THE HISTORY OF SAKE

The appearance of "Kuchikami Sake" 

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During the process of wine production, fermentation is activated by the development of yeast as grapes contain sugar (glucose). However, rice doesn’t contain sugar, so the starch contained in rice needs to be transformed into sugar. Aspergillus is used for the process of Sake manufacture nowadays but there was no such technology using aspergillus at that time. So saliva was used instead. Saliva is known to have the action of dissolving starch into sugar. The action was repeated – putting raw rice into the mouth and then chewing and spitting it into vessels. The chewed rice turns into liquor if left for a while and fermentation occurs. This is called “Kuchikami Sake” (liquor made by chewing with one’s mouth). It is often thought that the manufacture of Sake around this time was a job for women, although it is also considered a job for men due to the hard work involved. It is believed that this “Kuchikami Sake” was produced for Shinto rituals. Miko (shrine maiden) carried out “Kuchikami” in those rituals. This is the reason why people say that the manufacture of Sake was traditionally a job for women. Incidentally, the process of Sake manufacture using “Kuchikami” has been seen around the world. In these cases, the process involved the chewing of grain instead of rice.