Learning about sake is similar to discovering the world’s wide range of wines. Even if you can navigate the sometimes complicated, kanji names on a drinks menu at a local eatery, it’s unlikely that they’ll be that helpful in finding the right sake for you. Each sake brewery has its own history and creates its own flavor, so there’s no better way than to try as many as you can to find the one that best suits your palate.
Niigata Prefecture is home to some of the finest sake breweries in Japan. Dry summers and abundant winter snowfall helps make the rice harvested in the region perfect for brewing crisp and dry sake. Stretching from the island of Sado to the city of Uonuma, which is known for producing some of the best rice in Japan, Niigata is a wonderland for epicures with a penchant for quality sake of many varieties.
Sakenojin, an annual sake-tasting event held in city of Niigata’s Toki Messe Convention Hall, offers around 500 varieties of sake from 90 local breweries in regions of different terroirs — all for the price of ¥2,500 (¥2,000 in advance). A local-gourmet menu contest, fashion shows, tasting tournament and sake seminars in English will also take place at the hall. Last year, the event attracted close to 100,000 visitors, which is not surprising, considering the number of sakes available to try. But don’t get carried away, or you may end up not remembering which one was your favorite.
“Sakenojin” is held in Toki Messe Convention Hall in city of Niigata from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on March 15, and till 5 p.m. fon March 16. Entrance is free, but a fee is required for tasting: ¥2,500 or ¥2,500 in advance. Only those age 20 and over can enter. Shuttle buses are scheduled to transport the visitors between the venue and Niigata Shinkansen station. For more information, call 025-246-8400 or visit www.sakenojin.jp/english.