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National Diet Library Newsletter

No. 193, April 2014


Small exhibition in the Kansai-kan (15): “Modernization of Japanese sake and domestic production of Western liquor”

The Kansai-kan of the National Diet Library held the 15th small exhibition titled “Modernization of Japanese sake and domestic production of Western liquor” from February 20 to March 29, 2014, with a variety of materials stored in the Kansai-kan on liquor making from the Meiji era to the present day.

Photo of the poster for the small exhibition
<<Poster for the small exhibition>>

After the end of the national isolation policy, Western liquor came into Japan and came to be appreciated. At first, the domestic demand was covered by imports from other countries, but in time some people began to produce liquor including beer, wine and whisky themselves and now, high quality Western liquor is produced in Japan. At the same time, Japanese traditional sake-making was modernized and established on a firm basis.

This exhibition traces early efforts to introduce Western techniques of brewing and distilling alcoholic beverages in Japan as well as innovations in making Japanese sake, as illustrated in books on the history of breweries, distilleries, and industry associations.

This article introduces five interesting items from the exhibition.

Shinpan hikifuda mihoncho (New edition, promotional leaflet design catalogue), volume 1 (NDL Call number: 406-5)

Hikifuda is a kind of a promotional leaflet distributed from the late Edo to the Taisho era. This hikifuda design catalogue was used for order placement by owners of retail shops. For example, the colorful page below, reproduced in a poster of the exhibition, describes different kinds of liquor such as Japanese sake, beer, wine, etc., which conveys the atmosphere of liquor stores in 1903, the year of its publication.

Photo of a colorful page in the Shinpan hikifuda mihoncho. The illustration is reproduced in a poster of the exhibition.
<<a colorful page in the Shinpan hikifuda mihoncho>>

Tokumei zenken taishi beio kairan jikki (Notes of a journey in the Western countries of an ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary), volume 2 (United Kingdam) (NDL Call number: 34-88)

The Iwakura Mission, dispatched to Western countries from 1871 to 1873, visited a beer brewery in the United Kingdom. The observation report available in the book explained that alcoholic beverages were regarded as important trade goods in Europe and referred to the possibility of exporting Japanese brewage products, saying that Japan had a long tradition of brewing.

Photo of cover of Tokumei zenken taishi beio kairan jikki
<<Tokumei zenken taishi beio kairan jikki>>

Kaitakushi jigyo hokoku (Hokkaido Development Commissioner Agency Report), volume 3 (Products) (NDL Call number: AZ-1311-596)

The Meiji Government viewed the development of the island of Hokkaido in northern Japan as essential to Japan's prosperity and defense, and established the Hokkaido Development Commissioner Agency (Kaitakushi) in 1869. In 1876, the government founded the first beer brewery in Japan, Sapporo Brewery, in the agency, and attempted to make beer using barley harvested in an area under the direction of a German-trained brewer Seibei NAKAGAWA. This book tells of the manufacturing process of that time. Sapporo lager beer produced in the factory was sold in Tokyo and won great popularity in 1877. After that, along with disbandment of the agency in 1882, the brewery was privatized and restarted as Sapporo Breweries Limited in 1888.
Under the Hokkaido Development Commissioner Agency, a winery was also established but did not succeed.

Photo of a page from Kaitakushi jigyo hokoku
<<Kaitakushi jigyo hokoku, volume 3 (Products)>>

Shurui bofu shinsetsu mondo: Osukaru korusheruto shi denpo (Dialogue with foreign government advisor Oskar Korschelt on a new method of liquor preservation during brewing process) (NDL Call number: 34-133)

In the late 19th century, Louis Pasteur discovered a way of heating food, called the Pasteurization method, to prevent liquor from going bad during the brewing process. In Japan, it had been practiced as Hiire (external heating) at the site of making Japanese sake from ancient times, although it was not the perfect way to prevent spoilage and problems still remained, because repeating Hiire significantly changed the taste. In the Meiji era, a foreign government advisor Oskar Korschelt reported in Japan that salicylic acid helps dramatically to prevent deterioration. This book introduces in a dialogue style the new method of liquor preservation during the brewing process including how to add salicylic acid.
After that, salicylic acid was widely used as a major preservative substance in sake production, but, its risk to human health became a cause of concern from 1960, and in 1969, manufacturers' voluntary restraint brought its use to an end.

Photo of the cover of Shurui bofu shinsetsu mondo: Osukaru korusheruto shi denpoPhoto of a page of Shurui bofu shinsetsu mondo: Osukaru korusheruto shi denpo. Some devices are depicted in a page.

<<Shurui bofu shinsetsu mondo: Osukaru korusheruto shi denpo>>

Jozo shikenjo yoran (Directory of brewage laboratory in Japan) (NDL Call number: 327-30)

This is a directory of national brewage laboratory established in 1904, with intention to carry out research and study to improve the quality of Japanese sake and its production process. A variety of technologies achieved in the laboratory formed the foundation of sake production today.

Photo of Layout drawing of a brewage laboratory depicted in Jozo shikenjo yoran
<<Layout drawing of a brewage laboratory>>

Photo of a place for washing big brewing tuns
<<A place for washing big brewing tuns>>

On March 15, 2014, Mr. Yoichiro Minowa of Asahi Breweries, Ltd., gave a lecture entitled “The Man Who Brought Whiskey Distilling to Japan” at the Kansai-kan with nearly 60 people in attendance. Following an easy-to-understand introduction to the basics of whiskey, Mr. Minowa related the story of Masataka Taketsuru, who started the first successful whisky distillery in Japan. The audience listened intently to episodes from the life of a man with a passion for real scotch whiskey, his determination to be the first to produce authentic scotch whiskey in Japan, his relationships with people who supported him, and his thoughts about distilling whiskey.

A lecture by Mr. Yoichiro Minowa
<<A lecture by Mr. Yoichiro Minowa>>

The Kansai-kan holds a small exhibition two or three times a year to introduce its holdings to the public. The subjects focused in the past exhibitions are as below.

<<Table: List of small exhibitions held in the Kansai-kan in the past>>

Time Period Title
1 May 21 - June 16, 2009 “200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth and 150th anniversary of the publication of The origin of species”
2 July 16 - August 18, 2009 “Eclipse chasers from past to present – in connection with the total solar eclipse on July 22”
3 October 22 - November 17, 2009 “Looking over encyclopedias of various countries and eras”
4 January 21 - February 27, 2010 “The Winter Olympics”
5 June 17 - July 20, 2010 “Old bestsellers - what have the Japanese read and how?”
6 September 16 - October 19, 2010 “Exhibition for the 1300th Anniversary of Nara Heijo-kyo Capital : People Journeying along the Silk Road”
7 February 17 - March 15, 2011 “Television: Transition from Analog to Digital Broadcasting”
8 May 19 - June 14, 2011 “Xinhai Revolution seen through materials”
9 August 18 - September 20, 2011 “Japanese people and English language”
10 November 17 - December 20, 2011 “Guide to railroad travels”
11 June 21 - July 17, 2012 “Japanese poetry”
12 October 18 - November 20, 2012 “Romance of the Three Kingdoms, transcending cultures and centuries”
13 February 21 - March 22, 2013 “Flowering world of the all-girl revue”
14 August 22 - September 21, 2013 “Traveling around the World Heritage sites in South East Asia”

Photo of a small exhibition in the Kansai-kan in the past.Photo of a small exhibition in the Kansai-kan in the past. Materials are displayed in a glass case.

<<Small exhibition in the Kansai-kan in the past>>