Masu, Go, Sho & Koku

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Have you ever wondered why your rice cooker came with a plastic cup with odd looking numbers on it? Well the rice contained in your plastic cup would exactly fill the wooden box on the left, a Masu. This Masu contains 1-Go or one unit. That is approximately 180 ml of liquid or 150g of short grain rice.
Their actual content (expressed in metric units) has slightly evolved, however Masu have been used since ancient times to measure rice, the pillar of Japanese feudal economy. 1-Go is 1/1000th of 1-Koku, the quantity of rice necessary to feed 1 person for 1 year. The land granted to feudal lords then Daimyos was expressed in Koku. For example, the Mito domain in Ibaraki Prefecture was administered by a Tokugawa family member, and granted 350,000 Koku. That is about 1/3 of the largest Han (domain) outside the direct control of the shogun, Kaga Han (Ishikawa and Toyama Prefectures roughly). Masu are used to drink sake as well, and at a Japanese restaurant, one often orders nihonshu by a multiple of 1-Go. The Masu on the right of the picture contains 10-Go (or 1-Sho, i.e. 1.8 liters), the equivalent of large sake bottle. A sake brewer will often express his production volume in Koku (multiple of 180 liters) as well…

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