Mar 13, 2009

Sake "Sokamo"

There was a sake brewery until about 35 years ago on Lake Okutama. It had been operating in Tabayama Village, Yamanashi Prefecture. The place is very close to the boundary between the prefecture and Tokyo. The brewery was named Sakai Shuzoten and was making Japanese sake "Sokamo."

Sokamo means a brace of ducks, and it may be a brace of mandarin ducks, which are considered to be a harmonious couple. So, this name gave me an impression of something peaceful or happiness. I think this is a nice name as a sake brand.

However, Tabayama Village is quite a mountain village located upstream Lake Okutama, and my simple question was how the brewery could make money from their business.

Nearly a month ago, my friend Take-san and his fellows were planning to go on a Sokamo research trip to the village and I also joined them.

To collect information, we visited many places including the place where the brewery used to be operating, village office, liquor shops in the village, shrines, and a temple (we thought that shrines and temples had been receiving sake as offering). Finally, we reached an old man who was familiar to the deceased owner of the brewery.

From his story of the olden days when Japanese people suffered poverty soon after the Pacific War, we could somehow understand how the life of people in that time was and how their relation to sake at that time was.

At the time when a bottle of sake (1,800 ml) cost 550 yen (about 5 dollars), the daily allowance of the then typical worker was 240 yen. Sake was such a luxury item. In spite of this fact, sake was selling quite well. Why?

I understand that, when transportation was not so well developed as it is now and the sake that could easily be purchased in the village was only Sokamo and other few quality brands from Nada, a famous production center of Hyogo Prefecture, only Sokamo must have been the standard sake of the area. However, a big factor that we must take into account is that sake was a necessity for people's life in old days; they prepared sake in events of weddings, funerals, and various festivals including New Years' events. People were not very rich in those days, but they spent a good amount of money on sake because they had in their life many opportunities in which sake must be prepared and played important roles. I am sure that sake had significant meaning for their life.

Before, there must have been many chances to see bottles of Sokamo in many places in Tabayama Village. However, now, when driving the car through the village, billboards on streets no longer display the name of "Sokamo," but, instead, we see only "Sawanoi," the Tokyo's top-selling sake brand.

Today's Sake
Takaosan (Nakajima Shuzojou)
When I went on a light hike to Mt. Takao located in Hachioji City, Tokyo, I warmed this sake and drank. It has a sweet and tender taste. Although this is ordinary regular sake, when drinking this sake with facing to a beautiful Mt. Fuji, I felt quite happy. I think sake that makes you happy must be the best sake.
Alcohol: 15 - 16%

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