We are so excited to announce our upcoming online event on Japanese sake and furoshiki bottle wrapping! Here are Zusetsu, we love a good bottle of sake and we've always wanted to learn more about this Japanese beverage. If you're like us and curious about the world of sake, why not join us for an informative tasting with our friend & sake sommelier Robin Sola! We will demonstrate how to elegantly giftwrap a sake bottle too :) ------Event Details------ Japanese Sake Tasting & Furoshiki: Featuring Sake Sommelier Date: April 24th (Saturday) 7:00-8:30PM BST Guest speaker: Robin Sola, founder of online sake store Sorakami
You will receive:
- 2 bottles of sake: (1) Shirakabe Gura Kimoto Junmai (300ml), (2) Dassai 45 Junmai Daiginjo - 1 furoshiki (48cmx48cm) Please note: Sake + furoshiki delivery is for the UK mainland only
We can't wait to see you there! In the meantime, we put together some of our findings on sake in this blog, including how sake is featured in Japanese history, culture and Shinto religion. Let's learn about sake together!
Let's start off with an introduction on our friend Robin from Sorakami! We'll let him introduce himself in his own words: Dear sake lovers, my name is Robin Sola and I'm the founder of Sorakami.
Growing up in France, I had a terribly biased and false conception of what sake was. I had my sake epiphany during my five years in Japan. It was an eye-opening moment that would change my life forever. I discovered a sophisticated and delicious drink with a rich history and tradition.
I then became a certified sake sommelier and embarked on a mission to change the way people perceive and drink sake in the UK!
To many sake epiphanies together, Robin
We have collaborated with Sorakami on several initiatives together since last year and he is always such a joy to work with! Not to mention, the sake collection at Sorakami is amazing and we're always making up excuses to celebrate so that we can order more sake from them :) Our personal favourite is the Mutsu Hassen - Hachi Ume - Plum Wine/Umeshu!
What is Sake?
Sake is an alcoholic drink that is brewed from fermented rice - a type of grain, and so it is more like a beer than wine or spirits. However, the flavour of sake is closer to wine.
It has a long history in Japan, and as early as the 8th century sake was used for religious ceremonies, court festivals, and drinking games, many of which still exist in one form or another today!
Let's take a look at just some of the cultural celebrations that incorporate sake at their heart!
Sake and Japanese Culture
Sake and the Shinto Wedding Service
The foundational myths of Japan are collected in an ancient text called the Kojiki, and it is here that we see the gods gathered together enjoying sake. There is even a god of sake brewing, called Kusu no kami, and sake brewers offer their best sake to local shrines in order to give thanks to the gods and to pray for a good product that year.
So sake has long been associated with both enjoyment and get-togethers, as well as having a religious significance, and used as an offering to the gods in temples and shrines. Drinking sake is an act of purification, and it is used to bring people and the gods together, and so is a big part of ceremonies such as the Shinto wedding ceremony. Here, the bridal couple serve sake to each other as a symbol of the vows they are making.
The Shinto wedding ceremony, Shinzen kekkon (神前結婚, ‘Marriage before the kami’), involves Shinto themes of purification, and the ceremonial sipping of three shallow cups of sake three times: this is called the nan-nan-san-ku-do.
The three pourings from three cups are often of increasing sizes. The first smallest cup, is poured to the groom, who drinks from it before offering it to the bride.
The second cup is sipped first by the bride, and then the groom.
The third sake cup is sipped by the groom first and then the bride.
The sake is believed to be the heart of a Shinto wedding, and of course guests celebrate the wedding afterwards with sake too!
In this scene from NHK drama Dondo Hare, you can see the wedding guests leaving
with gifts wrapped in white furoshiki!
All of the gorgeous furoshiki here can be found instore!
Sake in Japanese Poetry
Poets have long praised the pleasures of sake in Japan. Over a thousand years ago, the 8th century poet Outomo no Tabito wrote a series of thirteen poems in which he describes sake as the greatest treasure 'beyond price'!
Poems referencing sake in a ceremonial way were common in Tabito's time, but his praise of sake is purely about pleasure:
To turn your thoughts
from matters of no importance,
it is best
to drink a cup
of cloudy unfiltered sake.
What can I say?
I know not what to do
to describe it:
wonderful beyond all else
is that thing they call sake.
Katsukawa Shunshô, The Parting Cup of Sake
The Tales of Ise is one of the four most important works of Japanese classical literature, and it is composed of a series of love poems featuring the Heian noble Ariwara no Narihira.
In one poem he is thwarted in an attempt to meet his love in secret when he is taken on a hawking expedition and entertained all night long with sake. His love sends him a cup of sake with a poem written on the inside, that chides him for his shallowness. He completes the poem, writing inside the sake cup too, assuring his love that they will meet again.
Kawanishi Hide, Nada (Sake Brewery).
Basho is one of Japan's most beloved poets. His poetry searches for the very essence of a moment - his words are refined and refined until he reaches its very heart.
In these few short syllables we see the bright, lit up and expectant faces of companions gathered to drink flavourful, warmed sake on a cold winter's night compared to the flash of lightning that occurs in Japan just before snow falls.
At Kougetsu's House:
waiting for snow
the faces of those who like to drink
a flash of lightning
yuki o matsu / jougo no kao ya / inabikari
Sake in Makoto Shinkai’s Anime Your Name (Kimi No Na Wa)
Sake is the popular drink for socializing in modern Japan, but it has strong ties with the original Shinto faith of the Japanese people, being presented as an offering to the gods as a part of an ancient tradition.
In Makoto Shinkai’s hugely successful anime Your Name (2016), we see a glimpse of an ancient type of sake which was part of Shinto tradition.
Before the 8th century in Japan, the most familiar rice wine was called hitoyozake 一夜酒, which was a simple cooked rice which was left overnight to naturally ferment.
In Your Name we see the two Miyamizu girls connecting with their inherited past by adopting the roles of miko (shrine maidens, who act as intermediaries between people and the gods), and tracing the steps of a Shinto dance that has been recreated for centuries at their family Miyamizu Shrine.
Mitsuha and her sister Yotsuha perform the Shinto ritual of kuchikamizake. The kanji of kuchikamizake reads like this: 口噛み酒, which literally reads ‘mouth’ ‘chew’ ‘sake’, but you can see the connection with spiritual connotations as kami, when written with a different kanji 神, means ‘god’.
In the movie we’re told that:
‘It’s the oldest sake in the world. By chewing on rice and spitting it out and letting it ferment it becomes alcohol.’
‘Do the gods appreciate sake made that way?’ ‘Of course they do.’
The girls spit the chewed sake rice into the wooden sake boxes called masu which are then sealed and tied with a red cord. The cord echoes the red cord that Mitsuha wears in her hair, and that traces her connections to the past and the future – musubi – it means the knots that bind our loved ones to us. We use the word musubi to describe the knots that we tie in furoshiki wrapping, too!
Mitsuha offers the kuchikamizake to the shrine inside the cave at Itomori, and it is here, three years later, that Tokyo boy Taki finds the sake and drinks it and magically reconnects with Mitsuha!
To read more about the science behind kuchikamizake check out this blog here!
Furoshiki bottle wrap in our Mini Bouquet Red Furoshiki
Sake is a traditional part of Japanese life as well as a mainstay of modern enjoyment and leisure! It features in so many aspects of modern Japanese life, from picnic celebrations under the cherry blossoms at hanami, to the traditional games of maiko!
A maiko plays a traditional game with Cathy. This game is often played with cups of sake!
We hope you have enjoyed reading our blog about some of the cultural aspects of sake, and that you join us for our fabulous event with our sake sommelier friend from Sorakami, Robin! Robin will expertly guide us through the fascinating processes of brewing and tasting sake, and we will even show how to furoshiki giftwrap your taste-testing sake bottle! We would love you to join us - tickets are available here!
If you love the anime Your Name too, why not check out our blog Zusetsu's Favourite Japanese Anime here!
Thank you for reading,
Cathy and Yukki
NHK asadora Dondo Hare wedding screenshots.
Makoto Shinkai, Your Name (Kimi No Na Wa), kuchikamizake screenshots.
About Shintosim in Your Name: Taiken Japan
Kawanishi Hide, Nada (Sake Brewery) from One Hundred Scenes of Hyogo, 600dpi.com
Anonymous, Peter Macmillan (trans.), The Tales of Ise, (Penguin Classics, UK, 2016).
Basho, Jane Reichhold (trans.), Basho: The Complete Haiku, (Kodansha, New York, 2013).
Haruo Shirane (ed.), Traditional Japanese Literature: An Anthology, Beginnings to 1600, (Columbia University Press, USA, 2016).