Don’t Worry About Anything! I’ll Tell You What You Need To Know

Japanese sake is becoming more popular around the world today and Japanese sake consumption has been increasing in the U.S., Australia, and other Asian countries, so it’s a good time to start trying it! It’s not easy for beginners to know which one is good or bad, because there are many of types and the language is often difficult to understand, even for some Japanese! In this article, I’ll introduce two essentials that you should know when you buy sake, making your experience much more enjoyable.


1. Check the Ingredients! Good Sake Only Needs Rice And Malted Rice!

First, let’s figure out what Japanese sake is made of. Sake is created by using water, rice, and malted rice. The quality of sake is fully dependent on these ingredients, so good sake does not really need any others. Nowadays, there’s an increasing problem with the ingredients on the market. After WWII, Japan could not get a sufficient amount of rice to produce sake, so companies started making a type of sake that included artificial alcohol, sugar, and acidulates. This sake is known as “Sanbai-zoujou-shu” (triple sake) and will most often give you a bad hangover. The production of this sake still remains and can be found on the market, so please be sure to check the ingredients.


2. Check How ‘Polished’ The Rice Is!

Not only do ingredients matter, but also the polishing ratio of the kernels of rice. By polishing the rice, the producers can use more of the center part of the rice kernel, which is less likely to have impurities than the outermost part. The more the rice is polished, the more pleasant of a fragrance the sake will have. The ratio is usually shown on labels and it must say “Seimai-buai” (polishing ratio). It actually says how much the rice has NOT been polished. So, the less of a percentage it is, the more polished the rice is. It’s a bit confusing, but please follow me here. There are 3 major categories of high-quality sake.

  1. The “Dai-ginjo-shu”: it has 50% or less polishing ratio.
  2. The “Ginjo-shu”: it has 60% or less polishing ratio
  3. The “Honjozo-shu”: it has 70% or less polishing ratio.

(Again, the polishing ratio shows how much rice is NOT polished, so the more polished the rice is, the higher quality of the sake.)

Now Let’s Go Shopping!

I hope these two principles, ingredients and polishing ratio, will help readers to find a good sake because there are many types of sake, and it is often confusing for both Japanese people and foreigners who are not familiar with the essentials. It is also important to know these principles, because there are quite a few bad brands of sake on the market. Please keep these two principles in mind, and enjoy shopping for Japanese sake! Kanpai! (Cheers!)

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Writer/ Translator

I spent 19 years of my life in Japan before I moved to Brisbane and stayed there for 1 year. Today, I live in California. I'd love to try to rediscover and redefine my home country, and discuss with the dearest readers in the rest of the world.