But why did Kōfukuji select Hakkaisan? “We were fascinated by the spiritual features and culture of the land there,” said Myoshun Tsuji, of Kōfukuji Temple.

Yasuo Naito, for JAPAN Foward

“We want to create great sake that will still be a hit in 100 years’ time.”

Inspired by this sentiment, the UNESCO World Heritage site Kōfukuji Temple (Nara Prefecture) released its “special sake” at the temple on October 9, having completed it in late September.

In order to perfect the recipe, Kōfukuji enlisted the help of Hakkaisan Brewery Co. in Minami Uonuma, Niigata Prefecture – known for its refined sake, “Hakkaisan.”

I was fortunate to taste the sake before it went on sale.

Water from Raiden-sama, God of Thunder | Photo courtesy of © JAPAN Forward

Water from Raiden Sama, God of Thunder

Eishun Moriya, 71, chief abbot of the temple, gave the sake its name, Konoma – which alludes to a monk doing his training in silence inside a forest.

The abbot wrote Konoma in brushstrokes, and these characters appear in white on a black label on the bottle.

After taking a sip of the chilled Konoma, I could fully taste the mellow flavor of the junmai sake. Its fruity ginjō scent formed a pleasant balance with an aroma that was reminiscent of being in a forest.

It would pair well with both Japanese and Western cuisine. Konoma is a sophisticated sake that would complement just about any meal well.

In May this year, I had the pleasure of visiting the Hakkaisan Brewery Co. in Niigata with Myoshun Tsuji, 43, a monk and butler at Kohfukuji and someone who was involved in the project of creating this special sake.

After receiving confirmation that my COVID-19 test result was negative, I was taken to the water source of Hakkaisan sake, known as “Raiden sama” or the God of Thunder.

We proceeded through paddy fields, and then up a narrow mountain road for about five minutes. At the water source at the dead end of the road, there were densely overgrown cedar and chestnut trees, and the ground was covered with green moss.

The locals make an effort to come here to collect the famous water as it descends down the slope ー they believe it helps you live longer. I collected a few drops myself and tried some, and it tasted sweet.

Konoma was born from this special forest nectar.


By - grape Japan editorial staff.