Crafting sake in Kanagawa Photo: Izumibashi Shuzo
food

Crafting the perfect sake in Kanagawa

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On Tuesday December 8, 2020, the Kanagawa Prefectural Government hosted a YouTube webinar introducing a selection of wonderful sake breweries from Kanagawa Prefecture, as well as delving into the details of how sake is made. The webinar is a part of a series of online presentations called “Get to Know Kanagawa” where a variety of the prefecture’s unique foods and tourism spots are highlighted. This webinar introducing sake to the general public was a collaborative effort on the part of the Japan Society, the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) of New York and the Kanagawa Prefectural Government.

“Crafting the Perfect Sake in Kanagawa” was a one-hour program led by sake master John Gauntner. He is one of the non-Japanese certified Masters of Sake tasting in the world, and his plethora of knowledge pertaining to the art of Japanese winemaking was demonstrated vibrantly in this segment.

Gauntner briefed the online audience of the sake brewing history of Japan and Kanagawa, and how sake breweries have, over the century, all but disappeared into the annals of history. A once vibrant culture of over 10,000 breweries across the country has now shrunk to a mere 1200+ locations, with only 13 active breweries in the prefecture of Kanagawa. He also explains how Kanagawa breweries are perhaps the most unique and innovative, untethered to tradition like many other Sake producers across the nation.

Guest speaker and brew master Yuichi Hashiba made a cameo appearance to introduce his brewery Izumibashi, one of the up-and-coming sake breweries in Japan, and one of the only Kanagawa sake labels to be imported to the United States alongside another, Tensei. Hashiba and Gauntner together presented a 20-minute video of the insider view of sake production at Izumibashi, where online viewers were given a virtual tour of the sites, apparatuses, and machinery necessary for brewing. The tour was a pared down glimpse into the intricacies and time-honored routines of sake production, an art form in itself.

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Rice fields in Kanagawa Prefecture Photo: Izumibashi Shuzo

We learned, through Hashiba and Gauntner’s guidance, that the uniqueness of Izumibashi’s sake comes from growing rice in their own fields, milling and polishing it in house, and never cutting corners in the many time-consuming and meticulous processes, things which many Japanese sake producers cannot vouch for themselves. We learned that their sake making techniques are strongly beholden to the past, but look and fly forward into the future, a sentiment which they visually represented in their red dragonfly logo. Many viewers were sure to have gained a sense of adoration and reverence for the deceptively simple and pure beverage they have come to adore.

The webinar was rounded out with a few choice examples of dishes that could be paired with Kanagawa sake, including some more Western-influenced plates. All the plated pairings were concocted from Kanagawa local ingredients, enticing the viewers to perhaps make a trip to the prefecture one day to taste the delicacies for themselves.

The webinar “Crafting the Perfect Sake in Kanagawa” was widely popular. Over 1,300 viewers originally signing up to watch, with another 2,200 more views in the following days on YouTube. Viewers tuned in from all around the world including Japan, the U.S., and numerous other countries. This webinar was a great introduction to the highly detailed and labor intensive process required to brew that perfect glass of sake we all enjoy.

The one-hour program is archived and still viewable online at the link below.

© RikiWeb

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Nothing was as comforting during the chilly autumns I spent in Japan as a meal of nabiyaki udon accompanied by a tokkuri or two of warmed sake. A true taste treat.

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