What is Spot prawn?

One type of shrimp that is used for nigiri sushi when still raw is Botan ebi. Needless to say, it is an extremely new addition to the Edomae sushi topping list. Interestingly, there are two types of domestic shrimp that are called Botan ebi in the Toyosu Market.

One is called by its Japanese name, Toyama ebi, with a length of 25 cm, lives in the sea at depths of 100 to 400 m, and is normally caught in Funka Bay of Hokkaido on the Japan Sea side. It actually isn’t caught in Toyama very often despite being called Toyama ebi. At the cheapest it still costs US $20 per kilogram, and in rare cases can exceed $200 per kilogram. In the Toyosu Market, it is called “Torabotan” because of the tiger stripes on the shell (“Tora” is Japanese for tiger).

The other Botan ebi is the Humpback shrimp, which is found on the Pacific Ocean side at depths of 300 m or more and has a length of 20 cm. The main production sites are Suruga Bay, Chiba prefecture and Kagoshima prefecture. The catch is so unstable, and at one point it was almost non-existent, making this shrimp so rare that the Toyosu Market brokers have nearly forgotten about it. The price is even higher than Toyama ebi. In Toyosu, it is called “Honbotan”.

All Botan ebi look beautiful, have a pleasant texture and a mellow sweetness that goes perfectly with shari. Even at high-end sushi restaurants, there is no distinction between the two, and they are both served as Botan ebi.

Considering this, being served substitutes for Botan ebi is unavoidable. About 800 tons of the Spot prawn, found in the northern Pacific Ocean, is imported to Japan from the U.S. and Canada annually. The Spot prawn is a close relative of domestic Botan ebi and they can only be told apart by examining the head closely. It is sometimes called Ama ebi or Botan ebi in the U.S. and Canada. Furthermore, one does not taste better than the other. Especially when eaten raw, the sweetness is intense. The peak season is from April to October, and during this time it is imported live, fresh and frozen.

In the Toyosu Market, it is called Spot ebi and separated from Botan ebi, but is used as Botan ebi in various restaurants and inns. The price is a little lower than the domestically produced but is definitely still an expensive shrimp.


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Revision date: June 17, 2021

What is Rendaku?

In Japanese, when a compound word is made out of two individual words, and the first consonant of the second word changes from a “clear sound” to a “fuzzy sound”, it is called “Rendaku”. For example, Edomae (江戸前) + sushi (寿司) changes to Edomaezushi (江戸前寿司). However, the correct pronunciation is only generalized among Japanese people, so in this book we chose the most commonly searched version of each compound word.

Examples of Rendaku:

Nigiri (握り) + sushi (寿司)→Nigirizushi (握り寿司)

Inari (稲荷) + sushi (寿司)→Inarizushi (稲荷寿司)

Masu (鱒) + sushi (寿司)→Masuzushi (鱒寿司)

Kaiten (回転) + sushi (寿司)→Kaitenzushi (回転寿司)

Kuro (黒) + tai (鯛)→Kurodai (黒鯛)

Ma (真) + tako (蛸)→Madako (真蛸)

Aka (赤) + kai (貝)→Akagai (赤貝)

Tori (鳥) + kai (貝)→Torigai (鳥貝)

Shiromi (白身) + sakana (魚)→Shiromizakana (白身魚)


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Revision date: June 9, 2021

What is shirakawa?

Out of the five types of Amadai that live in Japan, Aka-amadai, Shiro-amadai and Ki-amadai are the three types offered in the markets. The main characteristics of Aka-amadai are its overall red body, the bright yellow color under the eyes and how part of its fin is a shiny cobalt blue color. Aka-amadai is called “Guji” in the Kansai region and is a vital part of Kyoto cuisine. Ki-amadai has the same silhouette and size as Aka-amadai, but the Ki-amadai has more yellow color in its face and tail fin. They tend to prefer sandy seafloors at depths of 30 to 300 m and live deeper than any other type of Amadai. True to its name, Shiro-amadai is a white color (Shiro means ‘white’) so is also called Shirakawa (which means ‘white skin’).

Shirakawa is considered to be the finest of the Amadai and can cost more than US $100 per kilogram. Aka-amadai costs around US $40 per kilogram. Shirakawa always ranks in the top three fish for market price. Shirakawa has more elasticity than the other two and has rich fat, making it perfect as sashimi or a sushi topping. The umami is so strong that even when served raw, the customer sometimes thinks it’s been prepared using kobujime. The fat between the meat and the skin is sweet and the skin is delicious in its own right, so it can even be eaten as sashimi with the skin left on. The famous production sites include Tsushima in Nagasaki Prefecture and Yawatahama in Ehime Prefecture. They are in season from autumn to winter. However, they say in a catch of 1,000 Amadai, you can only get one Shirakawa, so it is a rare item you won’t often see, even in a high-end sushi restaurant.


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Revision date: May 17, 2021

What is Shiojime?

When preparing fish, it is sprinkled with salt 30 minutes to one hour before cooking. Sushi chefs also salt fish for almost the same purpose. This is called Shiojime. Shiojime brings out excess moisture and fish odor from the fish. At the same time, the proteins that make up the fish’s muscles dissolve, giving it tenacity. The result is that the fish meat gets resiliency. Another objective is to eliminate the bacteria on the surface of the fish. In sushi preparations, Shiojime is often followed by Sujime. The amount of vinegar that permeates the fish depends on the circumstances of Shiojime, so it is an extremely delicate task.


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Revision date: May 14, 2021

What is Karami?

Sashimi essentials such as wasabi, ginger, karami-daikon, etc., are collectively called “Karami”. Originally Karami was a type of Tsuma. From the mid to late Edo period, Karashi (mustard) was mainly used for karami in sashimi. Eventually, due to the influence of Edomae sushi, wasabi became the norm. For sashimi such as bonito and sardines, wasabi isn’t enough to offset the peculiar aroma. In some cases, it is better to use ginger, which works on the root components of the odor. These types of fish have the best flavor once spring has passed, and interestingly enough, wasabi is least prevalent in summertime, while ginger is in peak season. Mother nature seems to know what she’s doing.


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Revision date: April 5, 2021

What is Mazuma wasabi?

So, what is the true meaning of the shocking phrase, “Once you try tuna or flounder with this wasabi, you’ll never be able to eat it without wasabi again”?

Wasabi is assessed by five points: its coloring, fragrance, stickiness, spiciness and sweetness. So does that mean this wasabi gets the highest marks for all these categories? In other words, when wasabi is grated, it’s a bright green color. The fragrance is fresh. It has a strong stickiness. The spiciness has a punch. After some time, it has a delicate sweetness.

The glorious thing about wasabi is that the vivid spiciness that goes through to the tip of your nose never lingers on your tongue or in your mouth. This lack of aftertaste is the biggest feature of wasabi’s delicious taste. The tastes of sashimi and sushi are subtle and delicate. Each cut of fish and each piece of sushi has its own unique and enjoyable flavor. If the wasabi were to linger on your tongue or in your mouth, it would get in the way of the next, new taste.

Furthermore, the potency of this spiciness is not what makes wasabi taste good. Good wasabi is spicy, but it also has a premium sweetness and refreshing fragrance at the same time. This is the true delicious taste of wasabi and it is a specific characteristic. Therefore, it is a superb spice for making good fish even more delicious.

Wasabi is native to the Japanese Islands and Sakhalin, Russia, is a perennial plant that belongs to the Brassicaceae family and is bred both by dividing roots for replanting and from seeds. The potato-shaped part that is normally grated and consumed, is part of the wasabi’s stem and called rhizome, just as potatoes have subterranean stems. Wasabi is broadly divided into red stem, which has a high anthocyanin content in the stems and blue stem, which has a low anthocyanin content. Mazuma (red stem), daruma (blue stem) and Shimane No. 3 (blue stem) are the three major types and it is known that most varieties that are currently cultivated were improved breeding from these. During the Edo period, daruma wasabi that was cultivated in Shizuoka was the most common, but then mazuma was introduced and became widespread, perhaps from degradation due to about 40 years of cultivation. Currently, mazuma seed cultivation only makes up about 30% of the total wasabi, even in Shizuoka, because the cultivation period of mazuma is longer than the seedling type and suitable places for planting have decreased, among other reasons.

The external appearance of mazuma is a dark green color and since there is purple on the base of the leaf, they are easy to distinguish by appearance alone. Since mazuma seeds mostly don’t fruit, the seedlings are cultivated by dividing the roots. It is difficult to ensure high quantity by dividing roots. Furthermore, it takes time to grow, so there is inevitably a rarity value.

The protrusions that occur with the growth of the surface are small and grow very close together, arranged in a spiral shape. This is the best wasabi of which the spiciness includes sufficient sweetness and that has a refreshing fragrance. On the market, it goes for US $50 to $200 per kilogram. Of course, it depends on the size, but one plant goes for about US $20. Wasabi is mainly produced on the Izu peninsula right now, but Yugashima, Amagi and Gotemba are known for mazuma. However, mazuma is actually native to Wakayama prefecture. It started in the Kawamata area of Inami Town in Wakayama, formerly known as Mazuma Village.


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Revision date: March 10, 2021

What is the trick to super cheap Ikura at conveyor belt sushi restaurants?

Immature salmon eggs still wrapped in ovarian membrane and salted are called sujiko. Ikura is salmon roe in which each mature egg is separated from the ovarian membrane before laying the eggs and then salted or marinated in soy sauce. The ikura of Chum salmon going upstream in the Kushiro River and Tokachi River in Hokkaido From October to December are considered to be premium ikura.

For cheap ikura, roe broken up inside the ovarian membrane in a fish that is approaching spawning time called “barako” is used. When the ovarian membrane of barako is torn, the eggs will fall out and scatter, so while they don’t take much work to prepare for serving, they also don’t taste particularly good. Even cats turn up their noses at barako, so they are also called “neko-matagi”, which literally means “the cat walks over it” and is used to refer to unpalatable fish. However, each egg is large and they look very appealing, so they are used at higher-end conveyor belt sushi. Unlike the 100-yen (US $1) restaurants, these higher-end restaurants don’t use disguised fish or substitute fish. This is because their basic business strategy is to differentiate themselves by attracting customers with authentic toppings. Generally they market the high quality of their toppings, but the ikura is actually this cheap “neko-matagi”.

Beneath this strategy of attracting customers with authentic toppings is this “Deceptive business strategy”. Salmon also swims upstream in the rivers of Tohoku and Hokuriku. However, the taste of ikura tastes inferior to that in Hokkaido. This ikura is also served at the higher end restaurants. That’s because although it doesn’t taste as good, it’s orthodox ikura. In case of orthodox ikura, the roe is used within one hour of the catch. But, if time passes and the freshness drops, the eggs will dry out and the surfaces will dimple, wrinkling. This is the type of ikura that is cheaper and often served at the cheap conveyor belt sushi restaurants.

The most commonly used roe in conveyor belt sushi restaurants is ikura from cheap Alaskan or Russian Chum salmon. An even cheaper type is masuko. Besides the masu roe, raw materials included soy sauce, salt, fermented seasoning, amino acids, reduced sugar syrup, enzymes, fish sauce, and fish and shellfish extract. For homemade versions, only soy sauce, mirin (sweet cooking sake) and sake are used.


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Revision date: March 9, 2021

What is Salmon caviar?

In Japan, salmon roe that has been separated from the ovarian membrane and then salted is called ikura. At sushi restaurants, this is also marinated in broth that includes soy sauce, mirin and sake. This is called ikura marinated in soy sauce, or simply ikura. Worldwide, caviar is considered to be of more value than ikura. Therefore, in an attempt to improve the impression of soy sauce-marinated ikura, it is sometimes called ‘salmon caviar’. This is behavior especially seen among manufacturers selling soy sauce-marinated ikura.


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Revision date: March 9, 2021

What is Red caviar?

Not to belabor the point, but the following is dependent on the following. In Japanese salmon is referred to as “鮭” (sake/salmon) or “鱒” (masu/trout). The characters look different, but they are part of the same family and there aren’t clear biological categories to separate them into. Incidentally, in English the type that makes their way into the sea are called “salmon,” and those that remain in freshwater their entire lives are known as, “trout.” They are all considered to be part of the salmon family. Now, foreigners who know about Japan may imagine Japanese sake (the alcoholic beverage) when they hear the word “sake” so we spell sake/salmon as “shake”, which is close to the sound pronounced by Japanese people.

First of all, shake is mainly Chum salmon, caught in the seas near Japan. Masu caught in the seas near Japan are mostly Pink salmon (Humpback salmon) and Sakura masu. Masu caught in rivers and lakes are generally Char or Rainbow trout.

Now we finally get to the topic of this article, shake roe that has been removed from the ovarian membrane then salted or marinated in soy sauce is called ikura while masu roe is called masuko and they are clearly distinguished. This is because masuko can be bought at just 20-40% of the cost of ikura. However, the difference is really that each egg is smaller than that of ikura and in general people can’t taste a difference.

Over the past 10 years or so, the masuko made from the roe of Rainbow trout farmed in France and the masu farmed in Japan have been called ‘red caviar’ by manufacturers. Of course black caviar made from the roe of sturgeon and tobiko made from the roe of flying fish are distinctive. Certainly there is no problem in calling fish roe caviar according to the Product Labeling laws, but it’s extremely clear that they are only trying to get a higher price out of it.


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Revision date: March 9, 2021

What is ken?

Ken is considered to be better the longer and thinner it is, but this is a mistake. Not only is Ken tangled and difficult to eat, but it also doesn’t give any sense of the flavor of the materials. It’s long been said that 10 cm is a reasonable length and this is also the length that looks the most refined.

Many people believe that the thinly cut daikon radish strips that accompany sushi are tsuma. That is not tsuma. It’s called ken. Besides daikon radish, udo, pumpkin, cucumber, carrots and turnips are also used. It is cut into thin strands and stood up next to sashimi like a sword (which is called “ken” in Japanese). However, when the sashimi is laid on top of it, it is called shikitsuma. While it is a bit confusing, in that case it is a type of tsuma. Since the Meiji era, combos of many different types of sushi have become popular, and with it larger dishes have become necessary. Therefore, there has also been a tendency to make it more showy. It’s only natural that the types of tsuma increase to place focus on the highly valued seafood, but if there is too much ken, it will take over the space meant for the sashimi.


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Revision date: March 8, 2021

 

What is Tsuma?

There are a few types of Tsuma. One is Shikitsuma (pronounced ‘shikizuma’ in Japanese) which consists of things like green shiso and cucumber leaves that sashimi is laid on. Another is Metsuma (pronounced ‘mezuma’ in Japanese) which is made from aome and murame. The final is Tatetsuma (pronounced ‘tatezuma’ in Japanese) used to prop sashimi up like hanahojiso and hanamaru kyuri. All Tsuma is served to bring out the charm of sashimi.

One point of note is that the most commonly used shikitsuma, green shiso, is occasionally used to obstruct fragrances that are too strong for white fish and shellfish like flatfish and flounder. Furthermore, it’s a rule that shikitsuma, which is a leaf, is not used on plates shaped like a leaf, but what is served and how it is arranged is ultimately up to the chef.

Image of Metsuma

Image of Hanahojiso


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Revision date: March 8, 2021

What is Toro salmon?

You probably already know this, but “toro tuna” is not the name of a type of fish. “Toro” is the name of a fatty part of the tuna. The fat content and attributes of the belly side of the tuna are completely different from that of the dorsal side. Toro is the name of the part near the head, mostly on the belly side.

In the same way, there is no fish called “toro salmon”. Just like tuna, “toro” refers to the fatty part on the belly side of the salmon. It is also called “harasu” in Japanese. This is how the word is used at some scrupulous sushi restaurants. This description of “toro salmon” is correct.

Most salmon used at conveyor belt sushi restaurants is either trout salmon or Atlantic salmon. The reason this salmon can be served at the cheap price of US $1 or $2 per plate (2 pieces of sushi) is that these particular fish are all farmed and are available in bulk quantities from overseas. This salmon is mainly imported to Japan from Norway, Chile, Scotland and Canada.

Actually, the popular “toro salmon” topping is made from these imported items and the fat content is three times that of wild salmon. Feeding farmed salmon plenty of solid compounded feed that is high in protein and high in fat, turns the entire body to toro.

Salmon, which are born in freshwater and migrate downstream to the sea are called “sea-run fish” and they may be farmed in either seawater or freshwater. Trout salmon is “former” rainbow trout that was raised in a fish cage in the sea. In the wild, the sea-run rainbow trout grows up to 1 m in length, its body turns silver and the meat takes on a red color. The wild version of these are called “steelhead” and fetch a high market price, so they are not used in conveyor belt sushi restaurants.

Just like other aquaculture, salmon farming faces some difficult issues. It may surprise you that salmon is actually a white fish, originally. In the wild, the salmon meat gets a red color from feeding on crustaceans such as crab and shrimp that contain the red pigment astaxanthin. However, in the fish cages where the salmon are surrounded by nets, the food chain is also restricted. The compound feed would be plenty if the goal was only to raise bigger fish, but that results in a grey color or light yellow meat that doesn’t even resemble the salmon pink (orange?) that everyone wants and they don’t sell.

Therefore, when making the solid compounded feed, artificial coloring is mixed in. One of the colorings is called canthaxanthin. This is a synthetic chemical derived from petroleum. There is a color chart with 10 different, detailed levels of red coloring and buyers can even indicate which color they would like and the farmers can achieve it. It’s kind of like an industrial product that is being manufactured. Japanese people prefer a dark red color for salmon in the same way they do for tuna, so the coloring for Japan’s market is adapted to that.

When light is shone on wild salmon, the red coloring looks faded, but the light makes farmed salmon that have been fed coloring, look brighter. Artificial coloring is a necessity in farmed salmon and this is true for the trout salmon and Atlantic salmon that are used as the ingredients for toro salmon as well. All of the farmed salmon in circulation have been colored in this way, so much so that it wouldn’t be surprising if the insides of their stomachs were stained red. The flamingos at zoos also get their beautiful pink feathers from these chemicals.

Trout salmon is rainbow trout that has been farmed in the sea. On the other hand, rainbow trout farmed in freshwater is called Donaldson trout. Of all the large rainbow trout gathered at each location, those with small heads and fat bodies were selected and bred over many years to create this type. The objective of choosing a small head is to make more meat. They are characterized by their fast growth and while normal, farmed rainbow trout grow to about 30 to 40 cm, Donaldson trout grow up to nearly 1 m. The name is taken from the American who developed this variant.

The Donaldson trout is farmed throughout Japan and is used as toro salmon and aburi salmon at conveyor belt sushi restaurants. Since they are supplied directly to the processor (of the salmon) from the farmer without going through the market, they may be sold cheaper than the import price. Just like the imported salmon, this farmed salmon is also fed artificial coloring. There are also already new variants improved from the Donaldson trout being bred. Trout made from breeding Donaldson trout females and steelhead males are called Donaldson steelhead, for instance. They grow even faster.

Ample use of the latest biotechnology has been made in salmon farming and some of these technologies include creating young fish without functioning reproductive organs, “triploids” which means increasing the size of the fish up to triple and “all female populations” where males are converted into females. The triploid fish grow large in correlation to the lack of energy exertion. The objective of all-female populations is to get more masuko (ovaries). Masuko is used for the ikura (salmon roe) at conveyor belt sushi, and since the fish that the roe is harvested from have an inferior flavor, they are used for aburi salmon. Now, there are even triploid, all-female farm populations. No wonder the restaurants can serve a plate (2 pieces) of salmon sushi for US $1.

The simple phrase, “toro salmon” contains so much meaning.


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Revision date: March 8, 2021

Why is salmon so delicious?

When you put food in your mouth, the components that are dissolved by your saliva are called extract components. Extract components include mainly free amino acid and inosinic acid as well as organic-based components such as adenosine triphosphate-related substances, creatine and trimethylamine oxide. Extract components are important components that make up the flavor of foods.

When we looked up the extract component composition of the muscle of chum salmon, sockeye salmon, coho salmon and king salmon, which are all types of salmon, the component composition of chum salmon, sockeye salmon, coho salmon and king salmon are all similar.

The taste of fish is much lighter in comparison to the muscle meat of shrimp, crab and squid types of seafood. By combining extract components, shrimp, crab and squid flavors can be reproduced, but the relationship between the flavor extract components and fat in fish meat plays an important role in taste. The fat of fish gives it a rich flavor, illustrated by the fact that compared to the back meat of fish, the taste of the belly meat, which is abundant in fat to protect the organs, has a richer flavor.

The difference between the muscle of salmon and tuna is that salmon tends to have a lower inosinic acid content. Although not unique to salmon, the delicious taste of fish meat is related to the amount of inosinic acid and the amount of fat. Umami is mainly made up of inosinic acid is strongly related to fat and in case of inosinic acid content is high, it doesn’t feel “fatty” even with high-fat content. Instead, the fat makes it more pleasant and delicious.

On the other hand, when the inosinic acid content is low, a high-fat content doesn’t really translate into a pleasant taste. In the case of farmed fish, where high importance is attached to the weight of the fish when it is shipped, even if the fat content is high, if the inosinic acid level is low, then the fatty aspect does not translate into deliciousness, which is likely what leads to the opinion that the flavor of farmed fish is inferior to wild fish.

In the case of salmon variations, the inosinic acid content is low compared to tuna variations, and generally, the optimal amount of fat for delicious salmon is 4 to 6%. With tuna, the general idea is, the more fat, the more delicious, but this is not true for the taste of salmon.

Fat on animals that live above ground hardens when refrigerated. This creates an unpleasant waxy texture when eaten. However, as fish live in the frigid ocean waters, their fat doesn’t harden, even when stored at about -18℃. The most appealing aspect of salmon is thought to be that it goes well with shari (vinegared rice). The meat is soft and the fat has a low melting point, so it blends easily with shari and emits a sweetness when you bite. This is a sensation you won’t find with much other fish.


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Revision date: February 9, 2021

Nutritional and Functional components of unagi

According to Japan’s Fisheries Agency, based on their consumer’s behavior survey, Unagi (Eel) always ranks number one under, “Fish Japanese people want to eat.” The highest consumption of unagi throughout the year is in the hot summer months. Since long ago, Japanese people have been captivated by unagi as a food with high nutritional value and have loved it as a measure against heat fatigue. Here We would like to explain the nutritional and functional characteristics of unagi.

Unagi distributed domestically in Japan used to include European eel, but currently, it is mostly Japanese eel. In Japan, the overwhelmingly most popular way to eat unagi is “kabayaki”. Kabayaki mainly refers to a grilled fish cuisine in which unagi or anago (conger eel) is prepared by slicing open along the spine and removing the bones and guts, then skewering it, and grilling without any seasoning, steaming it (Some area, unagi is just grilled longer without steaming. This results in the unagi a little crispier and chewier) after that, and finally dipping it in a sauce made from a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, sugar, sake, etc.

The interesting thing is that the level of free amino acids, deeply related to flavor, is relatively low compared to other seafood. The fatty acid composition and volume don’t change even from heating and it also doesn’t significantly alter the free amino acids, so the flavor of unagi itself is light compared to the flavor of other kinds of seafood. Therefore, this is a big factor in Japanese people thinking of kabayaki sauce when they imagine the unagi flavor.

When the general components of unagi are compared with other fish (flounder, horse mackerel, sardines and bonito) and when they are compared with livestock (cattle, swine, chickens), unagi has the highest caloric content of 255 kcal per 100 g fortis edible parts and it also has the highest fat content (19.3 g per 100 g). Furthermore, it has significantly less fiber than beef or pork, so it is easier to digest. Collagen is present in all vertebrates, but the content is particularly high for eel. Of the minerals contained in the muscles, there is 130 mg calcium for every 100 g, which is much higher than other foods, even higher than milk. There are also abundant amounts of vitamins A, E and B in the meat. 50 g of kabayaki contains more than the recommended daily intake of vitamin A for an adult male and prevents oxidation of the fat, along with vitamin E. Especially high amounts of vitamin B1 are found in all seafood, and vitamin B2 and pantothenic acid contents are also relatively high. Meanwhile, the unagi is also known for having extremely high levels of vitamin A and folic acid in the internal organs.


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Revision date: February 9, 2021

Learn the basics of pairing sake with sushi!

First, let’s roughly categorize sake. The two main indicators that determine category are aroma and intensity. Is the aroma fragrant or mild? Is the taste mellow or sharp? This creates 4 categories, fruity (aromatic with a mellow flavor), light (mild aroma with a mellow flavor), umakuchi (mild aroma with a strong flavor) and matured (aromatic with a strong flavor).

Next, we will introduce the characteristics of each of the four categories, and the basic sushi toppings that pair well with each one.

When a fruity sake is poured into a glass, and when you take a drink, there is a sweet aroma that is almost fruity. The taste is juicy and elegant. We recommend pairing it at the beginning of a meal. However, the aroma may be overpowered by seafood, so it’s quite difficult to pair it with sushi. However, don’t be too concerned with the general theories, and instead, feel free to discover your own original pairings. We think fruity sake can be paired with robust-flavored fatty toppings such as fatty tuna and Splendid alfonsino, or rich flavored toppings such as sea urchin and conger eel.

e.g. Dassai Migaki Niwarisanbu

Light-flavored sake goes down easy and has a clean aftertaste. It is a refreshing taste. The aroma is very mild and it doesn’t linger. This type of sake goes with a wide variety of foods, and it is the best sake to drink while eating a meal of sushi. It goes especially well with delicate flavors like cuttlefish and octopus and it goes with toppings that have enjoyable aromas such as shellfish.

e.g. Hitakami Yasuke

Umakuchi sake has a subtle aroma, the innate sweetness of the rice, and a strong umami flavor. It is also characterized by the wide range of temperature at which it can be served, from room temperature to the very hot “tobikiri-kan” (55℃ or higher). The aftertaste lingers a bit, and you won’t tire of it even when drinking for a long time as part of your meal. This type of sake goes well with fatty Horse mackeral (Aji) or Japanese sardine (Iwashi). It also goes well with toppings known for umami flavors such as Japanese amberjack (Buri), oyster and salmon roe.

e.g. Shinkame Junmaishu

The moment matured sake is poured into a glass, it gives off a condensed aroma reminiscent of dried fruits. As the amino acids and sugars have changed over several years, it has an interwoven complex flavor and aroma. The aftertaste lingers and it is characterized by its smooth texture on the tongue. This sort of sake goes well with potent and fermented crucian sushi.

e.g. Daruma Masamune Koshu

Overall, the most important thing is that neither the sushi nor sake overpowers the other, and that the flavors and aromas harmonize in your mouth, without fighting each other. For example, sushi with a clear, rich flavor and a high umami content should be paired with a full-bodied sake, and subtle delicate-tasting sushi should be combined with a smooth and refreshing sake. That’s the basics.

Main Types of Sake

Generally Japanese sake is made from rice and water, but it can be divided into two major categories depending on whether extra alcohol is added or not. Sake without added alcohol is called Junmaishu (純米酒). When alcohol is added, it’s called Honzojoshu (本醸造酒) or Futsushu (normal sake).

Ginjoshu (吟醸酒) and Daiginjoshu (大吟醸酒) sakes are extremely rare as they were originally made as entrants in competitive exhibitions. A lot of careful work goes into the production from the selection of the rice used, high-precision milling, making of yeast and yeast mash, all the way to the final preparations.  If the milling percentage is 60% or less then it is ginjoshu. At 50% or less, it is Daiginjoshu and you can find variations of both Honjozoshu (sake without added saccharides and 120 liters or less seed alcohol per ton) and Junmaishu (sake without added alcohol or sugar). The Honjozoshu variations are just called Ginjo or Daiginjo sake, but the Junmaishu versions are called Junmai Ginjo and Junmai Daiginjo sakes.

Alcohol is added to Honjozoshu before the pressing process in order to bring out the fragrance and attain a pleasant balance. The additive amount is always the same and remains within 10% of the weight of the raw rice used. The milling is also kept to 70% or lower. While it is more fragrant than Junmaishu, the flavor is clean and refreshing, making it pleasant to drink.

Futsushu (ordinary sake) is sake that uses rice with a milling percentage of 70% or more, with distilled alcohol that uses 10% or more white rice, or non-distilled alcohol added as a raw ingredient.

Sake Glossary

On the label of sake, various characteristics are printed – how to brew, press, heat, stock and so on. It is sure that you can be more delighted to taste sake after knowing them.

Sake-brewing rice (酒米):It means rice cultivars suitable for sake making.

Rice polishing ratio (精米歩合) :It is the weight percentage of white rice to brown rice.

Sake meter value (日本酒度):It is used as a general indicator of dry- and sweetness in sake. However, sweet and dry are sensory perceptions, where SMV is simply a reflection of specific gravity, so the two do not always appear to correlate. The sugar glucose is sweet, but, the more other sugars influence the SMV, the less sweetness will be apparent. Further, the sense of sweet or dry is affected by the level of acidity. The higher the acidity, the drier the sake will taste. Sake with low acidity tends to taste sweeter.

The average Sake meter value range is from 0 -+5. Sake sweeter than the zero mark (that is to say in the minus range) is considered ama-kuchi ; that which reads more than +5 may be said to be kara-kuchi. According to the Tax Agency’s market survey of sake products in 2012, the average values for various types of sake were: futsu-shu +3.7; ginjo-shu +4.3; junmai-shu +4.

Acidity (酸度):Those organic compounds which register as acidic are called organic acids, and these comprise almost all the acids found in seishu. 73% of sake acids are produced by yeast during the main fermentation, with about 17% coming from shubo, and the remaining 10% from steamed rice and koji.

Organic acids are important components of sake taste, giving acidity (sourness) and umami, with volatile acids also contributing to the aroma. In order of volume, there is most succinic acid, followed by malic acid, lactic acid, citric acid and acetic acid. In moromi, succinic acid is produced in the greatest amounts, followed by malic acid, then lactic acid. At the yeast starter stage, most lactic acid is produced, followed by acetic acid and succinic acid.

According to Tax Office statistics for 2012, the respective levels for futsu-shu, ginjo-shu and junmai-shu were 1.18, 1.32 and 1.50.

Amino acid content (アミノ酸度):The amino acids in seishu exist in the form of salts, and (together with lower peptides) displaying slight sweetness, umami, acidity and bitterness, are constituents of sake flavor. Where amino acid levels are too high, the sake is hard to drink with high levels of zatsu-mi off-flavor. When amino acid levels are low, the sake will be thinner and kirei (“clean”). Primary examples of amino acids include glutamic acid, glycine, alanine, valine, arginine and so on. Monosodium glutamate is sometimes used as an auxiliary material.

The average range of amino acids in sake is from 1.0 – 2.0. Light examples with a value of less than 1.0 can be said to be tanrei (light) sake, low in amino acids. Sake with high levels of amino acids at more than 2.0 will be full-flavored sake, often described with the adjective (noujun; tanrei and noujun may be considered opposites).

According to Tax Office statistics for 2012, the respective amino-acid levels for “regular” sake (futsu-shu), ginjo-shu and junmai-shu were 1.25, 1.30, and 1.54.

Kimotozukuri (生酛造り)

The first process of brewing sake is a pure culture of yeast to sake seed mash. Kimotozukuri is a traditional method of using lactic acid bacteria in this step. Sake made by this method is characteristic of the strong taste.

Yamahai-shikomi (山廃仕込み)

In the kimotozukuri method, the process of mixing rice and koji into a puree is cake Ymaorosi. In the meiji period, it turned out that it can also be done by a function of enzyme and yamaorosi process was abolished (haishi). This new method was called Yamahai.

Muroka-Namagenshu (無濾過生原酒)

As these sakes are not filtered and heated, you can enjoy their rich flavor. They have high alcohol content because not added water.

Nigorizake (にごり酒)

This sake is cloudy sake just made by filtering with a coarse cloth. One which is not pasteurized is called Kassei-nigorizake.

Namachozo-shu (生貯蔵酒)

Namachozo-shu is stored raw and pasteurized once when bottling.

Namazume-shu (生詰酒)

Namazume-shu is stored after pasteurized once and then bottled raw.

Nama-shu (生酒)

Nama-shu is stored raw and then bottled raw.

Hiire (火入れ)

Hiire is stored after pasteurized and pasteurized when bottling.

Fukuro-sibori (袋搾り)

The press method for premium sake like Daiginjo. To put the fermentation mash into a sake bag and drip with no pressure.

Hiyaoroshi (冷おろし)

New sake completed in early spring becomes aged well and the wildness of its taste is removed after stored during the summer. It is shipment in autumn.

Shiboritate (しぼりたて)

Sake shipped immediately after pressing in a sake brewery. It has a fresh taste.


We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: February 4, 2021