Sake tasting event in Yokohama

The month of March brings the first signs of spring in and the anticipation of sakura (cherry blossom) season.  But it also is the time for numerous sake events when producers participate in events to showcase their new products.  The sake brewing season begins in October and ends around April.  Some brewers may go as late as April, and some may end in March.


There is annual sake festival in Yokohama that draws 1,000 people.  The event is sponsored by a non-profit organization and the proceeds are donated to Japan Red Cross Society Tokyo branch to protect children of cancer, Ashinaga Gakkai (support for the earthquake after the Great East Japan Earthquake Child care facility) in the afflicted area of ​​the Great East Japan Earthquake.  It’s a good cause and a great event.


The venue for this annual event is at Osanbashi Pier, the oldest pier in Yokohama constructed in 1889.  Today the pier is a modern architectural facility than has a large hall for events.  The pier offer some glorious views of the Minato Mirai and Yokohama’s skyline from across the bay.


Inside Bridge Hall, are approximately thirty-five sake producers and ten shochu producers.  There are even a few Japanese wine producers too.  But sake is the main event.  The entry fee is ¥3500 for tickets purchased in advance, or ¥4000 at the door.  There is not any food service or sales.  Guests are encouraged to bring their own food or snacks.  Many people seem to enjoy their own bento.  The venue offers some open table space, and some people enjoyed their bento lunch outside on the pier enjoying the views.


The line up of sake producers is solid.  Some notable sake brands that were in attendance included:  Gassan, Kaiun, Tamagawa.


Gassan is produced in the Shimane prefecture.  Yoshida-san is always reliable for brewing fabulous sake.  As one of the younger producers in the industry, he also has a progressive approach with his kura while maintaining the fundamental traditions of sake.  Shimane is located in the southern region of Japan along the Sea of japan.  The region generally will produce some flavor style of sake that are slightly sweet and nutty.  This year Gassan introduced a kimoto style sake for the first time.  Kimoto method of sake conjures up the image of sake brewers using poles to rame the mashed product in the sake tank.  While pole ramming is accurately part of a kimoto method, but what is the purpose of pole ramming and what does it achieve?  The pole ramming (kimoto method) prepares the yeast starter that involves natural lactic acid bacteria.  It is a slower process, and obviously more labor intensive for preparing a yeast starter.  The result is a stronger flavored sake that is often described as “wild”.  Kimoto style sake provides more acidity and sweetness.  The faster brewed moto (yeast starters) that most sakes use result in a cleaner refined flavor.  The Gassan kimoto was a well-balanced kimoto that was not overbearing.  The balance of acidity and sweetness created a very nice flavor profile and finish.


Kaiun is another sake that consistently produces a high quality product.  Doi-san is another of the younger brewers in the industry.  He literally takes a hand-on approach to his business.  He is very involved with the manual labor and skill involved with creating his sake.  Kaiun is located in Shizuoka, famously near Mt. Fuji.  Sake from this region generally is smooth and easy to drink, particularly with seafood from the area.  Kaiun had a variety of products offered:  namazake, junmai, junmai ginjo, dai ginjo and junmai dai ginjo.  Everyone of Kaiun’s products is surprisingly exceptional.  If you are ever in doubt or confused which sake to purchase at a shop, if you select a bottle of Kaiun you will not go wrong.


Tamagawa is the brewery that has the renowned Philip Harper as toji.  Harper-san has gained notoriety as the first non-japanese tojis.  However, his skills have also earned him recognition for producing award winning sake.  When he took of the role of toji for the struggling brewery in 2008, Harper-san adopted some of the traditional labor intenvive methods of producing sake.  The result was a turn around for the struggling brewery.  Today, Tamagawa is successful and has reputable for producing delicious sake



These are just a few of the quality breweries you can experience at the annual Yokohama sake festival.   The event is a good cause and a good time.