The Art of Fermentation: Learning how to make koji, for brewing sake

by Chisato

What is Koji (麹) to Japanese?

Ancient wisdom of preserving food descended from 2,000 years ago.
The Art of Fermentation: Learning how to make koji, for brewing sake
Knowledge to utilize koji 麹 ('qu' in Chinese) cultivated molds or fungi from boiled grains had been developed in Asian countries, while yiest (kobo酵母) or maltz (bakuga麦芽) grown from fruits or wheat in the West.

koji (Aspergillus oryzae) grown by cultivating molds on boiled grains, produces various enzyme, such as amylases, proteases, and it is very versatile, used for multiple purposes and consists of the basis of  Japanese cuisine "washoku".

There are three types of koji, kome 米 koji (rice koji), mugi 麦 koji (wheat koji) and mame 豆 koji (bean koji) .
Rice koji is used for brewing sake 酒,  'amaze' 甘酒(fermented rice poriage) and  'miso' 味噌(fermented soy paste, 'jiang 醤' in Chinese), wheat koji is mainly for making 'shoyu' 醤油 soy source and bean koji is for making 'natto' 納豆(soy nuggets).
 
The Art of Fermentation: Learning how to make koji, for brewing sake
misoThe Art of Fermentation: Learning how to make koji, for brewing sake
koji for making soy sourceThe Art of Fermentation: Learning how to make koji, for brewing sake
rice ball koji in south-east asiaThe Art of Fermentation: Learning how to make koji, for brewing sake
Red rice mold used for making red rice wine and tofu-you

How to make koji?

major source for introducing japanese brewing in foreign languages are as follows.
 
R.W. Atkinson "brewing in Japan" published in 1878
Korshelt "über sake dass alkoholische vertrank der japaner" in 1985

the step is simple;  soak and steam rice, inoculate and incubate tane koji 種麹 (starter).
It is also possible to cultivate starter from rice grain in the paddy fields, but nowadays, usually bought from tane koji factory. 
 The Art of Fermentation: Learning how to make koji, for brewing sake
molded ice grain 'inadama稲玉'  is inoculated in boiled rice

Making koji is something like baby-sitting

Keeping temperature is very important when making koji; 32-36 degree Celsius.
lower than that, enzyme of koji will be deactivated, and when higher than that, it will also be dying.
 
It takes around 3 days to be ready, and needs to be paid attention every 4 hours. It needs to make warmer, or cooler when heated too much.

Step by Step...

1. mushi 蒸し, boiling rice

The first step is the most important above all, said a touji (brewer),

The Art of Fermentation: Learning how to make koji, for brewing sake
 The Art of Fermentation: Learning how to make koji, for brewing sake
Wheat mold
2. tane kiri 種切 and tsutsumikomi 包込, rolling 

Inoculate starter, tane koji 

The following morning, koji is penetrating the rice.
3 days later....
 The Art of Fermentation: Learning how to make koji, for brewing sake
3.karashi 枯らし, drying koji
This is the last moment of fermentation process.
make ditch on koji, shaped spiral, three lines, or wavy line to dry it up.
the shape of the ditch depends on the brewery, said a brewer, showing us beautifully drown ditch on koji, which seemed like 'karesansui枯山水', dry garden in zen temple, the art of fermentation!. 
 
The Art of Fermentation: Learning how to make koji, for brewing sake
4. shimai 仕舞, dancing koji
 
Shimai means the end in japanese, and 'mai' also stands for dancing.
spreading white colored koji mold is something like dancing, indeed.
 
The Art of Fermentation: Learning how to make koji, for brewing sake

29 Nov 2016


National Certified Guide

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Contact Chisato

Hello. I am Chisato originally from Kyoto.

I completed master degree of organic agriculture in the Netherlands in 2011.
Especially, my specialization is agriculture, anthropology and food culture.
I often travel around rural villages in japan for my research on traditional knowledge, ethnobotany and local cuisine, "kyodo ryori".

My style of guiding is "experience the local communities"; visiting the ingredients where it grows, listening to the stories of local life, where generations have lived.

I try my best to organize a trip with unique experience for you in the off-the-beaten rural villages, especially in Kyoto and Nara. Please let me know your special interests, and I will suggest your trip schedule, such as cooking with locals, visit farmers, or stay at a farmhouse.

Please note that I am not that familiar with typical tourist places like Fushimi inari, Kinkakuji, Kiyomizu temple, my specialty is rural tradition and people's livelihood rather than building.


Example Theme:
- tea tour (harvesting and processing tea, tea house, matcha poder making, tea museum in Kyoto)
- traditional handicrafts (visit workshops, pottery making experience, kiln in hidden valley)
- culinary experience (food processing workshop such as tofu, soba, yuba, somen noodle, traditional knowledge of food preservation)
- fermented food products (learning how to make sake, shoyu, miso, amazake, pickle, nattou, umeboshi by yourself)
- plant and ethno-ecology (sansai wild plant harvesting and cooking)
- learning rural livelihood (charcoal making, weaving trees, paper making from mulberry plant, silk worm, visit to temple of plant medicine)
- temple stay (meditation, shojin ryori at mount koya)


IMPORTANT:
Please inquire at least 1 month before the tour departure date, when it is totally customized tour.
Please note that spring (March-April) and autumn (Septenmer-October) are peak travelling season in Japan, and it may not possible to offer special interest tours.
I recommend to reserve accommodations at least 2 months before your travel (half year before during peak travelling season).

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