About Sake Brewing Songs

‘Sakezukuri Uta’ (sake brewing songs) are songs that sake brewers used to sing while conducting tasks during brewing. They used these songs to synchronize their movement and also to keep their spirits high. The tradition of singing sake brewing songs eventually faded away due to the introduction of machines during the period of economic growth in Japan.

The sake brewing songs exhibited here are recorded by Ms. Yoshie Sakata, who was concerned about the extinction of these songs. From 1996 to 1999, Ms. Sakata visited brew masters associations all over Japan to record local sake brewing songs and published them in her book ‘The Standard Text of Japanese Sake Brewing Songs’.

Along with the exhibition, we would like to introduce the words of Kazuhide Kuriyama, a former honorary director of Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum, from Ms. Sakata’s book.

“While developing the sake brewing techniques with their experienced skills and intuition, brewers naturally created sake brewing songs to encourage and keep their spirits high during the tiring, cold, and hard labor process of making sake. Sake brewing songs also naturally helped in other aspects such as creating a flowing rhythm, synchronizing the movements of workers, time-keeping, and counting numbers throughout the sake brewing process. These songs were orally passed down from generation to generation together with the sake brewing techniques.”

“Many sake brewing songs are believed to have originated from work songs from local industries that brewers worked in in their hometowns during off season. For example, some parts of the ‘Motosuri Uta (Starter Mash Grinding Song)’ are from the agricultural song ‘Momisuri Uta (Rice-hulling Song)’, and some other songs originate from forestry ‘Kobiki Uta (Wood-milling Song)’ and fishing ‘Rokogi Uta (Paddling Song)’. Also, some of the ‘Taue Uta (Rice-planting Songs)’, which are said to be the original song of local sake-making songs in Japan, are based on ‘Ta no Kusatori Uta (Weeding in Rice Field Song)’. There are even songs that carry the melody of ‘Muromachi Komachi’’ back from the Middle Ages”.

“(♪Oh joyous, joyous young pine, branches and leaves growing thickly)”

“The lyrics above for example can be often found in songs from various breweries, yet none of them are exactly identical. Spreading from brewery to brewery, the song has changed its details according to the culture of the land.”

“As sake brewing technology developed, the processes that once depending heavily on sake brewing songs were eventually automated. The chances to sing sake brewing songs naturally diminished.”

“With Ms. Yoshie Sakata’s extraordinary effort, however, ‘sake brewing songs’ of local breweries, which have a value of intangible cultural assets, have been collected and made into a CD. It is a blessing to know that the melodies and the lyrics are finally on record and will remain as a book.”

“I sincerely hope this book will long be used as a valuable material and help spread the sake-making culture of Japan and pass on the traditional techniques to posterity.”

Reference: Commentary by Kazuhide Kuriyama on Sake Brewing Songs published in Yoshie Sakata’s ‘Standard Text of Japanese Sake Brewing Songs’

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