What on Earth?: Nihonshu no Hi (日本酒の日)

Like Oktoberfest and Beaujolais Nouveau Day, autumn is the season that people celebrate harvests and alcoholic drinks brewed from what they yield.  Japan also has a similar celebration day.  In 1978, the Japan Sake Brewers Association established October 1st as Nihonshu* no Hi (Sake Day) in order to encourage consumers to drink more sake and promote the sake industry. There are three stories as to why they chose October 1st as the day to celebrate sake.  The first one is that the process of brewing sake starts in October, right after the rice harvest.

The second reason relates to the brewing season, but it is more directly connected to taxation rules. For about 60 years between 1896 and 1964, the Japanese brewery year started October 1st and ended September 30th of the following year. This brewery year was established by the National Tax Agency in order to determine the amount of sake produced so they could estimate taxable income. Neither calendar year nor the fiscal year were convenient for the agency because the brewing time overlapped two calendar years. In 1965, they modified the brewery year period for the convenience of allocating the amount of rice for sake brewing. The current brewery year starts on July 1st and ends June 30th of the next year, and this rule was applied not only to sake producers but also those of shochu, mirin and fruit liquor.

The third reason comes from the kanji (Chinese character) for sake. It consists of two parts; the left is “sanzui” representing water and the right is “tori” meaning liquor pot. The tori character also symbolizes rooster, which is 10th out of the twelve Japanese zodiac signs and thought to represent October.

On Nihonshu no Hi, many sake related events are held nationwide such as tastings, sales promotion, releasing of new flavors and sake festivals.  Naturally, from consumers’ points of view, October 1st is a day when they can access many varieties of sake more easily and at reasonable prices.

*Nihonshu is a generic term referring to native Japanese liquors as opposed to ones originating from Western cultures, such as whisky, beer and vodka.
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