Writer: Tamaki Kashiwagi
The non-Japanese readers might think we, the Japanese, have always loved Sake for ages, right? But that’s not the case. It has been just the past 20-30 years since Sake has become popular in Japan. Before that, Sake was not very popular. Women and youngsters never ordered Sake in restaurants a few decades ago because people used to have bad images about Sake.
During the 1960-1970’s, Japan experiences rapid economic growth, so people worked very hard. And many working class people used to drink a lot of Sake to relax after their works, many times even got drunk. This creased the negative image of Sake. Women and younger generations had developed the stereotypical view over Sake as “the liquor of an uncool, ill-behaved old man” for working class. Since the working class people had Sake for the sake of getting drunk and didn’t care about the taste, the quality of Sake was bad in general. A lot of Sake was mixed with artificial alcohol and not brewed properly, which always gave a headache. As a result, we also developed the wrong impression of Sake as “it gives you hang over”.
In 1980s, the fast economic growth ended, and the movement of re-discovering Japan started. This is when the “Jizake” started becoming popular. “Jizake” means “local Sake”. Imagine beer. There are 2 types of beer, national brand and craft beer brewed locally. The craft beer is produced in small breweries and has become popular now. In the same way, there are 2 types of Sake, mass-produced and locally crafted Jizake, which is made in small regional Sake breweries.
Many Japanese who were residing urban areas used to know only the national brands, but the people started seeking Sake with high qualities. Consequently, local Sake breweries began selecting ingredients carefully and adopting a proper production process. Then we got to know that Sake had many different tastes and flavors, depending on the local Sake breweries, just like the wine.
As you might know, the Japanese, have the “otaku” culture. As we research and create many characters of animation or TV-game, we explore the world of Sake deeper and deeper as “otaku”, and the Sake boom has started in Japan last a couple of decades. Now it is common scenery that a group of Japanese women and younger generations drink Jizake in a Sake bar.
If you have a chance to travel to Japan, please try the taste of Jizake!!