<Interim translation>

Matters relating the characteristic of liquor which is essentially attributable to its geographical origin

  • (a) Characteristic of liquor

    • (1) Reputation

    • “Nihonshu” is the liquor brewed from rice, rice koji and water as a main raw material and it is specified as “Seishu” by the Liquor Tax Act (Act No.6 of 1953). “Nihonshu” is identified as one of “Seishu” which is made in Japan by using rice and rice koji, both originated in Japan.
       “Nihonshu” is regarded as a special beverage made from rice, a staple and valuable food in Japan. People traditionally drink “Nihonshu” on special occasions such as festivals, weddings or funerals. Thus, it is an integral part of the Japanese lifestyle and culture.
       “Seishu” market (almost all are “Nihonshu”) is the second largest to the low-alcoholic liquor (such as beer) market.
       While some says the indication “Nihonshu” was derived from the “Japansch-Zaky”, used to the Nihonshu exported to Netherlands in the Edo period (1603-1868), it is thought to become popular and establish its social status in the Meiji period (1869-1912) because it can be seen frequently in the literatures at that time.
    • (2) Characteristic

    • (i) Physical properties (Taste)
    • Alcohol content is less than 22%/vol. Its color is generally transparent or straw-yellow color, where aged “Nihonshu” has amber color
       “Nihonshu” contains more amino-acids and peptides which provide Umami than other fermented liquors such as beer and wine, and has modest acidity and sweetness. “Nihonshu” also has various aromas like fruit, koji, caramel, and wood (if it is stored in wood barrel).
    • (ii) Microbiological properties
    • - Koji mold

      Koji, which is made by inoculating Koji mold (a variety of Aspergillus) onto rice, is used for converting rice starch into sugar. This saccharization method is unique in the world. Also, it is believed that this present systematical method had been gradually established since the Muromachi period(1333-1573) until the Edo period(1603-1868). “Nihonshu” has a variety of taste, depending upon the varieties of Koji mold because the different kind of Koji mold introduces the different level of saccharization and amino-acids production.

      - Yeast

      Most “Nihonshu” breweries use the yeast specially selected as suitable for making “Nihonshu”, which has been popular since the Meiji period (1869-1912). It was biochemically proved that the yeast selected for “Nihonshu” has higher activity for alcohol fermentation than the normal yeast. The activities of aroma and flavor production are differed depending upon the varieties of yeast, which brings a variety of taste on “Nihonshu”

      - Combination effect of koji mold and yeast

      “Nihonshu” has relatively high alcohol content in comparison with other fermented liquors, because (i) both saccharization and alcohol fermentation are gently and steadily proceeding at the same time in the fermentation mash, (ii) the specially-selected yeast described above is used.

    • (3) Essential attribution of its geographical origin to characteristics of liquor

    • (i) Natural factor
    • Japan is located over a subarctic zone and a subtropical zone The production process of “Nihonshu” is linked with clearly-distinguished four seasons:
    • - rice is harvested in autumn
    • - it is made in winter because the contamination risk is relatively low due to low temperature,
    • - it is stocked and aged from spring to summer until shipment
    • In addition, Japan has plenty of drinkable water, thanks to a large volume of precipitation in summer. Since the pure water and rice can be supplied all over the Japan, “Nihonshu” are produced in all prefectures.
    • (ii) Human factor
    • The making of “Nihonshu” is tightly linked with the development of rice cultivation. While warm climate is suitable for rice cultivation by nature, we began to grow rice in colder regions of Japan for a long time ago, along with the improvement of rice in terms of cold-resistance and yield. Moreover, the rice suitable for making “Nihonshu” (“Shuzo-koutekimai“, Seishu-brewing rice) has also been developed, corresponding to climate in each regions since the Meiji period (1869-1912). In 1936, “Yamada-nishiki”, one of the most renowned “Shuzo-kouteki-mai“, was developed. We have also been developing and farming the new “Shuzo-kouteki-mai“.
       In the past, the economy of Japan was based on rice, which was used as quasi-money before the establishment of monetary economy in the Meiji period (1869-1912) From this kind of circumstance, production of “Nihonshu” was thoroughly under the control of government. As production of “Nihonshu” became more industrialized in the Edo period(1603-1868), those who had a special license for making “Nihonshu” began to hire many farmers in agricultural off-season. They gradually won a reputation as craftpersons, which resulted in the establishment of the hierarchical “Toji” system (“Toji” means the chief seishu maker), similar to apprenticeship or guild system. “Toji” has full authority for production of “Nihonshu” in Seishu-breweries and leads the all brewery workers. In addition, “Toji” plays an important role in training younger apprentices by sharing their techniques and experience. Through this system, the techniques are passed on until now.
       In those days, “Fuzo”, spoilage of fermentation mash by contamination, occurred frequently, owing tolong and complicated process of making “Nihonshu”. “Fuzo” had a critical impact on business because the rice was expensive at that time. In order to invent measures to prevent “Fuzo”, the National Research Institute of Brewing(NRIB) was established under the Ministry of Finance in 1904 and started researches such as the elucidation of mechanism of brewing, the development of new brewing technology and so on. Thanks to the NRIB’s distinguished achievement, “Fuzo” is rarely occurred at present. In addition, techniques of making “Nihonshu” has been refined and inherited by efforts of not only the NRIB but also the National Tax Agency and regional public research centers, such as sharing of research results, holding of technical guidance, seminars and annual seishu award (generally called as “Kampyokai”) and so on.
       As a result of such efforts for technological improvement for centuries, the present making method of “Nihonshu” is established.

Matters relating the raw materials and production method of liquor

  • To use the geographical indication “Nihonshu”, it shall satisfy the following conditions:

  • (a) Raw materials

    “Nihonshu” shall be made from the raw materials of “Seishu” prescribed by Article 3, Item 7 of Liquor Tax Act. Rice and rice koji should originate in Japan

    (b) Production method

    “Nihonshu” shall be made in Japan and its producing method shall follow “Seishu” making method, prescribed by Article 3, Item 7 of Liquor Tax Act.

Matters relating management to maintain the characteristic of liquor

Raw material and production method of “Nihonshu” are clearly prescribed by Article 3, Item 7 of Liquor Tax Act, and recording of actual practices concerning raw material and production method is obligated for “Nihonshu” producers based on Liquor Tax Act. In addition, approval of production method by National Tax Agency is necessary for the purpose of maintaining the quality of “Nihonshu”.
 With regard to rice as a raw material, it is possible to confirm clearly whether rice used for production originate in Japan, because recording of trade information and transmission of origin information concerning rice is obliged for not only rice producer but also “Nihonshu” producers based on relevant Act.
 National Tax Agency establishes the monitoring system for their compliance, that is, sufficient management to maintain the characteristic of liquor as a geographical indication is achieved.

Matters relating liquor classes

Seishu/Sake (Article 3, Item 7 of the Liquor Tax Act)