On October 14th, a Sunday evening, we met our friend Patricia and headed to downtown Yokosuka for the Kakeda Shoten Sake Tasting, held at the Saikaya meeting hall. Kakeda Shoten is a well-respected sake store in Oppama (near my home). It’s a magical place with a wall of premium sakes behind the glass doors of the fridges. A friend tipped me off that there would be a tasting in my area (usually I have to shlepp up to Tokyo), so I was excited to have a tasting so near our home. When I bought the tickets at the shop, Kakeda-san proudly told me there would be 50 different brewers represented.

When we arrived there were many speeches and a formal introduction of the kurabito (sake brewers) that had travelled from about 30 different prefectures from 50 breweries to represent 81 different sakes. The room dividers were removed, the sakes revealed, with their happi-coat-wearing brewers behind many of them, and the crowd got pushy in the rush. In a two hour period I was able to taste about 20-25 sakes (I went back for seconds on some favorites, and we weren’t spitting). I’m still deciphering the kanji for some of the ones I enjoyed. Although I can discuss sake at a very simple level in Japanese, it’s very hard in an increasingly inebriated crowd to ask every single brewer for his name and the yomikata (how to read) of the name of the sake. So, I have my printed list and will work on it. There may be updates. But the photos of brewers holding up their creations make my heart glad.

Akebono sake from Fukushima: Tenmei (Turtle’s Tail) junmai bin hi-ire (bottle pasteurized). The orange calligraphy on the label is the kurabito‘s son’s finger painting. The handwritten note on my program says, “Yum.” Sorry. I’ll have to buy more to give more technical details.

Kyokujyou junmai daiginjo. This was unusual and tasty; it seemed to have a slight effervescent quality on the tongue. The kurabito was a woman, which made her stand out in the room. [For some reason my staff photographer neglected to take a picture of her.] The bottle beside the sake bottle is a bottle of the actual water used to create the sake. I tried several of the waters with the sakes; they were absolutely delicious, of course.

And from Fukui prefecture, the fat, round, delicious Fukuchitose yamahai junmai daiginjo. This was my favorite sake of the evening, although at this point I was all red in the face and about to start singing “You’re The First, The Last, My Everything.” Plus, the kurabito was just so huggable and kind of reminded me of the owl on the label. I am a particular fan of kimoto and yamahai sakes (so far). They have the funky undertone of the long fermentation process. They are like the washed rind cheeses of sake and I love them.

There were some other delights that evening. Kakeda-san and his staff were very welcoming. The proprietors of Shuen Kawashima izakaya came right up to me and said hello. But then we three stood out on Sunday; we were the only foreigners at the tasting. Oh, and I won a bottle of sake in the raffle.

[For information about sake terminology and types of sake, start with John Gauntner’s Sake World site.]