Doburoku (unrefined sake) (どぶろく)

Doburoku (Dakushu) is a kind of sake produced by adding yeasts remaining in malted rice, sake lee and the like and other ingredients to steamed rice. The resulting sake is also called nigori-zake (cloudy sake).

Although you can make Doburoku, which is called Dakushu in Japan under the Liquor Tax Act, using very simple tools at home, if you make it without permission, you will be charged with violating the Liquor Tax Act.

Doburoku is said to be the simplest form of alcohol beverages using rice and is close to nigori-zake that can be purchased at ordinary liquor shops. It is possible to make Seishu (refined sake) by filtering it after precipitation, but Doburoku is drunken before it becomes Seishu. As Doburoku is filtered less than Seishu, it has a soft sweet flavor with starch contained in unfermented rice and sugars converted by starch. People are tempted to drink too much of it because of its smoothness and become sick as it contains 14 to 17 percent alcohol, which is equal to Seishu.

The origin of Doburoku is not known exactly. It is said that before the Heian period, unrefined sake with moromi (raw unrefined sake) made from rice had been called Dakuro and it changed to present-day Doburoku by regional accents.

There are various theories about the origin of Doburoku: a theory that it was brought from China with the direct transmission of the rice-producing culture from the Yangtze River/the Yellow River region (around 3,000 B.C.), a theory of spontaneous generation by natural fermentation and other theories. Any way, it is described in Gishiwajinden (literally, an 'Account of the Wa' in "The History of the Wei Dynasty") that Wajin (Japanese people) enjoy drinking and Doburoku has a long history.

Although there are descriptions on the Internet that Japanese Doburoku and sake were derived from makgeolli, as they use different malts (makgeolli uses malt and Doburoku uses malted rice), a prevailing view is that they are different lines of sake, which went through different histories and developments in zymurgy. According to the recent theory, whereas the rice cropping was introduced via the northern route to the Korean Peninsula around B.C. 2,000, it was introduced via the southern route to Japan around B.C. 3,500, and if this is true, they can be said to be different things.

Doburoku as a 'bootleg'

Since it is illegal (violating the Liquor Tax Act) to make Doburoku at home, though easy-to-make, Doburoku is also used as another name of bootleg. Accordingly, Doburoku is often expressed in jargon, such as Dobu, Shirouma and the name, 溷六 (Doburoku or Zuburoku) remains in some regions. The term 溷六 also means a drunken man in acute alcohol poisoning.

It is said that in Japan, the origin of the history of Doburoku production is almost the same as that of rice production, but the production of Doburoku, which used to be made in farm houses, etc. for personal consumption, was forbidden by the Liquor Tax Act as a factor for reducing brewery tax (liquor tax before 1940) revenues, which were major tax revenues for the government in the Meiji period and is still forbidden to the present date. However, some people say that as it is very difficult to detect illicit production of Doburoku, which was a bootleg easily produced at home, a considerable amount of Doburoku was produced and consumed on a daily basis in rice producing regions, farming villages with few liquor retail stores, etc. Rather, it is believed that this prohibition was actually a kind of protection measures for brewers who insisted that they were overburdened by the repeated large hikes in liquor tax during the Sino-Japanese War/the Russo-Japanese War in order to make them accept the tax increases.

Although there is a partial move to lift the ban on making Doburoku only for personal production/consumption, it is long way to the lifting of the ban at present. According to the punitive clauses of the Liquor Tax Act, penalty for only making Doburoku at home is a maximum of five-year imprisonment or a fine of up to \5,000.

However, in Japan, some regions still have an ancient tradition of making and offering Doburoku together with harvested rice to the Shinto gods, praying for good harvests in the next year, and even today, this custom is practiced at Doburoku Festivals held in various regions in Japan. Accordingly, by obtaining permission, people can escape from being punished for making and drinking Doburoku at a religious ceremony under the aforementioned Liquor Tax Act (however, subject to liquor tax). In this case, Doburoku is supposed to be drunk on a certain premise, such as within the grounds of a shrine.

There is also a persistent view that people should be allowed to make liquors freely at home as long as they fill out an income-tax return and only liquor tax evasion should be controlled, since sake brewing is only restricted for tax reasons and income tax payment is made by declaration.

How to produce
*Even if you produce Doburoku at home for personal consumption, you may be punished under the Liquor Tax Act.

Soak thoroughly washed rice and a small amount of cooked rice wrapped in a cloth bag in the same container.

Knead the bag soaked in the water once a day.

Leave it for three days or so and when it gives off a sweet-and-sour smell, separate the water (bodaimoto sake mash) from the rice and steam the rice.

After cooling down the steamed rice to about 30 degrees, mix malted rice and add the bodaimoto sake mash and water (first addition)

Stir it once a day and leave it for two days or so.

After steaming white rice and cooling it down to about 30 degrees, add rice malt and water (second addition).

Repeat the above process on the following day (third addition).

Stir it once a day and ferment it for one or two weeks, then strain it through a cloth and done.

Bodaimoto sake mash contains lactobacillus and yeast.. Lactic acid generated from lactobacillus suppresses the development of bacteria, and sugar generated by the degrading enzyme of rice malt is degraded by yeast into alcohol (brewage). By adding the rice and rice malt in several batches, curb the influence of high sugar and alcohol contents on yeast, enabling the production of high alcohol sake (brewage). In some regions, yeast or a small amount of yogurt is added to accelerate stable fermentation. As it forms carbon dioxide during the fermentation, it is necessary to sometimes remove gas from a closed vessel and a container with pressure resistance is desirable. Caution should be exercised for unclosed containers because it will go off when bacteria enters it. Water that has been boiled and cooled down or well water (or mineral water) is used.

It is said that it is difficult to store because it is pure sake which has not been heat sterilized; unless it is refrigerated after filtering moromi and consumed fairly soon, it will begin to develop bacteria in short order.

Filtered Doburoku is sometimes precipitated for a while and is divided into a supernatant and a clear middle portion, and it is said that the more transparent the supernatant is, the better the quality is.

Doburoku Festivals (the special zone of Doburoku)
There are many regions where Doburoku is produced at a festival for agricultural fertility or as a regional specialty throughout the country.

For regional development, designated structural reform districts were established by the government's structural reform in 2002, and the production of Doburoku and its sale is allowed only for consumption on the spot, such as restaurants and minsyuku (private home that runs inn providing room and board), within the districts (commonly called the special zone of Doburoku).

However, as the 'sale of Doburoku as a specialty', which is to take Doburoku out of the designated districts, is subject to the Liquor Tax Act, licenses to manufacture and sell alcoholic beverages are required. Actually, it only abolished the minimum annual brewing amount of six kilolitres (about 3.326 1.8 liter bottles) and examinations specified in the Liquor Tax Act, such as testing of alcohol content, have not changed so much.

The regions designated as special zones of Doburoku are divided into two types: regions where Doburoku is produced mainly for use at festivals and other events and regions, like Ide Town, Yamagata Prefecture, where Doburoku is consumed in specific locations. In either case, the biggest goal is to develop regions.

Also, some people think that such special zones of Doburoku have problems and some say that the special zones of Doburoku are immature for the following reasons:
It is easy to be authorized as the special zones, not limited to a special area, etc. For this reason, there are many special zones of Doburoku, which prevents product differentiation.

As described above, examinations are cumbersome and it is difficult to produce it on a small scale.

There are a lot of restrictions as the issuance of licenses is based on the Liquor Tax Act.

Examples of the special zone of Doburoku
Tono City, Iwate Prefecture
Ninohe City, Iwate Prefecture
Ide Town, Yamagata Prefecture
Mimata Town, Miyazaki Prefecture
Himi City, Toyama Prefecture
Hakusan City (only Tsurugimachi Town), Ishikawa Prefecture
Mihara Village, Kochi Prefecture
Yuzawa Town, Niigata Prefecture
Takatsuki City, Osaka Prefecture
Kiso County, Nagano Prefecture

Doburoku festivals in Japan
Nagakusaten-Jinja Shrine
Obu City, Aichi Prefecture
Sundays immediately before February 25
Gozaishi-Jinja Shrine
Chino City, Nagano Prefecture
Minashi-Jinja Shrine
Miya Village, Gifu Prefecture
May 1 and 2
Tadeuga-Jinja Shrine/Kumano-jinja Shrine (joint festival)
Minami Aizu Town/Tajima Town, Fukushima Prefecture
- "Aizu Tajima Gion Festival" (another name: Doburoku Festival), which is one of the three major Gion Festivals in Japan
July 22, 23 and 24
Shirakawa Hachiman-Jinja Shrine
Shirakawa Village, Gifu Prefecture
October 14 and 15
*Held in Shirakawago, which is famous as a World Heritage site.

Hatoyahachiman-Jinja Shrine
October 16 and 17
Ijima Hachiman-Jinja Shrine
October 18 and 19
Shirahige Tawara-Jinja Shrine
Ota Village, Kitsuki City, Oita Prefecture
October 17 and 18
Kasuga-jinja Shrine (Aonuma Doburoku Festival)
Namegata City, Ibaraki Prefecture
Omori-Jinja Shrine
Kumano Town, Mie Prefecture
Koami-Jinja Shrine
Nihonbashi, Chuo Ward, Tokyo
*Substituted by nigori-zake (cloudy sake)
Namiyoke Inari-Jinja Shrine
Tsukiji, Chuo Ward, Tokyo
*Substituted by nigori-zake (cloudy sake)

The Doburoku Trial
As for the production and personal consumption of Doburoku, commonly called Doburoku Trial held by Toshihiko MAEDA (activist in a social movement), who is a writer of "Let's Make Doburoku" (Rural Culture Association Japan) is well known.
This Trial argued the rights and wrongs of in-house production/consumption of Doburoku, which is (insisted as) one of food cultures, in constitutionally-guaranteed right to pursue happiness, and highlighted the Maeda' claim that 'various restrictions in the Liquor Tax Act actually favor only alcoholic liquor manufacturers with large capital that can possess equipment enabling large-scale production and prevent the development of small-scale alcoholic liquor manufacturers.'

The case went to the Supreme Court, and on December 14, 1989, it was decided that 'whatever the production reason may be, the prohibition of in-house production is under administrative discretion in order to secure tax revenue,' and Maeda was convicted as the constitutionality of the Liquor Tax Act was confirmed.

[Original Japanese]