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We Kanpai’ed with The World on World Sake Day - Here’s How it Went Down

It was World Sake Day - a day that was celebrated on the 1st October annually, dating back around 150 years. The day is an important one for a few reasons - one, it is around this period where the rice harvests have concluded, hence ushering in a new season for sake brewing. Two, this is also the day where sake brewers would offer sake to Shinto shrines, praying for a good brewing season. Sake brewing is often relegated to the end of the year, as temperatures dip and allow for a cooler environment for fermentation to occur. Nowadays, the day has expanded to celebrate sake in general.

Organised by Sake Matsuri, Singapore’s largest kanpai was held at the Sake Matsuri’s media preview. Thanks for the invite @sakematsuri!

Four sakes from the land, for sakes by the sea

The event was split into three parts for the media preview. First, we had two back to back sake tastings: four sake from landlocked prefectures (hence, sakes from the Land), and the next four sakes that were along the coast of Japan (hence, sakes from the Sea), all paired with dishes from Ka-EN Grill and Sushi Bar.

Image Courtesy of Ka-En Grill & Sushi Bar.

For the first sake tasting session, the first for sakes were from Ichinoya Brewery 市野屋 and Yonezawa Brewery 米澤 from Nagano Prefecture, and Tsuki no Katsura 月の桂, located at Kyoto prefecture. Here are the sakes that we had in order:

In order: Ichinoya Ryusuisen Omi 市野屋 龍水泉 麻績 , Imanishiki Tokubetsu Junmai 今錦 特別純米 , Tsuki no Katsura Junmai Ginjo Branché 月の桂 純米吟醸 Branché, and Tsuki no Katsura Junmai Kasegi Gashira 月の桂 純米 稼ぎ頭.

Adrian from Inter Rice Asia led the tastings for this session.

Adrian Goh from Inter Rice Asia.

Adrian explained that sakes from Nagano tend to be on the underrated side, despite having over 80 breweries and 2nd most breweries by prefecture. Many of these breweries are small scale productions that are in isolated communities up at the Japanese Alps, hence they don't get much reach outside of their local area. The Tsuki no Katsura brewery was founded in 1675, and is the oldest brewery in the Fushimi sake brewery district of Kyoto. (We'll dive more into these sakes in subsequent reviews, so stay tuned!)

Tsukino Katsura Brewery. Image Courtesy of TripAdvisor.

The four sakes are paired with meat bites: Iberico Pork Jowl, Teppan Chicken with Yuzu Kosho and Miyazaki Wagyu Sirlon with Foie Gras. My personal favourite was the wagyu beef  - the meat had a tender chewsomeness with a kiss of garlic. From this session, my favourite sakes were the 1st and last one: the Ryusuisen Omi and the Kasegi Gashira. For me, both sakes had a refreshing acidity and sweetness that paired well with the meaty, greasy bites.

Chicken with Yuzu Kosho, Iberico Pork Jowl, Teppan and Miyazaki Wagyu Sirlon with Foie Gras in order.

For the next four sakes by the sea, we were led down to the outdoor seating area of Ka-En. This time, it was Reuben Oh, the director of Kabuki Works. The sakes for the  second tasting were from two breweries: Miyoshikiku Brewery 三芳菊 and Honke Matsuura Brewery 本家松浦 from Tokushima Prefecture.

Reuben Oh from Kabuki Works.

Reuben explained that the differences between sakes made by the coast and sakes made in landlocked regions are starting to be less noticeable, as sake brewers are now starting to invent their own house style with new techniques. From the session Miyoshikiku brewery is currently experimenting with lots of different types of yeast, including ambient yeast. The Honke Matsuura brewery produces the Narutotai 鳴門鯛 sake brand, named after the Naruto Strait Whirlpools and the delicious red bream.

Here are the next for sakes in order: Miyoshikiku Junmai Ginjo Shirobudo "Grape"
 三芳菊  純米吟醸  白ぶどう,  Narutotai Ginjo Shiboritate Nama Genshu 鳴門鯛 吟醸しぼりたて生原酒 ,   Miyoshikiku Muroka Nama Genshu Neko to Wakaseyo 三芳菊 無濾過生原酒 ネコと和解せよ, Narutotai Junmai Daiginjo Kotobuki 鳴門鯛 純米大吟醸 寿.

The sakes are aptly paird with seafood bites, including the Jumbo Half Shell Scallop, Ankimo Ponzu (monkfish liver), Assorted Sashimi with Ikura, clam broth and a oyster fry (kaki furai). The scallops were delectably rich with the sweet broth that accompanied it, and the monkfish liver was an amazing accompaniment for the sakes, especially the Narutotais. My personal favourite from the four sakes here was the Narutotai Nama Genshu – it had a profound deep savouriness and sweetness, with a high enough alcohol content and richness of flavour that accompanied with the natural sweetness of the seafood as well. Kudos to the chefs at Ka-EN (and the sake collection)!

Kanpai with the World

After the two tasting sessions, we were led to the plaza, where the World Kanpai session was going to take place. I collected my glassware, where I could get to sample more sakes at the sake bar in the plaza. 

Before the kanpai session, it was only apt that there was a kagami biraki session. Kagami biraki 鏡開き, translating to "mirror opening", is the act of breaking open a sake cask. The ceremony is often done at weddings or business meetings, often to signal transitions into a new period or new begininnings. With a "3, 2, 1, yoisho!", the cask was opened and signaled the start of celebrations for World Sake Day.

Kevin from Sake Matsuri, Ambassador Hiroshi Ishikawa and Mr Yoichi Kimura from JETRO SG took park in the ceremony. Look at all that sake!

Then, the sake was distibuted into an kikichoko for each attendee at the event - a porcealin sake cup with blue rings that sake brewers use to assess the quality of sake.

Instead of two blue rings, we get a smiley instead - probably the cutest kikichoko I have in possession now.

After everyone has had their sake filled kikichoko, the countdown started - live on a Zoom call with the folks at Japan. Counting down in Japanese... san, ni, ichi, kanpai!

And that's the global kanpai event! Afterwards, the eventgoers hung around the plaza, sharing and reviewing sakes that were available at the bar. I had some sakes from Kabuki Works and The Sake Company - where reviews will be coming soon!