For decades, sake (or nihonshu for the majority of Japanese) didn't really do it for the citizens of this archipelago. Cheap, ubiquitous and made from rice, it seemed too familiar — tacky even. Older people drank it at weddings, or swilled the stuff when they wanted to get uproariously drunk. Young women tended to avoid it (the smell put them off) while young men preferred to dazzle dates with their knowledge of imported wine.

But now sake is about to join the ranks of anime idols, sushi and green tea as a staple of Cool Japan, and the documentary aptly titled "Kampai! For the Love of Sake" ("Kampai!" meaning "Cheers!") is being released this weekend to tell us all about it.

"I was based in LA and when I went out to dinner, I started getting a lot of questions about sake," says director Mirai Konishi during a recent interview at the film distributor's office. "I was often the only Japanese at the table and I felt obliged to deliver this big, knowledgeable speech, but then realized I didn't know anything. Sake was a mystery to me."