sounds great! 

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