Masu Wooden Sake

4.0 out of 5 stars The right container for the right beverage

A masu is an old system of measuring in ancient Japan, said to hold enough rice to feed an adult for one day (exactly 180 ml (6 oz.)). 365 masu made up one koku, which was used as a measure of a person’s salary, being enough to feed himself for a year. Of course, in the modern day of rice cookers and paper money the masu have lost their practical purpose, but they are still the vessel of choice for traditional sake drinking.

Normally, masu are only drunk from during special events like cherry-blossom viewing when one wants to lend a nostalgic atmosphere to the event. At a pub or restaurant, a tall shot glass is placed in the middle, and the sake is allowed to overflow into the masu showing the generous pour of the restaurant. They are not used for heated sake, in which case a tokkuri set is used.

Most masu nowadays are made of Japanese cedar, and add a complementary flavor to certain sakes. Choose your sake carefully when drinking from them, as they can easily overwhelm something too delicate and subtle. This set is made from hinoki, which is a type of cypress tree and is the most prized wood in Japan. I can’t speak of the claims of “natural antibiotic” properties of the material, which is something I have never heard of before, but it is really nice wood with a nice smell and flavor. Many restaurants have their own masu with a design burned into the wood, but these are plain with no marks.

The only drawback to this set is the price. Masu normally sell in Japan for about a dollar a piece, and while one can normally expect a higher mark-up for imported products, this seems a bit much. However, if you are a serious sake lover and don’t have access to a less pricey set of masu, then this could be just what you are looking for.

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