Joy of Sake Tokyo

By Kosuke Kuji
"The U.S. National Sake Appraisal" that has been held every year since 2001 was held again this year. Entries of over 350 sakes are evaluated by 10 judges from Japan and the U.S. After the judging results, a "Gold Award" and a "Silver Award" is given to the top scored sakes, and additionally a "Grand Prize" and "Second Grand Prize" are awarded to the sakes that scored the highest in overall evaluation from the gold awards. 

This year's grand prize and second grand prize are announced on our homepage.

Of those winners, we are excited that our company's Tokubetsu Junmai won the Second Grand Prize in Junmai category.

The award ceremony will be held at "Joy of Sake" in Tokyo.  Also, "Joy of Sake" was held in New York and Honolulu besides Tokyo.

It is a fact that "Joy of Sake" has a very long history, and out of all these cities, this one to be held in Tokyo will be the last gathering.  To be held in November, it is a time when it is getting extremely cold in Japan and it's a very good season to enjoy drinking sake. 

To be held in Gotanda in Tokyo, there is a lot of excitement with lots of Japanese and foreigners living in Japan attending.

There are many different sake gatherings in Japan, but there are probably only a few of them like ours with so many foreigners attending.

This is a meeting where you can find out the trend of sake around the world while you are in Japan.

There are sakes introduced by U.S. breweries recently and you may call this an evaluation meeting of worldwide scale that is very much alive.

It's the same for sake category of International Wine Challenge (IWC), sake is being evaluated in different ways worldwide, not only in Japan, many new people are coming to the meetings to enjoy sake, and I can only help but feel that Japanese sake is becoming the sake of the world.

酒豪大陸「JOY OF SAKE 東京」



この表彰式は、全米日本酒歓評会出品酒を楽しむ会「JOY OF SAKE」の東京で表彰されます。東京以外にも、ニューヨークとホノルルで今年は「JOY OF SAKE」が開催されました。

とても長い歴史を実は持っているこの「JOY OF SAKE」ですが、東京での開催はこれらの都市の中でも最後の開催となります。時期も11月ということで、まさに日本は寒さが厳しくなり、日本酒が恋しい季節に行われます。





#Junmai #alljapannews #junmai #nation #okubetsu #sake #tokyo


Logo Branding of Japanese Sake

By Yuji Matsumoto

I once wrote before about the importance of naming in the branding of Japanese sake. This time, I would like to write about logo branding.

The logo is an important symbol that represents the product of a company. When reviewing products popular worldwide, each company studies how to best advertise their logos to have their consumers remember their logo, an important strategy. Once the logo is known among consumers, then like Louis Vuitton, Channel, Calvin Klein, Coach, Prada, etc., the functionality of the brand becomes less important than the sense of security and popularity associated with the brand. Regardless of the product, consumers are concerned with visual appeal for text and descriptions usually escape the memory. This is especially true for Japanese, for the consumers generally cannot read Japanese.

Audi have four circles, Honda is the letter “H,” and apple is for Apple computers, logos are easy to memorize. This is also true for food products.

How does this apply to Japanese sake? Review of local ads for Japanese sake, it is difficult to see where the logo is, and often many of the brands don’t have one.

It’s difficult to tell if the sake manufacturer’s name is the brand, or the product name is, or if another product name is the brand. Since some companies sell several brands of Japanese sake in various bottles and labels, it’s disappointing that logos aren’t used to distinguish the brand and manufacturers.

Even if a consumer likes a particular brand of sake, this makes it difficult for the consumers to make the connection between the brand of sake and the manufacturer, or other products offered by that manufacturer. Although the colors and size of bottles may change according to the brand, the brand logo should be made most noticeable for the labeling. I would like each company to place their product on a shelf and review it. Why not consider a logo that appeal to consumers?








#alljapannews #branding #japanese #sake


Sake Samurai Award Ceremony

By Kosuke Kuji

This year the ceremony of the 11th Sake Samurai was held on the premises of Shimogamo Shrine. Shimogamo Shrine is a great treasure that is also inscribed on the World Heritage List. The system of Sake Samurai started 11 years ago. Japan Sake Brewers Association Junior Council organized by young brewers in Japan established this as a gathering of people that have the same heart of nurturing Japanese sake with love due to the fear of losing the 'pride' of Japanese in Japan, to bring back the pride of Japanese sake, and share the Japanese culture not only in Japan but also widely around the world.

Many Japanese and even foreigners have been appointed the title of Sake Samurai up until now and listed below are the people that were appointed Sake Samurai this year.

Mr. Shinya Tasaki, Chairman, Japan Sommelier Association
Mr. Toshio Ueno, LA Mutual Trading, Manager of Business Development
Mr. I Yonsk, President, Rinkai Co.
Mr. Elliot James Faber, Yardbird Restaurant Group, Beverage Manager
Mr. Marco Massarotto, La Via del Sake

The 5 wonderful Japanese and foreigners that were appointed this time each have accomplished great achievements. For detailed information please read (in Japanese) about them at the Sake Samurai Official Homepage noted below.

Sake Samurai Official Homepage: http://www.sakesamurai.jp/

Japanese sake is receiving great reviews around the world now. Those great reviews are making it back to Japan these last few years even though little at a time.

Of the appointed 5 people, Mr. Tasaki the chairman of Japan Sommelier Association who was the only appointee from Japan this time who gave greetings of being appointed chairman said that a sommelier in Japan must study Japanese sake. Japan Sommelier Association loud & clearly announced that they will make opportunities to study Japanese sake. I am so happy to be born in this age where all kinds of people in all kinds of countries seriously love Japanese sake and are sharing it with others.

As a brewer, I will continue to cooperate with all of the Sake Samurais and work hard in sharing our sake around the world.





田崎 真也 氏:日本ソムリエ協会 会長
上野 俊男 氏:共同貿易ロサンゼルス 事業開発部
李 容淑 氏:㈱リンカイ代表取締役社長
エリオット・ジェイムス・フェイバー氏:ヤードバード レストラングループ 飲料部
マルコ・マサロット氏:ラ・ビア・デル・サケ 代表





#alljapannews #sake #samuraiaward


“Sashimi. sushi, soba, and sake……A place where you can satisfy your palate in a sophisticated way

“Sashimi. sushi... “Sashimi. sushi... “Sashimi. sushi... “Sashimi. sushi... “Sashimi. sushi...
By Aya Ota

There is a restaurant that has a dignified appearance which makes you feel like stopping by in a corner of the busy East Village. When you step into the space as you are gravitated towards it, a noble and intense looking corridor runs before your eyes, and you feel as if you are entering another world. That is the “Ise Restaurant”, where you first taste a few slices of sashimi, and then leisurely enjoy sake with appetizers that contain various seasonal ingredients. After that, you complete the meal with sushi or soba; which is the way of a sophisticated eater. The customers in the East Village area are generally young people, and many of the dining places are casual. Among them, Ise is a rare place with a mature ambience where you can quietly enjoy meals and sake.

“Ise” is a long-lasting Japanese restaurant group which has been loved by New Yorkers for a long time since its founding in 1988. They are located in MidTown and Wall Street, and known as izakaya-style restaurants with all genres of Japanese cuisine. This time, the Wall Street location was moved to the East Village, and reborn as a new Ise with a totally brand-new concept.

“I am just doing the usual stuff,” says Masaru Makino in a plain tone, the Executive Chef. He came to the U.S. after building his career in kaiseki style cooking for 5 years in Japan. He is a veteran in this restaurant group who has been displaying his strong skills since the beginning of this group‘s history.

He says that he is just doing the usual stuff so plainly, but I know it is not at all easy to manage this so well as if he is just doing what he is supposed to do, especially at a restaurant that offers the biggest three genres of Japanese cuisine; “sashimi”, “sushi”, and “soba” as their three pillars. Actually, the true no-detail-skipping in preparation and non-compromising attitude can be felt when you taste their food. Their seafood such as blue-fin tuna, red snapper, yellow jack, firefly squid, and sea urchin come directly from Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. They pay a lot of attention to how to maintain freshness so they can always offer the freshest ingredients. It is surprising that they even manually create a special mild soy sauce to bring out the best tastes of sushi and sashimi by combining multiple soy sauce brands with mirin and bonito Flake. “Soba”, their signature menu category, which they particularly put a special effort on, is made in-house using buckwheat flour produced in the Tokachi region of Hokkaido. Its smooth, chewy and nicely firm texture is excellent, and even artistic. It cannot be tasted anywhere else. Also excellent is the dashi carefully made with 5 different kinds of dried bonitos. It is so tasty that you want to add to the soba-yu (the hot water in which the soba has been cooked, and is usually served after having a soba dish), and drink the mixture to the last drop. The twenty different sake brands displayed are carefully selected by all of the staff after actually drinking them all. The sake and the food bring out each other’s goodness, and successfully create a wonderful pairing.

“I would like the customers to enjoy our food and sake to the fullest”, continues Mr. Makino. Such thinking is represented also in the interior design. The space among the tables are luxuriously big, and some spaces are set up almost like private rooms divided effectively by plain wood latticework. The bar located near the front entrance is a beautiful space where you also may want to drop by. There, you can either have just a glass of beer, or enjoy a full menu of items just like you are sitting at a table.

Strong impressions and discovery keep coming. It appears that they are really stressing on soba dishes on the surface, but there is more. The sushi counter with only 6 seats is kind of hidden in the back of the restaurant where Mr. Makino himself prepares omakase style dishes. There is also a kaiseki course that changes monthly.

“Ise”, a newly born restaurant which makes you feel that the more often you visit, the more you feel like visiting again, and telling someone about.---It is truly the birth of a great establishment.









Ise Restaurant
63 Cooper Square, New York, NY 10003
Tel: (212) 228-4152
#alljapannews #iserestaurant #newyork #sake #sashimi


To Enjoy Japanese Sake More Casually

To Enjoy Japanese Sake More...
By Yuji Matsumoto

Japanese sake is a drink that Americans still cannot get used to.
Majority of Japanese sake sales are from restaurants, and unfortunately sake is still not a beverage that people in their home or at home parties like to casually consume.

The reason is that, due to the real taste and drinking method not being introduced, Japanese sake 'Saki' is probably placed as a special drink that Americans consume when they visit a sushi bar. Also, when you look at any label, introduction of taste and drinking method is not explained in English in detail. Compared to wines the prices are high, and product display method in the market is hard for consumers to understand.

Well, it will be every simple but let me teach you a simple selection method of Japanese sake.

To start, it is important to decide which you want to pair the sake with. I would like you to understand that Japanese sake is an alcohol that is consumed during a meal to increase the food's flavor while eating like wine.

Beef dishes:
Junmai or Junmai-kimoto made in Kyushu, Tohoku, Kanto, Hokuriku, and Nada is recommended

Chicken dishes:
Ginjo class made in Hiroshima, Niigata, Nada, Hokuriku, and Kanto is recommended

Fish dishes:
Ginjo class, Daiginjo class made in Niigata, Hiroshima, Shikoku, and Kyoto is recommended

Certainly, depending on taste flavoring and cooking method, the sake you pair it with be different, but for the time being I think it will be fun to experience the pairing in different regions.

This month's pick-up:
Mizbasho Ginjo from Gunma prefecture.

This item is perfectly balanced in acidity, taste, and aroma. It goes well with chicken dishes to thick flavored fish dishes.










#alljapannews #casual #ginjo #gunma #japanese #mizbasho #sake #saki


Iwate Specialties and Sake Pairing

By Kosuke Kuji

Iwate prefecture I live in is the number one largest prefecture next to Hokkaido and the area is about the same size as Shikoku. Besides the 70% of the prefecture being mountainous, it contains Sanriku Coast which is a ria coast and is famous as the Japanese fjord. Abundant with food from both the land and sea, another character of Iwate prefecture is having the rich food culture. I'm always asked how the Japanese sake goes with food overseas.

If it is Japanese food with Japanese sake, any combination goes well to an extent, but if you're looking for the best combination, some of the best can be found by pairing food materials from the local areas of the brew masters that brew regional sake.

To start, Iwate prefecture that has the Sanriku Coast is a large fish industry area. A variety of fishes and shellfishes at the coastal areas can be enjoyed. Out of all those items, "Abalone" represents Iwate prefecture.

Especially the abalone that is caught in Yoshihama of 'Sanriku, Ofunato' is dried and has been exported to China from long ago. This abalone is called "Yoshihama Dried Abalone" and is useful as the highest quality food material in China.

This Sanriku in Iwate is proud of their "Sanriku Takarazuke" which is pickled with abalone, salmon roe, smelt roe and 'mekabu' (seaweed family) etc is a specialty item that shines out of all items in Iwate. Mr. Nakamuraya of 'Kamaishi, Iwate' who also starred on the popular TV program "Ryori no tetsujin" (Iron Chiefs) is the one who makes this "Sanriku Takarazuke". This specialty item that combines the goodness of Sanriku ocean and Nanbu Bijin Daiginjyo just make the best combination and the fruity aroma of the Daiginjyo and the sea aroma and salty tang make the best match.

This Sanriku Takarazuke pairs well with sake but it is also wonderful eating it after putting it on top of just made hot rice.

It just makes me feel good to be born a Japanese knowing we have Iwate prefecture that has the best seafood, with variety of processed foods, also as raw or dried and processed and being distributed throughout Japan and to the world.









#alljapanusa #iwate #japan #pairing #sake


“Sake Competition 2016” that was held again this year.

By Kosuke Kuji

This year making it the 5th time this competition has been held, as the title mentions, it’s “a contest to decide the best tasting sake in the world” and would you believe that there were entries from 416 breweries with 1483 sakes from head of breweries from Japan and different countries worldwide this year.

This is a very unusual contest with entries from not only Japan but from Japanese sake breweries from overseas making this the one and only world largest contest.

Entry categories are divided into 5 categories and newly established categories this year were Ginjo category and Super Premium category that were receiving the most attention. There were entries of 401 in Junmai category, 466 in Junmai Ginjo category, 359 in Junmai Daiginjo category, 180 in Ginjo category and 56 in Super Premium category, and judging with blindfolds were done by 24 preliminary judges and 37 final judges consisting of technical managers, experts, and head of breweries. From the results, gold awards were given to the top 10 and silver awards were given to the top 10% below the gold award winners.

For results, please look at the website below.

When we talk about Nanbu Bijin this year, they came in 10th place in the Junmai Daiginjyo category and we were so happy to receive a gold medal!

Award ceremony and party was held at Grand Hyatt Tokyo in Roppongi at end of July and famous head of breweries from Japan attended and for anyone in Japan that liked regional sakes would have felt it was like being in a place like heaven there.

Starting with International Wine Challenge (IWC) Japanese sake category I have written about before and a contest of scale that could never have been thought of before being held in Japan and now being held worldwide. All events are judged with blindfolds and for the regional sake competition these days, there is no doubt that you need to be consistently aware of improving the quality or you will be left behind in no time.

For that reason, head of breweries cannot stop quality improvement and there is no end to putting in efforts for quality improvement. To deliver high quality Japanese sake to the people in Japan and throughout the world, we would like to continue to firmly make diligent efforts. I feel it has become a wonderful age when the results of our efforts can be evaluated at contests in Japan and also throughout the world.


今年で5回目のこのコンテストは「世界一おいしいお酒を決めるコンテスト」という題名の通り、日本国内、世界各地の蔵元から今年はなんと416蔵、 1483点の出品がありました。国内だけではなく海外で日本酒を生産する蔵からも出品されるという、大変珍しいコンテストで、まさに世界一の規模のコンテストとなりました。



酒コンペティション2016 受賞酒





#alljapannews #competition #sake


Sake Q & A

By Yuji Matsumoto

1. Cold or Hot
Many people think that high quality sake should be enjoyed chilled, but that is wrong. Compared to not needing to worry about the temperature for the better quality sakes, it is better to really chill the poor balanced sakes on the contrary. For one guideline, if it is a refreshing sake that has a flower or fruit type aroma, it’s better to chill them to enjoy the clean cut taste and aroma. On the contrary, for the dry sake with the fermented taste of rice or aroma of sourness etc it’s better to warm it to bring out the fullness of it and seemly make it taste delicious.

2. Which Sake is Better?
Which sake you like changes if the food you like regularly is rich or light so there is no exact answer, but I feel there is a tendency that someone that likes full body red wine will probably like a Junmai Kimoto or Honjozo type sake and someone that likes a young, fruity chardonnay will like a Daiginjo of Niigata prefecture type sake. Matching with the food is extremely important and if you don’t particularly care for drinking the sake by itself, you might make a surprising discovery if you have it with a particular dish so I ask if you will give a try.

3. Tasting Method
Same as wine, drink it while sipping in air. Choose a glass for white wines type, pouring a small amount and lightly mixing it with air is important. If the temperature of the sake is too low it becomes hard to distinguish the aroma so you can slightly warm it with both hands in that case.

4. Drinking Cup
Not only for sake but for wines or beers, it’s amazing that the taste can drastically change depending on the glass. If you want to enjoy the taste and especially the aroma, a small white wine glass is good. For hot sake, so the steam of the alcohol is not smothering, a ceramic type with a slightly large mouth that holds the temperature is good. A wooden square doesn’t go well with aromatic Ginjo types but for sakes with definite body like Junmai types, you can enjoy them with the aroma of Cypress. Please enjoy cold or at room temperature if you have it that way.


1. 冷か燗か

2. いいお酒はどれ

3. テイスティング方法

4. 飲む器
#alljapannews #japanese #sake #testing


Enjoy Jizake at Tokyo Station Underground Shopping Center

By Kosuke Kuji

Tokyo Station that is located in Tokyo which is also the center of Japan.

Tokyo Station has been newly born and changed with a large scale renovation construction in recent years and Japanese sake is being offered at different locations so there are more opportunities to try Japanese sakes.

With the increase of foreign visitors in the last few years, many foreigners can be seen even at Tokyo Station also. One place where a foreigner will definitely visit when they come to Japan is Tokyo Station.

Within the station, after you go thru the ticket gates and go underground there is a shopping area that spreads in front of you called “Gransta.”

Once you go thru the ticket gates of the station in the past, there were only a few souvenir, convenience or station bento stores, and a small ‘tachigui soba’ (eat noodles while standing) restaurant, but that image has greatly changed after the opening of Gransta.

Gransta has many specialty and unique stores from restaurants that have all kinds of Japanese/foreign/Chinese bentos, special restaurants from resort specialty chains, cakes or Japanese-style confectionery stores, or gift stores with brand name items, there is so much delight just from looking around.

Would like to share that there is a store here where you can enjoy Japanese sake by the glass for reasonable prices. It is Hasegawasaketen Tokyo Station Gransta operated by Hasegawa Shoten which we introduced to you in a previous column.
This bar only has about 10 seats at the counter but there is always a line of customers waiting outside in the evening and is such a popular bar where you can see customers savoring Japanese sake even in the early morning hours.

There is no other ideal bar-style pub that can used during the short time you are waiting for the Shinkansen (Japanese high-speed rail) or express trains and it couldn’t be a better place for the people that like sake.

All of you in the U.S. coming home or for your sightseeing trip to Japan, I think you will have a good time if you stop by Tokyo Station and have a drink at the bar where you can enjoy a glass of Jizake (regional sake) before you leave. Another pleasure is you can certainly buy a bottle of the sake you enjoyed there.








#alljapannews #japan #jizake #sake #station #tokyo


2016 International Wine Challenge Sake Judging

2016 International Wine Challenge Sake Judging
By Yuji Matsumoto

I have been a judge of IWC Sake division for 5 years and since 2011, I have been serving this organization as a Panel Chairman.

This year was our 10th anniversary since we added sake in the International Wine Challenge so the venue took place in Hyogo, Japan. It was nice to go to Japan and taste over 1,000 different sake which was the largest entry ever.

In order to have a balanced and fair judging, all the sakes are covered so the judges can not see what they are tasting.

This year there were 8~9 panel chair judges and each panel chair has 3~4 judges under them. We mix people’s nationality to balance their preference and taste.

The most important element to judge is not to be bias of their person preference and seek for the balance in the category which is Junmai, Junmai Ginjo, Junmai Daiginjo, Honjozo, Ginjo, Daiginjo, Koshu(aged sake) and sparkling.

The main responsibility for the panel chair is to speak last and listen to what other judges are trying to express and taste in each sake.

After we submit our results and score of each sake, there are senior judges who re-taste and confirm the results in order to make sure the panel chair judged sake fairly.

The last day (the 3rd day) is only for the panel chairman to determine the medal sake which are Gold, Silver, Bronze, Commended and Trophy.

These results will be announced one week after the event. Since this IWC sake is gaining more popularity and recognition, the sake that are awarded in Gold or Trophy have tremendous exposure through out the world, not only in sake industry but also in wine industry. I am very happy to be part of this organization and wishing more sake would participate.





今年は8〜9人のパネル審査員が参加し、各パネルチェアの下には審査員が3〜4人いる。 また、味の嗜好とバランスをとるために審査員の国籍も混成されている。





#alljapannews #judging #sake #wine


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