Tales of Sake in Nara Sakadono Brewery, Kasuga Taisha Shrine

Tales of Sake in Nara Sakadono Brewery, Kasuga Taisha Shrine

10 Dec 2020

Tales of Sake in Nara Sakadono Brewery, Kasuga Taisha Shrine

More than 1,300 years ago, the Yamato Imperial Court was established in what is today's Nara Prefecture. In the year 689, the court promulgated the Asuka Kiyomihara Code, changing the name of Japan from Wa to Nippon, and establishing a Japanese state centered on the emperor. The history of the Japanese people, of course, can be traced back long before this time, and it is only natural that there were periods of both conflict and stable rule. However, scholars of ancient Japanese history claim that sake has been ever-present. According to these scholars, sake played a central role in all matters, including in Shinto rituals.

Evidence of sake's role in Japanese history can be seen in the Sakadono Brewery at Kasuga Taisha Shrine. A designated UNESCO World Heritage site, Kasugataisha was built during the Nara period in 768 to pray for the prosperity of the Japanese state and its people. The Sakadono was built later in 859 as a sacred sake brewery. For more than a thousand years, the brewery has continued to produce dakushu, a type of unrefined sake to be offered to the gods as part of the Kasuga Festival, which is held every year at the shrine on March 13. Some say that it is only Kasugataisha that maintains such an ancient tradition. Naturally, sake brewing has changed over time, but a distinguishing feature of the Sakadono is its continuity. The Sakadono was rebuilt in 1632, and has remained unchanged since. Today it is an important cultural property of Japan.

An Historic Sake Brewery Nara Toyosawa Shuzo

The Sakadono begins brewing its sake in early February. Although the brewing was originally undertaken by the family of the shrine's priests, from the Meiji period onwards the work has been taken on by a local brewery. This is because the Sakadono doesn’t have the electricity or water required for the various sake-brewing processes—such as washing and steaming the rice, and producing the koji (the fungus used in fermenting the rice) and shubo (yeast starter). Nara Toyosawa Shuzo is the brewery that has been entrusted with this role. In contrast to its regular production sake, the Sakadono requires the use of a different yeast, and the resulting sake has a unique taste and sweetness.

A tour of both the Sakadono and Nara Toyosawa Shuzo will highlight the differences between the two. The white-walled Sakadono has high ceilings, and a steam vent at the top is evidence that the building was once used for sake preparation.

The Sakadono brews two types of sake—shiroki and kuroki, or white and black sake. The cloudy shiroki is 15.5% alcohol in volume and incredibly sweet. The refined kuroki, meanwhile, is 14.6% alcohol in volume with a dryer taste.
Nara Toyosawa Shuzo are experts on Sakadono sake as they are responsible for producing the shubo used in the brewing process. Take a tour around the Nara Toyosawa Shuzo brewery to learn more about its eventful history and the techniques it has inherited.

Nara Toyosawa Shuzo Co., Ltd.
405 Imaichi-cho, Nara, Nara Prefecture 630-8444
Hours: Weekdays 8:00-17:00
Access
1. Take the train from Kintetsu Osaka-Namba Station to Kintetsu Nara Station on the Kintetsu Nara Line, walk to JR Nara Station, and then take the Nara Kotsu Bus to the Kami-Mitsuhashi bus stop, from where it is an approx. 5 min. walk
2. Take the train from JR-Namba Station to JR Nara Station on the Yamatoji Line, and then take the Nara Kotsu Bus to the Kami-Mitsuhashi bus stop, from where it is an approx. 5 min. walk
3. Take the train from Kintetsu Kyoto Station to Kintetsu Nara Station on the Kintetsu Kyoto Line, walk to JR Nara Station and then take the Nara Kotsu Bus to the Kami-Mitsuhashi bus stop, from where it is an approx. 5 min. walk
4. Take the train from JR Kyoto Station to JR Nara Station on the JR Nara Line, and then take the Nara Kotsu Bus to the Kami-Mitsuhashi bus stop, from where it is an approx. 5 min. walk

Check also...

  • HOME
  • Nara
TOP