A Quick History of Ginjo Sake

Despite sake having a long history of more than 1,000 years, the popular, highly polished, wine-like sake we all love is barely 100 years old.


In 1868, after the Meiji Restoration (a political and social movement that ended the power of the Tokugawa shogun and brought Japan closer to modernity and westernization), the term ginjo-shu was first used in reference to highly polished sake. In 1907, the National Sake Competition was held and the main type of sake was junryo-shu (pure and good sake) instead of ginjo-shu as we know it today. At the time, rice-polishing techniques were not yet mature and were not widely utilized by breweries. 


The first written reference to ginjo sake was in a 1927 article by Chikashi Kanomata in the journal of The Brewing Society of Japan titled "On Economising Ginjo." Kanomata writes in the article, "as the word 'ginjo' implies, ginjo-making is to 'meticulously manufacture sake'. This is sake that has been made by carefully selecting ingredients and applying the most advanced technique and effort possible in production."


Sake competitions at the time were heated, and developing rice-polishing techniques was a major competition. It wasn't until 1933 that the vertical rice-polishing machine was invented. This completely changed the way rice was milled. Over a short period of time, the quality of ginjo sake improved tremendously thanks to the efforts of breweries, developments in refrigeration technology, and the discovery of new yeasts.



rice polishing machine

(Rice polishing machine in the Masumi Brewery)


It led, in the early 1980s, to a boom in ginjo sake production, contributing to the rapid increase of this new premium category of sake in Japan and worldwide.


The Dewazakura brewery was one of the first to make ginjo sake available to the general public with the release of their Cherry Bouquet "Oka" ginjo. The bottle is available on our website, and we highly recommend it. It is an excellent sake for beginners and connoisseurs alike. 



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