Tokyo Jizake Strolling: (Sake Nagatoro Gura Paired with Teppanyaki)

By Ryuji Takahashi

The rainy season started in Tokyo. Just when the rain was expected to continue, the weather suddenly turned scorching hot. Whether it’s rainy or sunny, an umbrella ultimately comes in handy in early summer, when teppanyaki and izakaya restaurant “Teppan” in the Nakano ward of Tokyo held a pairing event serving teppanyaki cuisine paired with sake from the Fujisaki Sobei Shoten Sake Brewery based in Nagatoro town, Saitama prefecture.  

As reported previously, Fujisaki Sobei Shoten Sake Brewery brewed sake in collaboration with merchants from Omni (modern-day Hino town, Gamo district of Shiga prefecture) and master sake brewers? from the Echigo province (modern-day Niigata prefecture). The brewery eventually relocated to Nagatoro town, Saitama prefecture to access pure water used to mainly brew small volumes of “Nagatoro Gura” - a fragrant, non-filtered, and unprocessed sake.  

Sake “Nagotoro Gura” was noticed by the owner of teppanyaki and izakaya restaurant “Teppan” in Tokyo, the venue of the pairing event. On this day, a sales representative of Fujisaki Sobei Shoten Sake Brewery elaborated on the sake product, followed by a special full-course dinner prepared by a renowned chef at a Japanese restaurant, where first-time customers (not referred to the restaurant by regular patrons) are turned away. 

The special full-course dinner started with two appetizers, “Tofu Paste with Fruits” and “Seasonal Vegetables Marinated in a Spicy Sauce,” followed by “Oyama Fried Chicken with Apricot Chutney,” “Cod Meuniere and New Potato Potage,” “Gyoza Dumpling filled with Minced Duck and Crown Daisy, served with Coconut Vinegar Soy Sauce,” “Kure’s Navy Style Braised Beef and Potatoes with Tomato Farcies,” “Okonomiyaki (prepared specially for this event) with Musashi Barley Pork,” all delicious menu selections that compliment the flavor of sake. Lastly, the meal concluded with dessert, “Monaka Catalana with Sake Lees Sauce.” I later learned the owner personally headed to Nagatoro town to purchase produce and other ingredients other than meat that further enhances the paired flavors.     

This thoughtfully prepared menu was paired with four sake selections: “Nagatoro Gura Non-filtered Unprocessed Cloudy Sake” with sufficient carbonation, “Nagatoro Gura Junmai Ginjo Non-filtered Unprocessed Sake” with fragrances of apple and pear, “Nagatoro Junmai Non-filtered Unprocessed Sake” with refreshing fragrances of banana and pineapple, and “Nagatoro Pasteurized Junmai” with a gentle fragrance capitalizing on the characteristics of sake rice Sake Musashi, harvested in Saitama prefecture. 

The sake selections that pair well with fruits and vegetables left a refreshing aftertaste, even after the meat dishes were finished. Guests seemed quite content from enjoying sake products by Nagatoro Gura Fujisaki Sobei Shoten Sake Brewery, not readily available outside of Saitama prefecture; paired with delicious cuisine prepared by a renowned chef at a Japanese restaurant, where first-time customers (not referred to the restaurant by regular patrons) are turned away. 



#alljapannews #japanese #japanesefood #japanesesake #jizake #sake #tokyo


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Evening of Italian Cuisine Paired with Japanese sake)

By Ryuji Takahashi

Just when humidity was first detected in the air in Tokyo, Italian restaurant “Karibe-tei” in Shimokitazawa district (introduced in a previous issue) hosted the event, “Third Evening of Italian Cuisine Paired with Japanese Sake.”    

The theme of the cuisine for this event was “early summer,” consisting of: ① Mozzarella Burrata and Prosciutto, ② Sicilian-style Eggplant Caponata, ③ Kirishima Chicken and Celery Wrapped and Deep-fried in Pate Brick, ④ Yellowtail Grilled Tapenade Sauce from Kagoshima Prefecture, ⑤ Dried Mullet Roe and Pistachio Pasta from Sardegna, ⑥ Beef Skirt and Bavette Steak, ⑦ Duck and Foie Gras Risotto, and ⑧ Vanilla Ice Cream with Strawberry Grappa Flambé. 

Japanese sake served during this event were selected for their refreshing flavors suitable for the rainy season from late spring through summer as follows: ① “Shukufuku Yellow-label,” a new series of sparkling sake released by Sasaiwai Brewery that took two years of trial-and-error to produce, including the sample sake product. Opening the seal released fine foams that raised the sediments sunken to the bottom of the bottle of this beautiful, milky-white, cloudy sparkling sake. Guests toasted with Shukufuku sparkling sake to kick-off the event, followed by ② “Takizawa Junmai-Ginjo Draft” and ③ “Hiya-live Storage Sake” by Shinsyu Meijyo Brewery, ④ “Sanzui Junmai Daiginjo Unfiltered Unprocessed Sake” and ⑤ “Hakuro Junmai Daiginjo” by Hakuro Shuzo, ⑥ “Nagatoro Junmai Unfiltered Unprocessed Sake” by Fujisaki Sobei Shoten, and ⑦ “Kamakiri-shouzu Junmai” by Kanemasu Brewery, a total of seven different categories of sake in fifteen 720 ml bottles, all from Fujisake Sobei Shoten Sake Brewery 

This event was attended by fifteen guests, with each guest calculated to enjoy one 720 ml bottle of sake. The real thrill of this event was to ensure each guest was stuffed with delicious cuisine and enjoyed a nice buzz on their way home. The guests varied in age from their twenties into their sixties, all fans of Italian cuisine and sake, who hyped up the event. It’s surprising every time this event is held how each tipsy guest never gets into any trouble on their way home. We’re truly blessed. This event, organized without any regard to profit or loss, is so popular among guests that the guests beg organizers to raise their participation fee to ensure the event will continue well into the future.  

From the operation side, removing any concern for profit rate and financial state, etc., allows chefs and service providers to prioritize seeing the smiles of satisfied customers as their top priority. Hearing genuine feedback from customers who love to eat and drink sake helps professionals capitalize on the motivational benefit of getting back to the basics. Not to sound too altruistic, but there aren’t sufficient resources to hold this event multiple times a year. Although it’s not yet known when the next event will be organized, we hope fans of Italian cuisine and Japanese sake will look forward to it.   


 東京が湿気を空気に感じ始めた頃、以前も紹介した下北沢に有るイタリア料理店「かりべ亭」にて第三回イタリアンと日本酒の夕べというイベントが行われた。今回は「初夏」をキーワードに料理は、①モツァレラブラータと生ハム、②シチリア風茄子のカポナータ、③霧島地鶏とセロリのパートブリック包み揚げ、④鹿児島県産活みやび勘八のグリルタプナードソース、⑤サルディーニャ産からすみとピスタチオのスパゲティ、⑥牛ハラミのバベットステーキ、⑦鴨とフォアグラのリゾット、⑧苺のグラッパフランベをかけたバニラアイスクリームの全八品。日本酒は、①笹祝酒造が試作品も含めて2年間、数多のトライ&エラーを繰り返しながらようやくたどり着いたスパークリング日本酒の新シリーズ「祝吹・イエローラベル多酸」。抜栓をすることで瓶底に沈んだオリがきめ細かな泡によって持ちあがり、見た目的にも乳白色が美しい泡酒である。この祝吹を乾杯酒として、②③長野信州銘醸「瀧澤 純米吟醸生酒」「ひや 生貯蔵原酒」、④⑤新潟柏露酒造「さんずい 純米大吟醸無濾過生原酒」「柏露 純米大吟醸生囲い」、⑥埼玉藤崎宗兵衛商店「長瀞 純米直汲み無濾過生原酒」、⑦新潟金升酒造「カマキリショウズ 呑み切り純米」、の全七種類720ml瓶で15本、全て梅雨から夏にさっぱり飲める酒を用意した。参加人数は15名なので一人4合瓶1本が飲める計算で、お腹いっぱいになってもらい、しっかり酔っぱらって帰ってもらうのがこのイベントの醍醐味である。参加者の年齢層も幅広く20代から60代までのイタリアン好きで酒好きな人達が集まり大いに盛り上がった。毎回、泥酔者でトラブルが起こらないのが不思議なくらい参加者に恵まれている会だと思う。利益度外視のこの会は参加者から心配になるから参加費を上げてくれと頼まれるくらい高評価を得ている。運営側としては日々頭の中でモヤモヤしている利益率や経営状態などを頭の中から外すことにより、お客様の満足した笑顔で料理人やサービスマンとしての初心に戻り、食べるのが好きで酒飲むのが好きな人達の本音を聞くことにより、自分たちをもう一度原点に戻し見直すという大きい心の利益を獲得しているのである。などとカッコ良い事を言っているが、当然年に何度も出来る程余裕があるわけではない。次回はいつになるか解らないが、イタリアンと日本酒好きには是非期待していて欲しい。
#alljapannews #italianfood #japanese #japanesefood #japanesesake #jizake #sake #tokyo


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Japanese sake similar to wine) 

By Ryuji Takahashi

Kanemasu Brewery (Shibata city, Niigata prefecture), producer of “Hatsuhana” and “Kinmasu,” partnered with the Tokyo-based wine importer and distributor Grand Cru Wine Company to produce “Domaine Takahashi,” a Junmai Daiginjo non-filtered unprocessed sake product inspired by wine production, condensed in flavor developed in the local climate. A suitable parcel was selected from Kanemasu Brewery’s rice field to grow the sake rice used to produce this product, a unique production method not common for Japanese sake. Domaine Takahashi is produced since 2020.    

Upon receiving notification that 2022 Domaine Takahashi was ready, I headed to an event organized at my sake shop in the Hatsudai district of Shibuya ward in Tokyo to sample this “wine-like sake” in the standing bar and compare to French and Italian wine samples. Four Italian wine samples were prepared for this event - rose wine from the Abruzzo region, white wine from the Calabria region, and red wine from the Marche region and Sicily - along with two bottles each of Languedoc red and white wine from France, totaling eight bottles of wine to sample comparatively against Domaine Takahashi.    

First, draft sake is commonly refrigerated between 32 degF to 41 degF to preserve the aroma and flavor. Sake bottles were opened thirty minutes before the event started and placed at room temperature to raise the sake temperature back up to 53.6 degF, the temperature recommended by breweries to enjoy sake, which also corresponds to the serving temperature of wine. Ginjo sake by Kanemasu Brewery released a sweet, fragrant ginjo aroma that is just right. The sake was smooth to the palate with a gentle lactic acid flavor and no odd taste.  

Sake was served in wine glasses used for tasting instead of sake cups, which helps the detection of aroma and flavor. It’s unclear if sake aroma and flavor are just as easily detectable in sake cups. However, the ginjo sake was decanted in the same fashion as wine to allow the gradual exposure of sake to air in the decanter, anticipated to enhance the above aroma and flavor. Perhaps the exposure of sake to air could enhance the sake flavor, even when drinking sake in sake cups? The sake aroma and flavor is enjoyable not only with Japanese cuisine, but also with Western cuisine. 

As a result, sake produced by Kanemasu Brewery was the indisputable winner. The smooth and refreshing sake flavor unique to Kanemasu Brewery was most notable for its “terroir” (characteristics of flavor unique to the production region) of sake rice harvested in Shibata city, Niigata prefecture. Many draft sake can now be stored at room temperature until unsealed due to improved sake brewing techniques. I hope this draft sake will break the stereotype of storage temperature and serving temperature of draft sake, commonly adhered to by sake fans. If Japanese consumers can rediscover the delicious flavor of draft sake, various new ways to introduce new Japanese sake products can captivate Japanese consumers in the future.  


#alljapannews #japanese #japanesefood #japanesesake #jizake #sake #tokyo


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Gallery & Café)

By Ryuji Takahashi

“Gallery & Café Warehouse Garden” is a gallery and café attached to a beautiful garden, operating in a renovated house on the Keio Line Shibasaki Station in the Chofu city of Tokyo. Except for Tuesdays and Wednesdays, lunch starts at 11:00 AM with Japanese and Western course selections, leisurely tea time at 2:00 PM serving homemade cake with coffee or tea, and happy hour at 5:00 PM serving beer, wine, whiskey, sake, appetizers, etc. Local customers often stroll in on their way back from the bathhouse across the street to grab a glass of chilled beer at this café, cherished by their local community.      

The café is attached to the gallery, where various events such as exhibits of paintings, workshops, and occasional musical performances are held weekly. I capitalized on a chance meeting with the owner of this popular café and suggested organizing an event together. My suggestion was graciously accepted, and we organized a seasonal event similar to an outdoor flower-viewing picnic, serving aluminum bottle-shaped cans of Japanese sake Nihonsakari with a seasonal spring bento in the garden.       

I chose Nihonsakari from many Japanese sake brands for their aluminum bottle-shaped sake cans with screw-tops for their practicality. The cans are easy to carry outdoors with the bento served by the café. A new sake product, “JAPAN SODA,” was also released around the same time as our event. JAPAN SODA is a low-alcohol sparkling sake product developed to encourage the casual consumption of Japanese sake, packaged in versatile 180 ml containers. Suzuki-san from Nihonsakari’s Tokyo store attended the event with six selections of their recent popular sake products in addition to JAPAN SODA, such as undiluted sake, Junmai Ginjo, and Daiginjo, each suitable to take outdoors on camping trips, etc.     

The café in a renovated house offers seating at large tables with low chairs and a relaxing ambiance reminiscent of a visit to one’s parents’ home. I snacked on the seasonal spring bento prepared by the owner Kurata-san, while each of us drank from our bottle-shaped cans of sake, enjoyed the garden view, and listened to the calming sounds of water splashing from the pail into the hot springs at this posh, relaxing event. Needless to say, I comfortably fell asleep on my train ride home. I’ve held many events at restaurants and izakayas, but never had the chance to get involved with a café prior to this event. It’s always fun to connect Japanese sake with professionals from a different industry.  


東京都調布市の京王線柴崎駅に一軒家を改装して造られた「ギャラリー&カフェ ウエアハウスガーデン」という庭が素敵なギャラリーカフェが有る。火曜と水曜以外、11時から日替わりランチが毎日和洋の2種から選べるランチタイム、14時からは手作りケーキとコーヒーや紅茶でのんびり出来るカフェタイム、17時からはビール・ワイン・ウイスキー・日本酒などとおつまみが楽しめるバータイムという営業なので、目の前の銭湯で、ひとっ風呂浴びてからビールを飲みにふらっと訪れることも出来る地元の人達から愛されているカフェである。そしてギャラリーを併設しているので、毎週のように様々な催し物が有り、絵画やワークショップなどが楽しめ、時には音楽会なども開かれる。そんな人気カフェのオーナーとひょんな事から知り合いになったので、折角なので合同で何かイベントをしませんかと問い合わせたところ、快諾していただけたので、時期的に日本盛のボトル缶と春のお弁当でお花見をイメージしたイベントをウエアハウスガーデンで開催する事となった。まずなぜ日本酒メーカーの中から日本盛にしたかと言うと、日本盛はスクリューキャップのボトル缶で有名なので、カフェのお花見弁当と一緒に外に持ち出せるというコンセプトと、ちょうどそのタイミングで、新商品の「JAPAN SODA」が発売になったからである。このJAPAN SODA はもっと日常の中にカジュアルに日本酒を楽しんでもらいたいというコンセプトの下、低アルコールで発泡性、容量が180ミリと誰でも手に取りやすい酒となっている。日本盛からは東京支店の鈴木さんが駆けつけてくれて、JAPAN SODA以外にも、既に人気商品となっていて最近はキャンプなどのアウトドアのお供として人気の生原酒や純米吟醸缶・大吟醸缶と熱燗専用缶など6種類を用意した。一軒家のカフェとあって、テーブルが大き目で椅子が低く、実家にいる様な落ち着く雰囲気である。そしてオーナーの倉田さんの花見弁当をつまみながら、皆各々ボトル缶を楽しみ、綺麗に手入れされた庭を眺め、時折聞こえる銭湯のお湯と桶の音に心を浄化される楽しい大人イベントとなった。そして帰りの電車で心地よくて寝てしまったことは説明するまでもない。今まで、レストランや居酒屋でイベントを開催することはあっても、カフェと関わる事は全くなかったので、ちょっと違う世界の人達と日本酒を繋げてみるのも面白いものである。
#alljapannews #japanese #japanesefood #japanesesake #jizake #sake #tokyo


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Tokyo Winter Sake Festival in Yoyogi 2023)

By Ryuji Takahashi  

The “Tokyo Winter Sake Festival in Yoyogi 2023” was held at the Tokyo Yoyogi Park over three days from January 27~29. 

The concept for this event was to select delicious jizake (regional sake) and regional gourmet nibbles (to enjoy with the jizake) from Hokkaido to Kyushu prefecture for attending guests. Selections were divided into four categories: Jizake, Nibbles (to accompany alcoholic beverages), Festivals, and Campfire Cuisine. An original menu of campfire cuisine by an apparently popular YouTuber I was not familiar with was prepared and served at a booth.    

The “Festival” category was reminiscent of food stalls at festivals, complete with target shooting games, raffles, sweets, etc.

The “Nibbles” section exhibited the highest number of booths, packed with guests. Describing each booth would require unlimited space, starting with the tuna filleting show, Matsuzaka beef specialty store, Sapporo ramen served with premium beef tongue, and various other booths that turned heads. The Jizake section was divided into booths serving samples to sell, national jizake samples to sell, Nihonsakari sake samples to sell, and the craft beer sales booth. The craft beer booth was bustling during the early hours.   

Apparently, the custom to “start with beer” when consuming alcohol at an izakaya restaurant is also practiced at event venues as well. The opportunity to enjoy delicious nibbles with jizake from nationwide is very exciting for guests like myself. Guests can enjoy both sake and nibbles from the same prefecture together, or enjoy jizake from Kyushu prefecture with gourmet nibbles from Hokkaido prefecture. The discovery of new delicious Japanese sake and foods entices guests to visit the production region of these products, the true thrill of this event. Compared to recent sake events with many Japanese sake breweries present, events that showcase local nibbles with regional products better entices guests to seek regional sake with regional specialty foods, drawing people to the countryside. Considering revitalization of the countryside and Japanese sake breweries, perhaps there is no point in holding sake events that don’t spotlight regional foods with sake. 

I focused on the booth exhibited by Nihonsakari Co., Ltd. Some readers may wonder why the sake brewery attended an event serving jizake with regional nibbles. Despite being a national brand, Nihonsakari Co., Ltd. actively participates in regional sake events, garnering praise for their active involvement. Of course, the quality of sake products by Nihonsakari Co., Ltd. is safe and reliable compared to jizake, considering the brewery is leading the industry’s brewing technology. At the Nihonsakari booth, I sampled heated sake resistant to degradation even if continuously heated, and purchased Jyunmai Daiginjo draft sake, Samurai rock, and canned sake as souvenirs. I vowed to enjoy more regional foods with jizake this year as I headed home.  

東京地酒散歩(地酒&地肴 in 代々木)

 1月の後半3日間に渡り、東京代々木公園にて「冬祭!地酒&地肴 in 代々木2023」



#alljapannews #japanese #japanesesake #jizake #sake #sakefestival #tokyo


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Nishi-Shinjuku district or Jyunisou district?)

By Ryuji Takahashi

Between Shinjuku district and Hatsudai district is an area traditionally called the Jyunisou district on the west side of Shinjuku Central Park, a red-light district since the Meiji Era (1868-1912). Now a business district consisting of apartments and office buildings, the area is frequented by businessmen during the day. At night however, chic restaurants in the district illuminate the nightscape. One such restaurant is “Takuan Botantei” celebrating 23 years in business, where I attended the Beaujolais Nouveau release party.

Restaurant Takuan Botantei serves “Misogyu- nabe,” their specialty beef and miso hot pot that evolved into sukiyaki today. Other menu selections include premium Japanese wagyu steak, sukiyaki, wine and sake. The attractive proprietress dressed in a traditional Japanese kimono runs the restaurant. The dining area consists of modern and elegant table seats reminiscent of the Taisho Era (1912-1926) and a traditional Japanese room with tatami (straw) floors, decorated with an original print by Japanese woodblock print artist Shiko Munakata, reminiscent of the nightlife in Jyunisou when the district was bustling.
I was led to the traditional Japanese tatami room and told bottomless beer, highball, and wine were on the menu. I started with beer, then ordered Beaujolais Nouveau. I passed on the course menu this year as a precaution against the coronavirus infection and ordered a meal in a 2-tiered wooden box instead, followed by a tasteful appetizer, beef stew, and wine. As I started to get tipsy, the proprietress came and greeted me. The kappore started next, a traditional Japanese comic dance performed to folk songs and pop songs popular at the time, also performed by geishas in the past.
I excitedly took in the kappore dance typical in the Jyunisou district, followed by an authentic flamenco performance. Instantly, two musicians and two flamenco dancers transformed the ambiance from the Jyunisou district to Spain. Customers joined in on the lively dance performance known as “rienda,” which I thoroughly enjoyed.
The term ‘rienda’ is derived from the Spanish word ‘riendasueruta,’ meaning “to draw out one’s charm at will.” As I sipped Beaujolais Nouveau basking in the afterglow of the passionate flamenco performance on stage, the guitarist from the flamenco performance joined the proprietress playing the shamisen (a traditional Japanese three-stringed lute) and started the memorial performance to honor the late Japanese rock musician Kiyoshiro Imawano. Customers were handed song lyrics cards to sing along to the performance that gradually reached a crescendo. The audience seemed to blow off all their stresses accumulated since the coronavirus pandemic, a very liberating moment.
The restaurant with stylish décor, enjoyable performances, delicious cuisine and wine is not a place young customers can walk into casually. Restaurant Takuan Botantei survived 23 years in the competitive Nishi-Shinjuku district, where refined etiquette and discretionary funds are required of customers to dine in the skyscraper district, thanks to the hospitable service and tireless efforts by the proprietress to keep guests entertained in my opinion. I thoroughly enjoyed my night of time travel to the Jyunisou district.



#japanesefood #jizake #sake #tokyo


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Secret Fad)

By Ryuji Takahashi

Chinese restaurant Machi-chuka is a secret fad in Tokyo. Machi-chuka was featured on TV and also in an entire magazine issue. Recently, one food producer is selling pre-packaged food products and condiments named the “Machi-chuka series,” currently in demand and difficult to obtain.
Although the line to categorize the restaurant is difficult to draw, Machi-chuka is a popular, individually-owned, community-based restaurant serving affordable delicious Chinese cuisine to the community since the Showa Era (1926-1989). At least one Machi-chuka location can be found in town throughout Tokyo. Cleanliness, ambiance, and flavor vary by restaurant location. I frequent different Machi-chuka locations on my days off. Many Machi-chuka restaurants are family-operated and opened to serve factory workers during the period of rapid economic growth, thus stocked with cartoon magazines and installed ashtrays.
Recently, many restaurants serve beer in medium bottles. However, regulars at Machi-chuka say the custom is to order beer in large bottles. I always start by ordering a can of beer with light appetizers, such as bamboo shoots and char siu. If no light appetizers are listed in the menu, I recommend the pan-fried gyoza dumplings. However, gyoza stuffed with filling is not what makes gyoza good.
Considering what to order afterwards, the ideal gyoza dumpling is filled mainly with vegetables and pan-fried to a crispy finish. I struggle with what to order afterwards every time, but will likely order stir-fried liver and garlic chives. The restaurant’s culinary techniques are evident in the exquisite balance between the liver, bean sprouts, chives and the sauce. Then comes the fried rice. Fried rice served at Machi-chuka is best moist, not dry. Stir-frying with lard is the best.
Crab used in crab fried rice must be imitation crab meat, not real crab. Using real crab meat increases the price dramatically. When students and businessmen gather during lunch hours, the more affordable imitation crab meat in greater volume is appreciated by customers. By this time, I’m starting to drink strong Green Tea-hi with a higher portion of shochu eyeballed by the hostess, not streamlined by chain izakaya restaurants.
Curry served at Machi-chuka is not stewed, but prepared to order with stir-fried ingredients, soup for Chinese noodles poured in, curry powder mixed in, and cornstarch dissolved with water added to make it thick. Mostly the same curry powder is used, while the soup for Chinese noodles differ according to the restaurant location, which allows each restaurant to serve their own original curry flavor. Machi-chuka offers a wide range of menu items with deep flavors. I expect my quest to continue for a long time.

#japanese #japanesefood #jizake #sake #tokyo


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Scorching Summers in Japan)

By Ryuji Takahashi

This summer was too hot in Japan. The temperature seems to be rising every year. These days, exceeding 104 degF is more common. This year, experts said the temperature was higher due to how the atmospheric pressure is distributed, combined with global warming. Regular customers who are sake fans visited less frequently, a tough summer for sake shops as well. Sake is also consumed chilled in our culture, why is Japanese sake not widely consumed during the summer? Oh, I do enjoy sake during the summer, some might say. However, the overall volume of Japanese sake consumed has decreased.
Even if sake (59 degF) is poured into an ice cold beer tumbler, it wouldn’t feel right to gulp it down to enjoy the smoothness. Sake cocktails made from sake mixed with fruit juice and carbonation doesn’t feel right either. I might subconsciously think these beverages are not suitable to quench my thirst. White wine with only 1~2% difference in alcohol content is widely enjoyed in large volumes during the summer. Even from this perspective, the impression of Japanese sake might be the roadblock.
Recently, more sake flavors are similar to white wine, not a bad idea. However, the idea that summer = sake is still not established. The general impression is sake is overwhelmingly enjoyed during the winter. Simply put, the main ingredient of sake is rice, steamed and consumed with the exception of some dishes. Rice is a food ingredient preferred for hot dishes. In contrast, very few people heat and eat grapes, the ingredient of wine. Grapes taste better chilled. The impression surrounding food plays a major role in my opinion. So, what needs to be done to improve sake consumption in Japan? In my opinion, sake should be imported into Japan to learn the impression of sake overseas.
Japanese sake consumption declining year-round could be a very serious problem to the Japanese. Also, sake products made more similar to alcoholic products from other nations and foreign liquors is the strategy for sake to remain competitive. It’s clear this strategy to reconstruct the brand image of sake cannot be left to the Japanese. To the Japanese for whom there is no alternative to sake, timely help must come from overseas. To borrow the words of Dutch thinker Søren Aabye Kierkegaard, “Sake in its present irreplaceable status is the true essence of sake.”
Originally, even the Japanese may not truly understand what sake is until much older in age. As home appliances evolve technologically, the more we tend to think sake = winter, with Japanese culture lagging in sales from this stereotype which could be seen as humorous. My sincere wish is to have foreign consumers not familiar with the origin of sake to construct an appetizing brand image of sake.



#japan #japanesefood #jizake #sake #tokyo


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Circumstances Surrounding Japanese Sake at the End of the Year)

By Ryuji Takahashi
Last year, many could not travel to their hometown due to the impact from the coronavirus, thus celebrated the year-end/New Year at home. For this reason, Japanese sake sold in high volumes compared to the end of the previous year. High-end sake over 10,000 JPY also sold in high quantities because expenses spared from having no year-end parties to attend was directed instead on high-end sake to celebrate the New Year at home. December 2021 started with anxiety over year-end sales as the emergency declaration was lifted. Anxiety stemmed from the concern that people who couldn’t return to their hometown the previous year to celebrate the New Year will all leave at once and empty the cities.
In addition, although consumers can now dine inside restaurants, some companies cancelled their year-end parties resulting in fewer orders from restaurants, signaling minimal increase in sales. The outcome was as expected. Early to mid-December generated lower sales than anticipated, surprisingly low for the month of December. Later half of the month of December, shipments to other prefectures picked up at the timing people returned to their hometown to celebrate the New Year holidays. Sales of high-end sake comparable to the previous year finally appeared to signal a return to normal sales for the month of December. However, sales gradually dropped, marked with large sales recorded only during the last three days of the year. This drop in sales seems attributable to the cancelled year-end parties, people returning home to their hometowns, and celebrating the New Year at home as anticipated.
We also received help from sake breweries to sell sake at sales events. Kondo Brewing of Gunma prefecture, producer of Akagisan, sells mainly Akagisan Junmai Daiginjo produced by squeezing Yamadanishiki rice (from Hyogo prefecture) using a centrifugal machine. Echi Shuzo from Shiga prefecture sells mainly TOMITSURU CHIKURIN 2021 and TOMITSURU SHIUN 2021, both winners of Kura Master 2021 held in France. Kanemasu Brewery of Niigata prefecture sells their new Ginjo Draft “Takarazukushi” and “Junmai-Ginjo “Hatsuyuki,” in addition to Junmai-Daiginjo “Hatsuhana” from last year.
Sales events held jointly between Hakuro Shuzo of Niigata prefecture and Fujisaki Sobei Shoten of Saitama prefecture - managed under the same group - sold approximately ten different types of sake. All the sales events were successful, generating high sales during weekends only. Working with sake breweries to sell sake together brings back fond memories of working for a sake shop, which motivates me. Even as I write this article however, the new omicron variant is infecting many. I only hope and pray we don’t return to a time when sake cannot be enjoyed together in public.

#contest #covid19 #daiginjo #dinein #jizake #junmai #kura #master #niigata #sakagura #sake #tokyo #wagyu


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (All Nippon Product Fair)

By Ryuji Takahashi

“All Nippon Product Fair,” titled traveling through Japan in three days, was organized by the Central Federation of Societies of Commerce and Industry, and held over three days in the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo in the Sunshine City building complex from November 19-21.
This product fair held one day longer than last year after the state-of-emergency declaration was divided into three sections. The food court sold food products, Japanese sake and beer; the souvenir section like tourist spots sold crafts and processed foods, and the farm booth sold agricultural and processed products. Many products are sold only in their production region, thus visitors packed the exhibition booths. Approximately twenty sake breweries exhibited sake products at the food court, where the Ginjosai Ambassador Award 2021 was held concurrently to rank each sake product divided into Ginjo and Junmai categories. Each sake brewery invited customers passing by to sample their sake products for only 100 JPY per cup in a vigorous PR effort to compete for the Gold Prize.
As a result, the Gold Prize for the Junmai category was awarded to Tokubestu Junmai by Nanbu Bijin, the Silver Prize to Kimoto Junmai by Kunimare Brewery, and the Bronze Prize to Junmai Dry of Hananomai Brewery.
For the Ginjo Category, the Gold Prize was awarded to Junmai Daiginjo of Tada Tada (Takeuchi Brewery), the Silver Prize to Daiginjo of Nanbu Bijin, and the Bronze Prize to Junmai Ginjo of Kunimare Brewery.
In this manner, real-time feedback received onsite from real consumers was helpful to sake producers as well.
Most importantly, many booths in the food court served delicious foods enticing sake drinkers. Prices dropped on the last day with enthusiastic pitches to sell off the remaining food products, encouraging potential buyers to loosen their purse strings, another thrill of attending product fairs. Every few hundred meters, exhibitors offered fifty percent off, leaving no choice to shoppers but to buy. My paper bag was filled with spare ribs, chicken karaage (deep-fried), dim sum, etc. It was interesting to see booths advertising voluminous meat products on large posters, banner flags, and various other mediums lined with customers. Desserts were sold concurrently along with a project that ranked Japanese sweets from nationwide. Confectionaries exhibited products from nationwide in an effort to ignite the next new dessert boom.

The top ranking dessert for 2021 was the baked kolone from Okinawa prefecture. The “Okinawa Nama Kolone” is an original kolone pastry filled with a cream made from an Okinawan fruit. Other renowned confectionaries from each prefecture lined the booths with enticing confections, an impressive line-up that hinted at a possibility of a future boom. More visitors attended this lively product fair than the previous year. With the threat of the coronavirus completely eliminated, I anticipate a new boom based on this exhibition.


#beef #contest #covid19 #daiginjo #jizake #junmai #kura #master #paris #saga #sakagura #sake #tokyo #wagyu


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