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Awamori helps Okinawans ring in the new year 2010

Date Posted: 2010-01-07

It’s an Okinawa life style thing; Okinawans insisting they cannot celebrate bringing in the new year without having a stock of awamori on hand to sip their way.

Awamori, the oldest distilled liquor in Japan, is an Okinawan-produced alcoholic beverage that is unique with its rich flavor. Awamori’s not an original Okinawa beverage but rather, one stemming from Thailand more than five centuries ago.

Even today, the primary ingredient in awamori is Thai rice and a black mold that lends the distinct flavor. The product found its way to Okinawa when the Ryukyu Kingdom was influential in trading across Asia.

Okinawa Prefecture’s Culture “Section staffer Toshiaki Hagio says “In the past, the awamori ingredient used Japanese rice and millet grain, but since the Taisho era rice costs were so much higher, Okinawan distilleries investigated foreign rice, discovering quality rice available from Thailand. They also found the beverage itself, awamori, being distilled in Thailand under its own Thai name.

In the 15th Century, Okinawa, then the Ryukyu Kingdom, began importing the distilled awamori technique through China, and began producing the beverage here. Awamori’s been labeled the “Asian hub location Ryukyu” and brightened the new year with countless cultural and friendship “Kampai” shouts with raised glasses (‘Kampai’ meaning cheers, everybody’).

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