With the start of a new year comes a new set of resolutions. An increasingly popular choice is Dry January, a campaign led by the British charity Alcohol Change UK, in which participants vow to abstain from drinking for 31 days. Millions of people around the world have been documenting their virtuous endeavours online with the hashtag #DryJanuary.
I am not among this abstemious group. Nor am I a proponent of lofty New Year's resolutions in general. This year, I've made one that I will likely have little trouble keeping: I've decided to do more sake tasting — as opposed to sake drinking — in 2019. Thankfully, Tokyo has no shortage of sake specialty bars offering small-format glasses and tasting flights that allow you to sample different styles without necessarily overindulging.
Ao-Nisai (Tokyo Matsui Bldg. 1F, Nakano 3-35-7, Nakano-ku; aonisai.jp) near JR Nakano Station has everything you could want in a casual sake bar — friendly staff dressed in numbered jerseys, a buzzy vibe and a well-curated sake list with more than 20 premium brands (including a few choices of warmed sake). The brews come in pours that range in size from 54 milliliters (¥390) to 270-milliliter tumblers (¥1,480) for sharing. The food menu features tasty snacks such as mountain yam pickles marinated in tamari-jōyu (a kind of soy sauce made without wheat), stewed beef tendon topped with sliced onions, and juicy deep-fried meatballs.