Japanese History – Part 4, 1185AD to 1333

Japanese History – Part 4, 1185AD to 1333

Between 1192 to 1333 – Kamakura Period

Minamoto no Yoritomo, having become shogun and ruling from Kamakura, began a period of shogunate rule that lasted until the Meiji Restoration in the second half of the 19th century. Despite this great achievement Yoritomo ruled only until 1199 when he died suddenly. His son, Minamoto no Yoriie, who was 17 when he died, became the shogun at age in 1202 but was not as strong as Yoritomo. Soon thereafter and all the way to the end of the Kamakura period Yoritomo’s wife’s family, the Hojo, took control through the office of shikken (執権) a special regent for the Shogun. Their power was greater than the shogun himself throughout the period.

Tairano Kiyomori (the head of the Taira clan at the end of the Heian period) having introduce money started a shift to a land based economy having military rule with a hierarchy of fiefdoms. The shift solidified with separate groups in the north and the west that were not willing to follow the shogun. However, within the central region commerce flourished and the Sake brewed at the Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines became widely available. Continue reading “Japanese History – Part 4, 1185AD to 1333”

Japanese History – Part 3, 794AD to 1185

Japanese History – Part 3, 794AD to 1185

Between 794 to 1185 – Heian Period

Emperor Kammu, the 50th Emperor of Japan, moved the seat of government in 794 to Heian (Kyoto); this successfully secured its strength and lessened the leverage the Buddhist monasteries held over the government. But, while this limited one of the players in the power struggle to control Japan it did nothing to weaken the Fujiwara’s power. As a result the Fujiwara clan, which came to power during the Nara period when Emperor Tenji gave the clan their surname, now became the primary force of power during most of the Heian period through the office of Regent. Continue reading “Japanese History – Part 3, 794AD to 1185”

Japanese History – Part 2, 710AD to 794

Japanese History – Part 2, 710AD to 794

Between 710 to 794 – Nara Period

In 710AD Heijo (now Nara) became the first permanent capital city of Japan as prescribed by Empress Gemmei. It was built in the image of the Tang Dynasty’s capital.  Up until this point the capital moved with almost each new leader.

Now, 1300 years later, Nara is holding a yearlong celebration with the Heijo Palace being the center of focus of the celebration. While the palace site had been completely lost to rice fields, research, since the 1950s, has been illuminating the original palace site. Continue reading “Japanese History – Part 2, 710AD to 794”

Japanese History – Part 1, pre-history to 710AD

Japanese History from pre-history to 710AD is covered.

Very often when I am looking for information on sake and sake brewing I run into references and comments about the period in which the particular aspect was developed or used. Having little knowledge of Japanese history the references are little help without much more digging into them. For this reason, I have decided to gather what seems to me to be some of the important background and narrative of Japan’s long history and, of course, where the history of sake lies.

For this, I will use the recognized periods of Japan’s history as a scaffolding for meaningful and or interesting aspects of the history of sake and how sake was an intrigle part of Japan’s own history.

Up to 300BC – Jomon Period

During the Jomon period, Japanese islanders where gatherers, hunters and fishers. Two types of alcoholic beverages stretch back to this period, kuchikami no sake (“mouth-chewed sake”) and wine; neither of which are related directly with present day sake. Kuchikami no sake was made primarily with nuts and grains. The nuts and grains would be chewed and spit into a container where it could be left to ferment. The mechanism at work here is that the saliva contains enzymes (amylase) that break down starch to produce sugar. Once the sugar is present yeast from the environment infects the “brew” to produce an alcoholic beverage. Continue reading “Japanese History – Part 1, pre-history to 710AD”