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World Sake Meetup (or parts of it) meets in Niigata

meetup group
Back in February, I found out this year’s Niigata Sake-no-jin was on March 15 and 16. Since Te-chan and I were going to be in Koriyama visiting Kinpou Shuzou on the 15th, I thought to make a grand circle and go to Niigata from Fukushima. At the time, I thought some members of the Tokyo Sake Meetup might be able to take an advantage of the special JR deal from Tokyo and visit Niigata with us. As it turns out, the sake higher power united not only local nihonshu enthusiasts in Niigata, but from other parts of the world. Elise, the organizer of Vancouver Sake Meetup was going to be in Japan for her sake class, and Valerie, who heads up the Twin Cities Sake Meetup was going to be here as well on business. They both signed up to go to Niigata with us on Sunday, March 16th. So did Jocelyn and Carlos from Yokosuka, so we had a full crew. Our first opportunity to go beyond our own group to enjoy sake!

Niigata Sake-no-jin is a sake and food event at Toki Messe, an enormous convention center in Niigata, to showcase sake from over 90 brewers in the prefecture as well as local food and restaurants. In exchange for 1,000 yen admission, you receive a little choko that you can take from booth to booth and taste five to ten or sometimes even more different sake at each brewers’ table. If you like a bottle, you can purchase it on the spot and open the bottle to enjoy it with food and friends. Food is something to note as well. These were not just your regular food stands you commonly see at big public events, such as yakisoba, chicken or pork skewers, and udon. In addition, there were prominent local restaurants, sake ice cream, lots of senbei, and many other things. As the name indicates, it is like a huge battle camp, only it is fun place to be.

The event was insanely crowded–I think it had more people than last year. One representative from a kura said they had 35,000 people on Saturday and expected to see more show up on Sunday. Because of this sea of people, it was hard to stay in a group, or even harder to find Elise, who joined us later with her friends from the sake course. But, we finally met in Niigata, of all places, for our kanpai in person from Tokyo to the world! Hope this is going to be the first one of many more to come! OK, we are not really a complete representation of the world, but considering the sake world, it’s pretty good, wouldn’t you say?


5 Responses to “World Sake Meetup (or parts of it) meets in Niigata”

  1. it was great we finally met up–everytime i saw some non-japanese groups, i’d go and ask, are you part of the tokyo sake meetup? but glad i spotted et-chan, as i recognized your face from our flickr connection! blake, my buddy from sake class, also had a great time. i think the most amusing thing was the fact neither of us spoke japanese proficiently, yet we could reel off very specific technical sake terms in japanese which seemed to floor the sake people at the booths–what is with these two who can’t communicate to us other than in obscure sake terminology?!? well, there’s always a way to connect, and sake is a great way to do that!
    am glad we started our world sake gathering in niigata, a very fitting place to begin more such meetings together.

    back in vancouver now, will post photos when i can.

    take care,

    Posted by elise | March 28, 2008, 8:16 am
  2. Hi Elise, How was rest of your trip? We just got back yesterday. It was so good to be able to spot each other in that crowd! I am sure your sake knowledge really impressed those brewers and made them happy. I look forward to your pictures from Japan.

    Posted by et-chan | March 29, 2008, 9:11 am
  3. Dear Etsuko!
    Thanks for your comment!
    I have sent a Garyubai Bottle (Sanwa Brewery) to Melinda for your next tasting!
    It will bring you back memories!

    Posted by Robert-Gilles Martineau (ロベル。ジル) | April 10, 2008, 7:17 pm
  4. Hi  ロベル・ジル
    Thanks! I could not tell this to Suzuki-san, but their sake is not just good, but tough and ages well. We had an open bottle (1.8l) of Garyubai junmai ginjyo nama muroka wataribune for a month or a bit longer. Instead of seeing any trace of bad oxidation, it lost its edges and aged nicely.

    Posted by et-chan | April 11, 2008, 7:58 am
  5. Etsuko!
    I had it, too!
    Greta sake indeed!

    Posted by Robert-Gilles Martineau (ロベル。ジル) | April 12, 2008, 4:31 pm

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