Japanese characters: 合 (合: synthesis)
1. Go Measure This
Go is the measurement unit traditionally used to express an amount of sake. One go is about 180 ml. Sake bottle sizes are also based on these units, with the most common sizes being: 180 ml (1 go; one cup size); 360 ml (2 go); 720 ml (4 go); and 1800 ml (10 go the magnum-like bottle you often see in izakayas). Serving glasses and tokkuri are also made to correspond with these serving sizes.
2. From Rice to Sake
Go is also the most common unit for measuring rice. It is the unit that people in Japan use to determine how much rice to prepare. Rice cookers are built with go as their standard unit. If you’ve ever drank sake from a masu, they were traditionally a tool for rice measurement. How much rice does a masu hold? You guessed it — 1 go.
3. Start on Go
The go unit is actually just one unit of measurement in a much larger scheme, with origins dating back to as early 701, the year of the enactment of the Taiho Code. As with the metric system, measurements use base 10:
1 go (合, 180ml)
10 go (合) = 1 sho (升, 1.8l)
10 sho (升) = 1 to (斗, 18l)
10 to (斗) = 1 koku (石, 180l)
Next time you visit a sake brewery or meet a sake producer, try asking them how many “koku” they brew — just be sure to have your calculator ready.