In Miyazaki Prefecture, the word “sake” refers to shochu. In Japan, liquor means sake, but sake and shochu are completely different.
The taste is completely different. Sake is made from rice, while shochu is made from barley, sweet potatoes, and rice.
There are two types of shochu, Kou and Ostu. The first type has the most popular taste, and it is very hard to drink as it is. It is usually diluted with carbonated water.
On the other hand, Ostu shochu is made by the old-fashioned single distillation method. Kumamoto is famous for its rice shochu. The taste is similar to sake, so it is not easy to drink.
The barley syochu liqueur is easy to drink because it has no taste, but the sweet potato syochu liqueur is famous in Miyazaki. It has a peculiar smell, so many people don’t like it, but in Miyazaki, sweet potato syochu liqueur is the mainstream, and I think it is the same in Kagoshima. Imo is not a potato. It is a sweet potato. The sweet potatoes are called “Karaimo” in southern Kyushu.
The alcohol content is often 20 degrees or 25 degrees, but usually 20 degrees is drunk. It is not possible to drink either of them raw, so the concentration can be adjusted by diluting it, but 20 degrees is the standard in the locals. There is a shochu that is about 40 degrees, which is similar to whiskey. I think 20 degrees is the easiest to drink, though it is one of the most expensive syochu liqueurs that are hard to find.
It can be drunk with 60 percent alcohol and 40 percent hot water, or half and half, or 40 percent alcohol and 60 percent hot water, depending on one’s preference. However, my late grandfather used to drink it raw, without diluting it. I heard that he used to drink it from morning on Sundays.
There is a town called Miyakonojo in the south of the prefecture, and they have a special way of drinking it. First, you need to pour hot water into a cup, and then add shochu. You might think that adding shochu and hot water would be the same, but apparently not. I was told that adding the shochu afterwards makes the taste smoother, but I never really understood that. There are many people who are particular about their shochu, so you have to be careful not to ask them how to drink shochu beforehand, because if you get the order wrong, they will start lecturing you.
Basically, it should be diluted with hot water even in summer. Many people drink it on the rocks these days, but diluting it with hot water is the traditional way of drinking. In summer, people usually drink cold beer and then shochu with hot water.
I think it is fine for everyone to have their own way of drinking shochu, but when you pour shochu for a senior who is particular about it, you have to be careful.
Recently, I rarely drink shochu with hot water. chu-hai is enough for me now. When it is not enough, I drink it with hot water, but I think this is also because I have become weak in alcohol.
Younger people also find shochu easier to drink than sake when it is mixed with lemon, so I think the demand for shochu is increasing more than before.
Miyazaki Prefecture’s poet, Wakayama Bokusui, is known as a poet who loved drinking and traveling, but there was a time when I wondered whether Bokusui drank sake or shochu. When I looked into it, I found out that he drank sake. I think it was because shochu was not available in Kanto.
When I was in Tokyo about 30 years ago, liquor stores sold only Class Kou shochu, and the price of Class Otsu shochu was very expensive.
Nowadays, even in the cities, Miyazaki’s Ostu-type sweetpotato syochu liqueur is sold. The fact that people can now drink Miyazaki’s sweetpotato syochu liqueur wherever they go is probably due to the increased awareness and production system.
Recommended Shochu liqueur in Miyazaki
Kirishima Shuzo’s “Kirishima” is the most famous shochu in Miyazaki. Originally, there was only one kind of shochu liqueur, but now there is the high-class “Kurokirishima” in addition to the “Shirokirishima”. In addition, there are now high-end shochu liqueurs such as “Aka Kirishima”.
The price is the same for both the white and black shochu liqueurs, but it is hard to give up the traditional white shochu liqueur. In fact, I don’t really know the difference in taste.
Also, my grandparents live in Ebino, so the shochu liqueur “Meigetsu” from Ebino is also delicious. These two choices are enough for me, but I would like to introduce more expensive syochu liqueurs.
Moriizou, Murao, Maou, Solitude of 100 years
These are special shochu. It is difficult to buy them at a cost price, so please try them if you have a chance. If you have a chance to try them, you will be amazed at their perfection, which will make you forget that shochu is a cheap drink for ordinary people.