What is Nihonshu?

The Embassy of Japan applied for a GI tag for nihonshu, also known as Japanese sake.

Key facts

  • Recently, Japan sought a Geographical Indication (GI) tag for the first time in India.
  • The Japanese Embassy in New Delhi applied for a GI tag for nihonshu (Japanese sake) at the Geographical Indication Registry in Chennai.
  • Japanese sake is a valuable beverage made from the fermentation of rice.
  • It is made using three main raw materials – rice, a type of fungal spore known as koji-kin, and water.
  • The rice and Koji used in the beverage must originate from Japan.
  • It is made using an alcoholic fermentation method called parallel multiple fermentation.
  • Other tasks involved in its creation include koji making, starter culture-making, mash-making, pressing, heat sterilization, and bottling.
  • It is consumed mainly during special occasions like festivals, weddings, or funerals, besides being used for daily consumption.
  • This alcoholic beverage is an integral part of Japanese culture and lifestyle.


Since the Japanese economy was historically based on rice, it was partly used as a medium of exchange before the constitution of the monetary economy during the Meiji period (1869-1912). Hence, nihonshu production was fully under the control of the government. With the production of Japanese sake becoming industrialized during the Edo period (1603-1868), those having special licenses to produce nihonshu hired farmers during the agricultural off-season and gained a reputation as craftsmen. This resulted in the establishment of the hierarchical Toii system, similar to the apprenticeship and guild system. Toii (the person responsible for brewing the sake) has full authority for the production of nihonshu at breweries. Toii is also involved in the training of apprentices and passing on the traditional brewing technique to the next generation.

About GI tag

The GI tag is given to those products with specific geographical origins and characteristics that are closely associated with the geographical origin. In India, a GI tag is granted based on the provisions of the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.




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