The 13th Niigata Sake no Jin, Battle of Sake was held on March 11th and 12th 2017. 85 breweries from across Niigata prefecture came together at Toki Messe, Wave Market. Sake was flowing incessantly for 2 days and Sake lovers from all over Japan and overseas flocked to enjoy this beautiful drink. Over 130000 people visited Sake no Jin this year.
Niigata Sake no Jin started in 2004 based on the famous Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. It has gathered vast popularity over the last 13 years. Niigata specializes for sake made from polished rice which is fermented slowly in the harsh winter, using the purest sources of water that have been gifted to this region by Mother Nature.
Junmai Daiginjo, Daiginjo, Junmai shu, Namazake, Umeshu, Amazake, Liqueur and more, you say the name and it was there! Little sake cups called Ochoko in their hands, guests were walking around from booth to booth, tasting and purchasing delicious sake. With the weather outside still swinging between wintery cold and sunny spring, the event venue almost looked like a park on the day of hanami.
Every brewery showcased their proud productions in cold and hot (atsukan) varieties.
Onigiri, Sushi, roasted fish, ramen, Motsu-ni (a pork dish using miso and sake) and many more delicacies accompanied the sake. If you saw a long queue, it was definitely for one of these delicious fares. You could also buy sake byproducts such as sakasuke and sakekasu at the brewery booths.
Stage shows, contests, seminars on sake tasting and sake accompaniments were held throughout the event. On day 2, guests were serenaded by traditional sake songs sung by the kurabito (brewers) during the production process.
You could also purchase traditional and modern designs of sake cups and even try your hand at traditional Japanese pottery. The one interesting product that literally made a place for itself near many sake lovers’ hearts was this Ochoko holder with a neck strap. It made the tasting parade so much easier and stylish and almost hands free. J While strolling between booths, you could just let the Ochoko hang around your neck and enjoy each swig leisurely.
The best thing about tasting all these sake at one place on the same day is to be able to compare the fine nuances of their varied taste. The beauty of sake flavors is very much like a snowflake falling on your palm. It has an ethereal beauty about it but it vanishes just as you are appreciating it, leaving you wanting more. With a clear color and crisp flavor, Niigata sake specially scores high on this quality. This is what also makes it an amazing companion to fruit liqueurs such as Umeshu. We could taste one of the best and simplest Umeshu and Sake mixtures at this event.
Even though the event takes its concept from the German beer festival, the way sake is enjoyed is very different from that of beer. Sake tasting is much closer to wine tasting while it is served in a small cup just like a vodka shot. But beware! You don’t chug the little cup down in one go like vodka. It is meant to be savored in small sips, letting your tongue feel the sweet, dry and aromatic flavors in stages. The cup also makes a lot of difference to the tasting experience. Depending on the thickness of the brim and the material, the taste may get enhanced or altered beyond imagination. The same goes with the temperature. Warming up the sake brings out the aroma and starts tickling your palate even before you take the swig. Whereas, a cold swig brings out the clarity and sharpness.
The brewers proudly presented their creations to the visitors and when they saw the smile of appreciation on people’s faces, their faces lit up with a satisfaction and pride for their special sakes. There were many breweries who unfurled the curtain on their soon to be launched labels. So if you were one of the lucky ones to have visited these booths, you can proudly say that you were one of the first people to taste their sake.
But if you missed this opportunity, do not worry! In March 2018, Sake no Jin battlefield will welcome you again to Niigata to experience this amazing world of Niigata local sake. Until then, Maboroshino Sake will keep bringing the world of Niigata local sake to your doorstep!