One of the Sake series we recommend you this time is called “Tsuki no Katsura”, the manufacture of it is Masuda Tokubee Shoten which locates in Fushimi, Kyoto. As a Sake brew hometown, Fushimi, Kyoto has many famous breweries, such as Gekkeikan, Kizakura, Kinshi-Masamune, and Takara-Shuzo, same as Masuda Tokubee Shoten, they are all listed in the Fushimi Sake Brewery Association, which has been recognized as an important Sake manufacture group.
We all know the basic ingredients for Sake are rice, Koji (malted rice) and water. Among them, water is a major component of Sake. In this article, we will explain why Fushimi is popular in Sake brewing and why it is possible to make delicious Sake from the perspective of Fushimi’s topography and water quality.
Let’s start with the history of Fushimi. Fushimi, as the southern gateway of the ancient capital Kyoto, was the villas area for imperial family in Heian period. In Azuchi-Momoyama period, Fushimi Castle was built and the castle town was formed with it. During Edo period, it was also one of the key points of water transportation. In recent years, the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, which is famous for its Senbon (one thousand) Trii, has attracted tourists from all over the world.
The content of water is also one of the major factors.
The hardness of water is categorized depending on the amount of contained minerals. According to the WHO guidelines of water quality, hardness 0-60 is soft water, 60-120 is slightly soft water, 120-180 is slightly hard water, and 180 or more is very hard water. Based on this guideline, most of the water in Japanese rivers is considered as soft water.
On the other hand, underground water has a hardness of around 80 and belongs to slightly soft water. It has little iron content with good balance of Kalium, phosphorus and magnesium by natural filtration.
In Japan, tap water is safe enough to drink, but especially in urban areas, in order to keep the safety on high position, activated carbon is added and water is purified by ozone treatment. This treatment removes minerals and makes the water tasteless and odorless. If the amount of mineral content in Sake brewing water is high, yeast works actively and Sake becomes dry. On the contrary, if the mineral in the water is inadequate, alcoholic fermentation cannot be performed well, so it can be said that the hardness of water related to the contents is one of the most important factors.
Underground water, as we mentioned above, has little iron content that can cause loss of the aroma and flavor of rice. On the other hand, it contains an appropriate amount of minerals, which lets the fermentation process happen smoothly, and produce the Sake sweet and mild. This is the best requirement for Sake brewing.
Naturally, in order to continue to ensure the best conditions of Sake brewery, it is necessary to protect the surrounding environment as well from the perspective of water quality conservation. Sake breweries carry out the inspection about water quality every year and the quality standard of underground water is stricter than that of tap water. Masuda Tokubee Shoten, which is famous for “Tsuki no Katsura”, also uses underground water to make Sake, and they take great care of the wells that pump underground water.
If you have opportunities to visit Japan, you should be also interested in the quality of the water, taste the water and enjoy the Sake which made from clean water in this area.
－Ground Water Artery Beneath the Surface of the Earth for a Thousand Years Sleeps in Kyoto Underground