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What Makes Shimane the Birthplace of Japanese Sake?

In Japan’s oldest history book, the Kojiki, the setting for many mythological gods and their stories is Shimane. Those mythological stories depict scenes of sake brewing and even a shrine dedicated to the god of sake, which is why Shimane is considered the birthplace of sake. Even today, there are several shrines in Shimane that still brew sake for ceremonial use using the same or similar methods utilized during ancient times.

The main ingredients of sake are rice and water. Sake is brewed all over the country, with a variety of flavors and preference depending on the local and ingredients available. With Shimane’s delicious rice and water from the rich surrounding nature, local brewers strive to make the best sake that highlights their unique tastes and flavors that pair with their own local foods.  

A proud tradition of sake brewing, handed down in an unbroken line from ancient Japan

Shimane is considered to be the birthplace of sake because of its long and important history, which can be found in mythology. The myths and records remain to remind us of the deep connections between Shimane and sake. For example, Saka Shrine in the Izumo region enshrines the deity of sake brewing. The annual gathering of all of the deities in Japan for the Kamiari-sai Festival in Izumo is a widely known part of its folklore. After their meetings, most of the deities headed back to their enshrined places, but some deities found the sake so delicious that they ended up staying here to enjoy the sake for another six months. The place where they stayed and enjoyed the sake is believed to be the origin of Saka Shrine. The shrine is one of the very rare shrines that are allowed to brew sake. In October, one month ahead to the brewing season, an important ritual takes place at Saka Shrine where sake brewers attend to pray for a good sake brewing season.

Evidence of sake also appears in a famous Japanese myth. Deep in the mountains of the Izumo region, there lived an evil mythical creature. It was an eight-headed serpent with eight tails and deep red eyes that preyed on the locals. Susano-o-no-mikoto, a heroic deity, came to slay the creature in order to save the princess from the serpent. He had a specially brewed sake preparedthat was strong enough to get the serpent drunk. And once the serpent became drunk and feel asleep he slayed the serpent, saving the princess. This story hints to the existence of an advanced brewing technique that was found in ancient Shimane.

There are currently around 30 different sake breweries in Shimane, stretching as far west as Tsuwano and off the coast in Okinoshima, that offer many types of sake representing the local flavor.

The Secrets to Shimane's Delicious Sake

The main ingredients for good sake is delicious rice, clean water, and a good Toji. On the mainland, rain falling into the broad-leaved forests of the local Chugoku Mountains slowly passes through a layer of weathered granite, creating a mineral-rich water that is ideal for sake. On the islands off the coast, Oki Islands have been designated by the Japan Environmental Agency as one of the "Top 100 Waters" in Japan. Furthermore, the climate of the San'in Region (Shimane and Tottori prefectures), and the development of terraced fields with efforts from local farmers to create better varieties of rice have enabled production of ideal sake rice.

Much like how wine has its "meisters," Japanese sake has a tradition of the Toji. The Toji Masters of Shimane take pride in making excellent sake by constantly improving brewing techniques and quality while protecting their ancient traditions, always mindful of the blessings of nature.

Sake contains many amino acids and is a "beautiful" drink for your skin and body. A major cosmetics company has repeatedly ranked Shimane as the number one prefecture for great skin in all of Japan. It is thought that sake plays a role in this, which makes Shimane's sake popular with women as well.

Where can you buy Shimane Sake?

① Shimane Local Products Center (Bussan-Kan)

This facility features the greatest selection of local products anywhere in the prefecture, both for sale on on display, and customers can find a large number of souvenirs and travel gifts here. In addition many travel brochures are available, and the staff will also provide tourism advice.

Shimane Furusato-Kan
Address: 191 Matsue-jo Otemae, Tonomachi, Matsue, Shimane, 690-0887
TEL: 0852-22-5758 FAX: 0852-25-6785
Hours: 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM

For more details of Shimane Local Products Center, click "View More".

② "Shimane-Kan" Antenna Shop in Hibiya

This shop has many local specialty products on display, and also features an event corner, where food sampling, craft-making demonstrations, and other presentations and sales take place. Additionally, there is a corner where visitors can explore Shimane's history, culture, and get information on sightseeing.

Hibiya Chanter (B1F)
Address: 1-2-2 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-0006
TEL: 03-6457-9404 FAX: 03-6457-9405
Hours: 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM

Visit the website of Shimane Antenna Shop in Hibiya by clicking "Website".

Restaurants and Izakayas in Shimane

How about pairing some Sake with local Shimane cuisine?
Here is the website to search reataurants and Izakaya (Japanese bars) in Shimane prefecture.