ハワイ生まれの日本酒イベント The Joy Of Sake / A Hawaiian-Born Japanese Sake Event


海外の日本酒愛好家らで2001年に開催されて以来、ニューヨーク、ハワイ、東京で毎年開かれる一大日本酒イベントが The Joy Of Sake です。日本酒のイベントが海外で生まれ、しかも東京に逆輸入されたところがおもしろいですね。

The Joy of Sake is an annual sake event that has been held in New York, Hawaii, and Tokyo ever since its inception in 2001 by overseas Japanese sake enthusiasts. That this is an event with an overseas origin that was subsequently reimported into Japan is what’s so interesting about it!


There were actually 360 types of sake being offered in the venue, and you’ll also get to enjoy cuisine from famous restaurants as you sip sake to your heart’s content! Any Japanese sake fan would want to go!

参加費は8,000円で安くはありませんが、当日はなんと800人ものSake Loversが集まったそうです。「日本酒って海外でも人気があるらしい」とはこれまでにも聞いたことがありますが、ここまで大規模なイベントがあったとは驚きです。

The entrance fee, though not exactly cheap at 8000 yen (~US$100), did nothing to deter 800 sake lovers from gathering that day. We’ve heard that Japanese sake is quite popular overseas as well, but an event of this scale is quite frankly mind-blowing.


And thus, the development team set off for the Tokyo venue pronto, to conduct research and fieldwork for our Japanese sake app-in-development.


It was sake, sake, and yet more sake as far as the eye could see. Tables like these had been placed all over the venue. The sight of a few hundred types of sake all lined up in one place was truly overwhelming.


In front of the sake bottles were large sake cups. I’ll be filling my sake cup with a dropper now!


There were English explanations too, as to be expected for an event that originated in America. Quite a few participants were Westerners, too, and it was nice to see that some were garbed in traditional Japanese apparel.


There’s also a special corner for the people who’d prefer a more generous helping of the sake, since, you know, “you can’t get drunk with a dropper!”



Behold, the Dassai. This mildly sparkling sake was very tasty. I thought sparkling sake are only available in early spring, but apparently they’re being brewed all year long in large, temperature-controlled refrigerators. This Junmai Daijingo is truly luxurious, made with rice milled to 23% its original size. Our engineer @mah_lab kept asking for seconds!

According to sake brewer Asahishuzo, the Dassai accounts for 10% of Japanese sake sales in France. Its taste, of course, is a contributing factor, but more than that, this is apparently the results of aggressive marketing. How wonderful, right?


Cuisine from the Italian Alporto to well-known Tokyo restaurants were being offered, using a stamp card system where your card is stamped before you receive the food (all the cuisine became free half an hour before the event ended!).


It was a spread, to say the least, with assorted dishes from Japanese, French, Chinese, Spain, and much more. As Japanese sake is brewed from rice and water, it goes well with everything! My personal favs are the duck meat from Shirogane  BARU and the spiny lobster and steamed scallop  from Chung King Hotel.


This is the cool-looking label of Kusumi brewery’s Seisen sake. The labels of Japanese sake are exquisitely designed and I think that’s what makes them so awesome. Looking at it from that point of view is kind of interesting too!


We’d prepared some namecard-sized flyers to promote our up-and-coming Japanese sake app, which we introduced to the various sake brewers as we did our rounds. It was very well-received! We were greatly impressed and humbled by some of the feedback. The Sawanoi (Sawanoi Sake) sales manager even went, “Whoa!! This is the kind of app I’ve always wanted!” Looks like we’re going in the right direction with this app!


また来年も是非参加したいです。そのときは SakeLover が Joy Of Sake のスポンサーに!なんてメンバーと話していました。


The event had blown us our minds away. Now we’re even more eager than ever to spread this wonderful Japanese sake culture to more people in the world!

We’d love to be a part of next year’s event too! As a sponsor! Or, so the team hopes!

Finally, a big thanks to the event organizers, for a great job well done. Kampai!

島根は松江の名酒「李白」を訪ねて@李白酒造 / Visiting the famous “Rihaku” in Matsue of Shimane


Hello there! This is Kuranuki, who’s in charge of the sake brewery owner for our “SakeLover” app!


Since I was on a business trip to Shimane Prefecture’s Matsue city, I took the chance to sneak out between work intervals to visit the Rihaku brewery, makers of the “Rihaku.” On my previous visit to Matsue, I bought some Rihaku back as souvenirs, and have been so addicted to that wonderful taste ever since that it led to my visit to the brewery this time.


The brewery was a five minutes cab ride from Matsue train station.  When I told the cab driver I was visiting Rihaku brewery, he made a comment that I must really like Japanese sake! And my reply? “Yes, I do!”




Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to tour the brewery itself, but I was allowed to sample the sake!



My first drink was a sparkling Rihaku. It has no sweetness and tasted refreshing. According to the lady at the brewery, people seem to be taking it as a cider substitute during summertime. Apparently, it has a subtle pink color because it was brewed from black rice.


Of course, it goes without saying that I tasted the Junmai Daiginjo Rihaku. And it goes without saying that it was wonderful. I wished I had a side dish to go along!


As it was autumn, the new sake hadn’t been brewed yet, so I took some hiyaoroshi* instead. It was good, too. (*Hiyaoroshi: Sake pasteurized once just after brewing but released in the fall without the usual second pasteurization.)



A quick look at the surroundings is all you need to see that sake isn’t the only thing that will catch a Sake Lover’s eye here. Interesting artifacts like photos of the brewers of old and polished rice adorn the walls. When a grain of rice is polished to 35%, it becomes really round! Utterly luxurious! And that’s also why the sake is so delicious.


As I sampled a few things here and there, I explained our “SakeLover” app to the people from the brewery, garnering some positive feedback as I did. The brewery’s young president (the fifth successor) expressed interest as well, and we even exchanged name cards! Job well done, if I do say so myself.


“Please go ahead and sample everything,” the young president offered, and I took him up on his gracious invitation.


Everything tasted so good… The sake that was brewed from malted peony (the Prefecture Flower of Shimane) was the anomaly amongst the lot, leaving a faint flowery fragrance in your mouth after a sip…


And, believe it or not, I even got to taste the “Honmirin.”


It was my first time drinking mirin**, with its strong fragrance and taste, allowing that exquisite sweetness to spread in my mouth. Making it like kahlua milk mixed with soymilk was a tasty decision too. Though sweet and gentle, its alcohol content is surprisingly substantial.
(**Mirin: Sweet cooking sake.)

李白は海外でも”Wandering poet”というキャッチフレーズを付けることで沢山のファンがいるそうです。なんだか洒落てますね。

Rihaku has a strong fanbase worldwide, to the extent that some have given it a swank-sounding “Wandering Poet” subtitle!



Visiting Rihaku brewery and speaking to the people there have made me even more fond of Rihaku than before. It goes without saying that I bought some back as souvenirs!

I hope I can visit again!

年に一度の蔵開き @小澤酒造 / Annual Brewery Open House

(SakeLoverはSakenoteとしてリニューアルしました 2013/6/21)


The Ozawa Sake Brewery in Okutama, Tokyo held a “Brewery Open House” event for sake lovers this sake production season. With perks like affordable sake tasting and the opportunity to visit a usually off-limits sake brewery amongst other things, it’s a festival no self-respecting sake lover would think to miss!


Of course, there’s no way we wouldn’t fly to the event, as Japanese sake app developers ourselves. We set off for the Ozawa Sake Brewery from Shinjuku at 7:44 on the Holiday Rapid Service!


Before that, however, we headed to Mt. Mitake by taking the cable car from Mitake station, one stop after the Sawai station where the Ozawa Sake Brewery resides. Our purpose was to pray at Mitake Shrine for the SakeLover Japanese sake app-in-development to become a big hit. Can you tell we’re all fired up?



We returned to the Mitake station and steadily made our way to the Ozawa Sake Brewery at Sawai station by strolling down Tama River. The water of the river all the way here felt more like a clear stream, and it was beautiful.


After about 20 minutes of walking, we arrived at the venue. The courtyard was already bustling with activity, packed with visitors holding bottles of sake sold on-the-spot in their hands. This looks fun!





As we paused to sip our drinks, we joined the queue for the brewery tour. The staff kept urging us to ‘Have a drink first!’ while we were in the queue, creating an excellent atmosphere of warm welcome.



The inside of the brewery was packed with tanks around 3 meters tall. The barrels used to be made of Japanese cedar, but have now been changed to materials like enamel or stainless steel.

酒蔵見学コースでは10mぐらい置きぐらいにお酒を置いたテーブルが並んでおり、澤乃井の全銘柄(大吟醸から梅酒まで!)が振る舞われます。これは楽し過ぎる… ちなみに私は元禄という純米酒が旨口で好みでした。食中酒にいい感じですね。

Every 10 meters or so in the brewery tour route, there are well-placed tables with Sawanoi’s full catalog (from Daiginjo to Umeshu*) on display, making the entire tour very enjoyable. Incidentally, a Junmai-shu by the name of Genroku** suited my palate the most. It goes with meals and is pleasant tasting.
(*Plum liqueur, made with plum and sake.)
(**A Japanese sake brand name.)



Ozawa Sake Brewery was built in the Meiji era and had been left untouched since. The ancient, jet black beams really bring you back in time. The great regard placed on continuing the methods and facilities of old may just be what defines the sake brewing culture.



Apparently, they’re also experimenting with brewing sake using Japanese cedar barrels like the old times. It has a full and woody fragrance instead of the harsh smell characteristic of Japanese cedar – an exquisite flavor distinct from barreled sake. I like this too.



Just when you’re thinking you’ve had so much to drink you’re almost losing your taste buds, you discover that they’ve prepared some sake brewing water for you! How considerate! Drinking an equal amount of water and sake can prevent drunken frenzies and bad hangovers.


なにやらひときわ長い行列が。澤乃井の最上級酒、純米大吟醸 「梵」が振る舞われています。やはり皆さんいいお酒をご存じです。ここだけを何度も往復してる人も (^^;)

That’s quite a long queue. They’re serving the Junmai-Daiginjo “Bon*”, Sawanoi’s highest grade sake here. Everyone has good sake taste, eh? Some people kept coming back only to this place, too!
(*A Japanese sake brand name.)

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The spring water Sawanoi produces, which is visible because the tunnel has been lighted up like this upon entering. The Sawanoi brewery excels in crafting such fine displays. The effort they put in to “extending hospitality” to the visitors is evident in the little details.



We’ve reached the end of the tour, but the queue isn’t abating at all. The tour closes shop at 1500 hours, so I guess it’s best to get in as early as possible. They’ve generously allowed visitors to take the tour multiple times if they so desired, too!


It was impressive that all the visitors were smiling away and looking like they were enjoying themselves. Some did get drunk, but none became heavily intoxicated. Truly an event for sake lovers! I’d love to take part next year too.


After the event, we sweated it out at the hot spring in Kabe station while having a light discussion about the app. Then we made our ways back.



We’ve renewed our desire to release an app that will be of great help to the Japanese sake world this day, having been touched by the passion and enthusiasm of the people who love Japanese sake, and the brewers who make them.


Our “Mt. Ontake – River Stroll – Brewery Open House – Hot Spring” trip this time has allowed us to thoroughly enjoy Okutama’s natural sights and Japanese sake! Do come to the brewery open house next year!