A brief history of Honkaku Shochu and Awamori

Most likely, the distillation technique arrived in Japan from Southeast Asia, where still today Arak is made from sugar cane.

Honkaku Shochu’s ancestor is probably Awamori, whose history began as the spirit reserved for Ryukyu’s royalty. Ryukyu being Okinawa’s ancient name.

The first Portuguese missionaries, who arrived in Japan in 1543, reported the locals’ habit of consuming shochu. Therefore, the Japanese have been drinking it for at least 478 years.

Whereas, whisky arrived in Japan only between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, at the peak of the British empire.

After the war in the Pacific, on Amami island, which is halfway between Okinawa and Kyushu, cereals for distillation became scarce, because they were mostly purchased by the occupying American forces to feed their soldiers, whilst sugar became extremely abundant. So the distillers in Amami turned to sugar cane. Today, Japanese law allows the production of Honkaku Shochu from sugar cane only in Amami.

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