Kuchikami-sake (mouth chewed sake) (口噛み酒)

Kuchikami-sake means sake that is produced through the process of chewing grain, such as rice, or seed in the mouth, spitting it out and leaving it as it is. In Zhenla (Khmer Empire of Cambodia), it was called 'bijinzake' (literally, beauty's liquor) since it was produced by women. There is a theory that the origin of sake was kuchikami-sake.

In view of the time of importation into Japan, method of production and culture, it is thought that kuchikami-sake couldn't be the origin of Japanese sake, though both use rice as ingredient.

Method of production

When food containing starch is chewed in the mouth, amylase in saliva converts starch into sugar. When the above is spit out and left as it is, wild yeast ferments sugar and create alcohol. This is kuchikami-sake.

Other than a method of chewing raw ingredient, there are a method of chewing cooked ingredient and a method of chewing oxidized ingredient. Starch can be converted into sugar easily by cooking ingredient. This method was used by the indigenous people of Taiwan. The increase of unwanted bacteria can be controlled by oxidizing ingredient since the process of fermentation is done under the acid condition of lactic acid. This is the production method of chicha in Latin America.

Water is sometimes added in order to promote the fermentation of what is kept. This method is affected by the production method of Chinese liquors made by fermentation.


Though not unknown, the regions where people used to eat food containing starch, namely South-East Asia and Southern Pacific region, are supposed to be the possible birthplace of kuchikami-sake. South-east Asia, such as Malaysia, where the above cultural sphere and the culture of rice cultivation of Assam region and Yunnan Province merged is the possible birthplace of kuchikami-sake made from rice.

A description, '嚼米醞酒 飲能至醉,' written in "Gisho" volume 100, Retsuden No.88 Wuji-koku indicates that kuchikami-sake was produced in coastal provinces and Mongolia.
('嚼米為酒 飲之亦醉' written in "Hokushi" volume 94, Retsuden No.82 Wiji-koku)

It is thought that kuchikami-sake was produced for the first time in Japan during the latter half of Jomon period.

Shinto ritual and kuchikami-sake

Kuchikami-sake was also produced on the occasion of Shinto ritual in Japan and Taiwan. When producing in Shinto ritual, miko (shrine maiden) or shojo (maiden) was selected as a person to chew ingredient in the mouth.

The origin of the word 'kamosu' (producing sake)

There is a theory that 'kamosu' (producing sake), an expression of Japanese, derived from 'kamu' (chewing) of kuchikami-sake. However, an agronomist Kinshi SUMIE asserts in his book "Sake" (published by Nishigahara kankokai) that these two words have different origins and 'kamosu' derived from 'kabisu' (mold).

[Original Japanese]