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Japanese Sake - 004 Rice washing process

004 Rice washing process

In sake brewing, we wash white rice, which was polished to about 50% weight of original brown rice, with a plenty of water.

On average, we use 15 times as much water as the weight of white rice. The method of rice washing is categorized into two ways. We call the first one “wash by hand” and adopt the method mainly for so-called malted rice.

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“Kakemai”, which is the steamed rice and used in large quantity for sake brewing, is washed by machine. Rice washing is well performed by rubbing each other. Either method is acceptable for rice washing. Besides the importance of rice washing process, it is equally important to drain water efficiently and equally. The traditional tool for the most important process is a colander made of bamboo.

Precinct in Iwashimizu Hachimangu Srine.

Precinct in Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine, April 3, 2020

30 Yawatatakabō, Yawata-shi, Kyoto, 614-8005 Japan


There are three types of bamboo in the world, and bamboo and bamboo grass are well-known. In particular, “Madake” (Phyllostachys bambusoides), grows intrinsically in Japan, has been taken good care for slide rules, drawing rules, bows and arrows, fans, and tea whisk since ancient times, because of the good properties, thickness and resistance to bending, almost no stretching, shrinking and resistance to aging. Thomas Edison is wll known to bring additional pleasure at night by inventing the artificial light. He got a clue from fans made in Kyoto and used “Madake” for the filament of incandescent lamps. There’s the monument saying he picked “Madake” here in the precinct of Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine. The location faces “Tennozan” on the opposite shore, has a bird’s- eye view of the ancient battlefield of Yamazaki, and is known as a strategic place for invading Kyoto since ancient times. It also has a view of the confluence of the Yodo River, the Kizu River, and the Katsura River running down from Kyoto to Osaka Bay. Many people visit there to see the “Sewaritsutsumi cherry blossom” in springtime.

National government Yodo River waterway

National government Yodo River waterway park “Sewaritsutsumi”, April 3, 2020


“Madake” fully demonstrates its abilities when it is utilized for colanders in the brewing world. The colanders have a precise mesh aperture structure, water resistance, and antibacterial effect. The secret for the big difference of draining water ability between bamboo colanders and others made by metal, plant fiber, and resin nets is behind the mesh aperture structure. While washing rice, white rice, which is almost half polished from brown rice and removed rice bran, are going on being drained the water and remain in the colander without dropping from it. The colanders satisfy all the requirements for rice washing, unlike the others.

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Mesh aperture of bamboo colander

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Bamboo colanders and the stands

We perform rice washing by the following procedure.

We wash malted rice by hand. During the rice washing time not wasting one minute or second, we soak them in the water, lift them from the water, and drain the water attached to the rice quickly and surely. We pursued tools to meet this line of washing use. A tool works best to meet user’s purpose depending on how it is utilized. The critical point in rice washing by hand is the beautiful draining water produced by the well-balanced combination of appropriate amount of rice that you can lift and the bamboo colander fit for size. We drain water by tilting it at a 45-degree angle. The best procedure to drain water by bamboo colanders is as follows. Firstly, we hold the bamboo colander as horizontal direction of the mesh, and tilt it at a 45-degree angle, then drain water quickly. After the water contained in the rice was roughly drained, we rotate the colander at a 90-degree angle for vertical direction of the mesh, and then drain all the water remained in the colander mesh completely. The mechanical method of rice washing is performed by rubbing the rice together. The washed rice is laid out on the conveyor and rinsed equally with sufficient water from the shower above while being conveyed horizontally. The procedure after rinsing is exactly the same as the way of washing by hand, like taking the rice into the bamboo colander and draining water.

The harmony between human and things (machines and tools) is indispensable at sake brewing site. We could not expect the sustainable company lasting more than 200 years without managers who are responsible for creating the system to successfully harmonize persons who can analyze things theoretically and the environmental arrangement that fully brings out technical workers’ abilities, investigating the problems raised from the actual work, followed by carrying out the improvement and reform. And also, we could not have been exploring the sake that the brewery is aiming at. It is not possible to pursue the best quality Japanese Sake, even if we have the best thought and performances of machines and tools.

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Bamboo colander.png
Bamboo colander structure.png

We consider the key to solving the secret is the unique mesh structure of bamboo colander which is woven by the same way as “Tatami” mat called “Hiratatamiori”. (Tatami: thick straw mats that cover the floor.) The clearance gap of mesh is considered to act to break water film generated by surface tension. Furthermore, we can see the careful considerations of traditional craftsman in Japan. They consider both performance of draining water and safety by shaving the bamboo surface shaped like sphere not to injure the hand skin during rice washing by hand.

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