A buzzy atmosphere of excitement hung in the air as sake fans lined up for the Wa ni Naro Nihonshu charity sake tasting last Friday afternoon. As attendees streamed through the front doors of Tokyo Dome City's vast Prism Hall, gasps of astonishment mingled with the spirited rhythms of live taiko drumming that signaled the start of the event.

Inside was a sake lover's dream come true: The nearly 3,000 sq. meter hall was filled with long rows of booths offering samples of sake, wine and shōchū from all of Japan's 47 prefectures.

"This is my first time at a sake tasting, and I'm a little overwhelmed," laughed one young woman, who had come with a group of three friends.