ShuShu: Japanese SAKE Stories



There’s Now a Whole New Way to Enjoy Nihonshu-- As Anime Characters!


Usually called "sake" abroad, nihonshu has played an important role in Japanese society since time immemorial. Not only is it considered Japan’s national brew (the word “nihonshu” literally means Japanese liquor), but it also figures into various ceremonies such as Shinto weddings. Now, game development company AltPlus has launched a project to advance that proud history and get even more people interested in this delicious libation. How? By turning nihonshu into anime characters. 

Working together with breweries and illustrators, they’ve created characters collectively known as ShuShu. They are personifications of various nihonshu brands. The character’s birthplace is the location of that particular brewery, and their age corresponds either to the foundation of the brewery or to the history of a particular nihonshu. They also list the characters' favorite foods, which are those that go best with the nihonshu the represent. Of course, each character has their own throughout back story. 
ShuShu Japanese Sake Stories characters
*Rights to all character designs are property of AltPlus. Rights to nihonshu labels and logos are property of their respective breweries. 

Above you can see the twelve characters they have created so far. They aim to have characters for every prefecture of Japan. What’s more, they have plans to use these characters in games and services in the near future. This will give people more ways to enjoy nihonshu other than just drinking it. 

Here’s a closer look at three of these characters and the nihonshu they represent. 

Tsuruki Shiramine | 鶴木 白嶺 

ShuShu Japanese Sake Stories Tsuruki Shiramine

Origin: Hakusan, Ishikawa Prefecture
Age: Unknown (estimated around 300) 
Height: 5ft. 3in. / 162cm
Favorite foods: abalone sashimi, rice cooked with sea bream and konbu seaweed, puffer fish sashimi 
Sake Brewery: Kobori Shuzo

Character Backstory 
It is said that some three hundred years ago, a heavenly maiden alighted on a sacred mountain. It was said that whoever saw her beautiful form would be blessed with happiness. This mountain is now known as Mt. Haku, but at the time it was yet unexplored. Many people gathered at the base of the mountain, but very few who struggled up the mountain were met with success. Those who were fortunate enough to see who spoke of a woman whose beauty was like that of a black lily. They said that the sounds of chanting and music could be heard in her presence and that flower petals trailed in her wake as she performed what appeared to be Noh dances, leaving a sublime fragrance. While this story is regarded as folklore, some ten years ago there was a rumor that this beautiful maiden had been seen in a forest that stands by a river in the city of Hakusan...

About the nihonshu: Manzairaku Hakusan Daiginjo Koshu 

Hakusan is made using pure water from Mt. Haku in Gifu prefecture, high-grade sake rice, carefully raised komekoji, the rice mold essential for the fermentation of nihonshu, and the finest yeast. This ginjoshu is bottled and stored at low temperature for three years. It has a unique pale golden color and the aroma of fruits such as peach and Chinese quince. Thanks to the maturation process, the mouthfeel is perfectly smooth, and the delicate balance of sweetness, acidity, and umami is capped with a dry finish. 

Yasaku | 八策

ShuShu Japanese Sake Stories Yasaku

Origin: Sakawa-cho, Takaoka-gun, Kochi Prefecture
Age: 413
Height: 6ft. / 187cm
Favorite foods: bonito tataki and other sashimi from red-fleshed fish 
Sake Brewery: Tsukasabotan Shuzo

Character Backstory
Yasaku was born at the time of the founding of the Edo Shogunate. As he watched the tides of history shift and change, he grew strong-spirited and positive, undaunted by failures. At the time, he quietly watched over the household of one of the pioneers of the Meiji Restoration named Sakamoto Ryoma. (For someone reason, Ryoma had been able to see Yasaku since he was young.) Yasaku was quiet and calm by nature, but he could give strength to those he cared about with his sharp, matter-of-fact way of speaking. It is also said that he is a practical, well-meaning tactician. He also had a talent for penning clever sayings comprised of four kanji each such as “gen wa sou ken” (offer up to many that which originates in harmony). 

About the nihonshu: Tsukasabotan Senchu Hassaku Cho Karakuchi Junmaishu 

This elegant nihonshu has a smooth mouthfeel and natural aroma that finishes with a sharp, robust aftertaste. This balance makes it a good choice to enjoy during a meal. It will bring out the best characteristics of any meal no matter what the menu, but pairs outstandingly well with fresh seafood. Interesting fact: Sakamoto Ryoma had a deep connection with the sake dealer in which Tsukasabotan, the brewery that produces this nihonshu, has its roots. 

Sumi | 澄

ShuShu Japanese Sake Stories Sumi

Origin: Iitagawa, Katagami, Akita Prefecture
Age: 137
Height: 5 ft. 2in. / 158cm
Favorite foods: Kiritanpo and Shottsuru hot pot (regional specialties), white fish, beef tataki 
Sake Brewery: Kodama Jozo 

Character Backstory 
Sumi was born in the towering mountains. Protected by the spirits of the trees that lived on the mystic Mount Taihei and raised on the clear waters flowing there, she grew into a beautiful, peaceful woman with a pure heart. She is a skilled dancer, the sight of her long kimono sleeves fluttering like flower petals enough to make one fall in love. There was once a time when people stayed away from these mountains, but since the time of Sumi’s birth, people have found themselves drawn there by the sound of a gently flowing river and a sweet fragrance. Due to a recent minor incident, Sumi now shares the waters with two other spirits. One of them is her younger sister named Tsuki. 

About the nihonshu: Junmai Ginjo Chogetsu
Junmai Ginjo Chogetsu

Using only komachi sake rice grown in Akita, a prefecture famous for its production of rice, the clear flavor of this jumai ginjo nihonshu seems perfect for gazing up at the moon. The flavor brings to mind apples and melon while its refreshing acidity makes it easy to drink.

Keep an eye out for more of these characters in the near future! 


Japanese SAKE Stories website (Japanese only):

Do these characters make you feel like getting better acquainted with nihonshu? Let us know what you think in the comments!

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