Home > Sake > Sake and the Japanese

Sake and the Japanese

People in Shimane enjoy sake today in much the same way as the gods enjoy it in these stories. It isn’t merely for drinking at get-togethers, however; sake also has a special holy significance. Drinking sake is an act of purification, and it is used to bring people and gods together, similar to the role wine plays in Communion at Christian churches. It plays a major role in Shinto wedding ceremonies, as the bride and groom serve it to each other as a symbol of the vows they are making. Sake is often is given out at shrine festivals to worshippers, and participants in those festivals usually have some sake before the actual festival begins.

Sake brewers often offer up their best sake to local shrines as a way of both giving thanks and praying for a good product that year. Local sake brewers also hold Saka Shrine in special reverence because of its connection to the deity of sake brewing and to the legend about all of the gods enjoying sake there. Every year on October 13th, head brewers from all the sake breweries throughout Shimane gather at Saka Shrine for its fall festival. In preparation for this festival, the head priest of the shrine brews doburoku, an unrefined sake, and on the day of the festival, the head brewers drink this doburoku and then pray for a successful and delicious product during the upcoming brewing season.

Sake plays an important role at shrines, like in the Shinto wedding ceremony shown here.

The torii (shrine gates) that lead to Saka Shrine.

Visiting Locations Connected with Sake

Apart from the various sake breweries in Shimane, there are locations you can visit that are closely connected to the mythology that surrounds sake. Saka Shrine, which stands where the gods brewed their own sake and drank for 180 days, is in Kozakai-cho in the eastern part of Hirata, Izumo City. It is easily accessible, but in a quiet area, and the grounds of the shrine are very peaceful.

Of course, Izumo Taisha is also connected to sake, as many local brewers offer up their finest brews to the gods. This sake is said to be enjoyed by the gods when they gather at Izumo Taisha during Kami-ari-zuki. Since sake plays such an important role at shrines, offerings of sake are often made at local shrines, from large barrels of sake offered by brewers to small bottles offered by individuals. If you keep an eye out for them, you can spot these offerings at any shrine throughout Shimane.

The locations featured in the Yamata-no-Orochi legend have a connection to sake as well, as it played such an important role in the slaying of the serpent.

Saka Shrine Izumo Taisha

Saka Shrine

110 kosakai chou, Izumo City, Shimane

Izumo Taisha

195 Kizukihigashi, Taisha-cho, Izumo City, Shimane