Types of Sake Rice: Iwai and Its Characteristics

Iwai - Sake Rice Unique to Kyoto 

"Iwai" (written with the character for celebration) is the name of a rare brewer's rice variety, unique to Kyoto Prefecture. Large-grained and soft with the opaque "white-heart" typical of true brewers' rice, but difficult to grow, it passed out of production for some years before being revived in the early 1990s.

Born in 1933 at the Kyoto Prefectural Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Technology Center Tango Agriculture Research Division by separating the pure lineage of Nojoho rice variety, Iwai was promoted as a rice variety from 1933 to 1946, and by 1936 over 600 hectares of Iwai was being grown, but after the war, due to increased food production, the low-yielding Iwai was temporarily discontinued. It was later revived again, however, due to its inability to be machine-harvested as it grew too tall, the variety was delisted again in 1973.

In 1988, at the urging of the Fushimi Sake Brewers Association, the Fushimi Prefectural Agricultural Research Institute started the revival process and managed to improve the cultivation method by reducing stalk height and increasing grain size. Later, in 1990, farmers began cultivating it, and in 1992, for the first time in about 20 years, sake made from it was commercialized in Fushimi.


The perfected Iwai has a similar sake production suitability as the “king“ of sake specific rice, Yamadanishiki. Breweries that use Iwai believe it has a clean taste and creates unique flavours. With a large grain, it is perfect for production of sake such as ginjo-shu, and it has a smooth, soft taste with expansiveness.

Recommended Iwai Sake

Saito Shuzo is one of the breweries in Fushimi, Kyoto, and they believe in using Iwai rice, and other locally sourced ingredients to create the perfect sake that represents Kyoto.

The recommended sake is Eikun Kotosennen Junmai Ginjo which is super clean and fruity. Sweet and sour fragrance reminiscent of grapefruit, mandarin orange, pineapple and yogurt slowly spreads in the mouth until the very end of the palate.

It is made with highest quality ingredients from Kyoto prefecture. Water comes from Fushimi which is distinguished by having access to spring water of exceptional quality. This water produces elegant, not too overly sweet, and soft sake. Iwai rice gives this sake exceptional fragrance and nice mouthfeel.

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