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Sake, Washoku, and Green Tea: Tasting Event from Japan

• “Chicago Tasting Event from Japan 2014” was held at the Kendall College in Chicago on June 10, and more than 150 brands of sake, beverages, and green tea, as well as Japanese food products, were introduced by 26 companies. The event was hosted by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) and the Consulate General of Japan at Chicago.

• Consul General Masaharu Yoshida said that sake reflected Japanese culture and exquisite techniques and encouraged the participants to sample as many types of sake as possible. He also mentioned that green tea and washoku (Japanese cuisine), which had been designated as UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage, reflected the essence of Japan.

• Sake specialist John Gauntner, who has been known as a sake samurai, gave a lecture about “Sake and Food”. According to Gauntner, sake is versatile and a food friendly beverage because sake has no tannins and relatively low acidity. He said that sake and food pairing had no big rule as wine had “red with meat and white with fish.”
• On the other hand, sake and food pairing can be done based on sake’s flavor and aromatic profiles. His sake-and-food-matching suggestions were: oysters and sashimi with ginjo-shu; pasta with cream and bacon with junmai-shu; bitter veggies with nama-sake; and cheese with ko-shu (aged sake).

• Tetsuyasu Sato, president of Takasago Sake Brewery in Hokkaido, explained how to extract their sake “Ginga Shizuku” in his brewery.
• They put fermented sake rice in bags and hang them in ice domes, so they can naturally extract sake without pressuring them. In this way, they can keep best fullness and aroma of sake.
• Although Takasaga makes sake at its best, Japan’s domestic market shrank by half 10 years ago. The fact severely hit Hokkaido because the area’s sake consumption was only 20 % of the entire market. Takasago decided to introduce their sake overseas 10 years ago.
• “I got a good response in each city. I think that direct communication with customers is very important and I want to persuade them to buy Ginga Shizuku,” Sato said.

• Shuzo Nishiyama, President of Kotsuzumi Brewery in Hyogo Prefecture, participated in the sake tasting event in Chicago for the first time. He took over the business from his father six years ago, and the same year the brewery began to export sake. He said, “We alone made success among the other breweries, which then embarked on overseas business within 10 years because our sake has distinct features.”
• Nishiyama said that the domestic sale has increased by three times since he became president. “If you go abroad because of a domestic slump, you will fail. You can increase your sales volume if you have good strategies,” he said.
• One of the domestic success factors was improved relationship with local rice growers in Tamba. “Wine breweries make wine from soil. I think that sake brewery is the same,” he said.

• Miho Imada attended the event from Hiroshima. She is Master Brewer in Imada Sake Brewery, so she was very knowledgeable about sake making.
• According her, Hiroshima’s water is soft water, so sugar does not turn to alcohol easily. In past times, Hiroshima’s brewers discovered how to make sake with soft water by the slow and low temperature procedure that led to making ginjo-shu today.
• Imada Sake Brewery started exporting about 20 yeas ago, and its overseas sales have been improved in these 10 years. She said, “Consumption of good sake has increased in the domestic market, especially junmai-shu has become popular in Japan.”

• Kikkoman is a must-have item in washoku or Japanese cuisine. Seiichiro Shimoda, manager at Kikkoman Sales USA., Inc. introduced Shiro Dashi Tsuyu and served with Sanuki Udon (noodles). He said that more and more chefs were interested in “umami” and dashi (making broth) culture, so he wanted the participants to sample as many kinds of umami as possible.
• Shimoda also introduced Tonkotsu Ramen Soup Mix to restaurants. He said that making tonkotsu soup was the most difficult thing among ramen soups, but the ramen has been gaining popularity in the U.S.

• Hoken Seki, President of Green Teaist introduced very fine green tea.
• He was born in the U.S., and his profession is attorney-at-law, but he embarked upon the green tea importing business eight years ago after he had met a tea dealer from Kyoto. He also opened a green-tea café in Lake Forest and serves quality tea with Toraya’s sweets. Toraya is a renowned sweet store in Tokyo.
• Green Teaist received the first place North American Tea Champion Award in 2012 for TGT Blend. Seki sells 30 varieties of fine green tea to famed hotels and restaurants. Some of those are available at Whole Foods in Chicago area.

• The full story is available in the Chicago Shimpo’s 2014, June 27th issue


A variety of sake introduced by Kuramoto Trading

Shuzo Nishiyama, President of Kotsuzumi Brewery in Hyogo Prefecture


Seiichiro Shimoda, manager at Kikkoman Sales USA., Inc. introduces Shiro Dashi Tsuyu.


Tung Nguyen, assistant manager of Sangaria U.S.A., introduces ramune, soda beverages.

Tetsuyasu Sato, president of Takasago Sake Brewery
in Hokkaido

Miho Imada, Master Brewer in Imada Sake Brewery


Hoken Seki, President of Green Teaist introduces
very fine green tea.