Written and illustrated by Misa Ono
January 1st. New Year’s Day. Many people visit shrines for hatsumode(*) and hot amazake (sweet-sake) is served. Amazake is so good to drink to warm you up in the winter.
What is amazake anyway? Amazake has 2 types, one (A) is made of koji and rice and the other (B) is made of sakekasu (sake lees) and sugar. A doesn’t contain alcohol as koji changes the starch in rice to sugar that makes the drink sweet. On the other hand, B contains alcohol as it is made of lees from sake making, water and sugar. A is apparently the traditional amazake but it is funny to call it amazake (sweet-sake) because it doesn’t contain alcohol at all. But A’s ingredients are same as Japanese sake and the fact that koji changes rice to sugar is also same. That may be why it is called amazake.
I have talked about koji several times so far. I believe that amazake is the best way to intake the nutrients of koji. The sweetness of amazake works in the same way as glucose energizes you quickly. And also it has many vitamins produced by koji’s enzyme. Besides, the absorption rate of nutrients is over 90%! Amazake is a fast-acting vitamin drink.
As I mentioned in the beginning, amazake warms you up in the winter, however, in the Edo period, people drunk it in summer time. Hot amazake in hot summer? Why? In this period, there was no air conditioner or electronic fan though it was humid and hot in Japan. The meals were very simple unlike today. The heat weakened people including elderlies, children, and even healthy young people. They probably knew that amazake was full of nutrition and gave them energy immediately.
Besides, amazake is rich in dietary fiber and oligosaccharide which improve the intestinal environment, this improves constipation and skin condition too!
Drinking amazake in the morning stimulates your brain. So I recently mix amazake and soymilk yogurt and drink it at breakfast time. Aspergillus, lactobacillus and soy isoflavone are very good friends of my body now!
(*) Japanese traditional New Year’s event to pray for health and safety for the year at shrines.