What is this cedar ball?
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The sugidama 杉玉 (literally, cedar ball) serves as a sign for sake breweries. As the brewing season begins, sake makers pluck hundreds of sprigs of soft green cedar and cut them into a sphere. They then hang this ornament outside their establishments, most often, above their entrance. The rate at which sugidama loses colour and turns brown coincides with the length of the sake maturing process. This way, all passers-by will know, once the sugidama has turned brown, that the new sake is ready to be bought and consumed.
Kurabito from the Kirizan brewery in Niigata carving the sugidama.
Nowadays, a sugidama can also be hung in front of certain specialty shops and even restaurants that pride themselves on the selection and quality of the sake they sell.