"Junmai" (meaning pure sake), a sake made exclusively from rice, koji, yeast and water, is a type of sake that nearly disappeared completely during the history of Japan. However, if we can enjoy "Junmai" sake again, it is thanks to Yoshimasa Ogawahara, the 7th th owner of the Shinkame Shuzo brewery, founded in 1848.
This article aims to educate you on the history of sake but also on a man's struggle.
The history of sake is above all a story of humans.
Before World War II, all Japanese sake was pure, and in accordance with the law. However in 1943, following the general shortage of rice, the Japanese government changed its legislation concerning the manufacturing processes as well as the ingredients used in the composition of sake.
It was at this point that sake with added alcohol began to exist. Breweries were forced to add additives in addition to alcohol, such as controlling the aromas of sake.
Low-end sake was born in Japan, which then became the only type of sake available in Japan. The "Junmai" had then disappeared. All breweries were forced to brew 100% of their sake with added alcohol. This was decided by decree of the Ministry of Finance.
This decree applied from 1943 to 1972, or 29 years. It was through Yoshimasa's repeated efforts that this decree was repealed.
1967 heralded the sake revolution in Japan.
In 1967, after the determination and the desire to create Japanese sake made with 100% rice, Mr. Ogawahara, considered "crazy" by his relatives, ended up being authorized to brew "Junmai" in a quantity insignificant 3000 liters.
Years after years, Yoshimasa was able to produce more and more pure sake. However, the fight was not over, especially on the legislative front. He was constantly fighting with the tax office to be able to continue experimenting and crafting “junmai” type sake.
His fight lasted 20 years. Despite exhaustion and obstacles he was only able to brew traditional sake from 1987.
20 years had passed since her first brew of pure sake.
This man saved the "junmai". This type of sake now accounts for about 20% of sake production in Japan.