11th June is Umeshu Day! Learn what the rainy season has to do with plums

06 Jun 2019

The Importance of Seasons in Japan

Japanese culture is deeply in-tune with nature, and therefore, even extremely subtle changes in the seasons are recognized, and even celebrated, making calendars in Japan a bit more complicated. The four regular seasons are subdivided into twenty-four seasons called Nijushi-sekki (24 solar terms), each of which is further separated into three for a total of seventy-two microseasons (Shichijuni-ko or 72 pentads).

The Twenty-Four Solar Terms were imported from ancient China, and took root in Japan in the late 6th century. This system originated in the areas along the Yellow River, and this is why there seem to be gaps between the seasons indicated by the Terms, and what we actually feel in Japan. As a result, Zassetsu were invented to complement the solar terms and specifically identify Japan’s unique seasonal changes. Many of those supplementary solar terms are related to agriculture.

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Rainy Season and its Relation to Ume Plum

One of the Zassetsu is called Nyubai and it literally means “entering the rainy season”. Nyubai falls around the 10th or 11th of June on the calendar today. For Japanese people in the old days, knowing the rainy season in advance was very important in determining the time of rice planting. In the past, weather information was not as developed as it is now, so it is believed that in the Edo period, nyubai was established on the calendar as a guide.

Nowadays, the meteorological term “tsuyu iri” is used to signify the beginning of the rainy season. The presence of the baiu weather front is the key, and the rainy season is decided by the movement of the this weather front. Therefore, the rainy season may be later or earlier than usual.

Both nyubai and tsuyu contain a kanji which means plum (it literally means plum rain) and you might be wondering what the rainy season has to do with plums. It was actually named so because ume plums ripen in this season. So this is the season for the Japanese people to enjoy everything made from plums!

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11th June is Umeshu Day!

While there are all sorts of foods with ume in Japan, one of the best ways to enjoy it is undoubtedly umeshu! Therefore, it was decided by Japan Anniversary Association that 11th June will be Umeshu Day.

Nakano BC uses a superior quality Nankō ume to make its umeshu. To preserve the delicious flavor of ume, the brewing tanks are managed by a team of skilled workers who carefully check the acidity and sweetness of umeshu, mixing the fruit and changing tanks as necessary. The umeshu is ready after around a year and a half.

This umeshu is popular due to it sweet and sour taste, and relatively low alcohol content which makes it easy to drink and can be enjoyed even by people who generally dislike alcohol.

Let’s celebrate this Umeshu Day with Nakano BC Umeshu!

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