Friday, May 7, 2010

Sake Research and Film

Image borrowed from Dr. Sumihara's paper.

Dr. Noriya Sumihara from Tenri University has been doing some interesting research on sake in Nara. A film, 清酒のルーツ復活 (Roots and Revival of Sake), based on his research has also been made.

Reconstruction of Bodaimoto; the Origin of Modern Sake

A cooperative project between industry, government and religion in Nara

by Noriya SUMIHARA


This paper is aimed to cover a thorough record of a unique project completed in Nara prefecture at the turn of century. This project was an unprecedented project to reconstruct an extinct and forgotten method of making sake, rice wine, known as the bodaimoto. Today, only a very few people know that the original method of making modern sake was developed in Nara over 500 years ago. It is also not known that up until early 17th century, Nara was the largest sake producing area in Japan. Archives indicate that bodaimoto is the root of modern sake in Japan. During the serious crisis of sake industry in the 1990s, when the consumption of sake declined dramatically, about a dozen sake makers in Nara prefecture challenged a difficult joint project to reconstruct bodaimoto with modern taste, hoping that the project will draw general public attention to sake, especially the sake of Nara. Archives also clearly show that the bodaimoto was originally developed at a temple, named Shoryaku-ji, built in 992 in the mountains of Nara. Although Shoryakuji-ji is a small temple today, it used to be a huge temple where hundreds of Buddhist monks lived and trained themselves. Some of the monks assumed responsibility for making sake in order to financially support the temple, as was often the case with many other temples in those days. Among many temples where sake was made on the premises, Shoryaku-ji had a very high reputation for the quality of sake because it developed a new and unique method of producing sake, which proved to be a scientifically rational method even by today’s standard. From the archives introduced in the paper, it is safe to say that the very significant part of the method of producing modern sake, as opposed to ancient method, can be traced back to the method developed at Shoryaku-ji temple. As the Nara sake makers alone did not have the knowledge to reproduce the bodaimoto, the Nara Prefecture Institute of Industrial Technology joined the project. Shoryaku-ji temple also participated and played a critical role in the completion of the project. In the history of modern sake industry, I think this is an unprecedented project deserving academic attention as well, because the project is not just historic, but it also provides another example of how locality is reevaluated in this increasingly globalizing world.

See the film (in Japanese):

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