The Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association (JSS) hosted the highly anticipated Sake Fair 2023 at Sunshine City in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. Recognized as the largest sake festival in the world, this year’s event brought together approximately 400 sake breweries from 45 prefectures and an unparalleled selection of sake varieties, captivating the hearts of approximately 4,500 attendees.
With approximately 400 sake breweries from 45 prefectures, the 2023 Sake Fair 2023 showcased an impressive offering of around 1,300 sake varieties, providing an unrivaled opportunity for guests to indulge in the diverse flavors and regional specialties that define Japan’s vibrant sake culture.
Koichi Saura, vice president of the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association, expressed the significance of sake in Japan’s culinary landscape, stating, “Sake breweries are located all over Japan and have been nurtured along with local history, culture, and climate. To know sake is to know the local food culture, and I hope that visitors to the Sake Fair will encounter sake, visit the breweries that make it, and get a feel for the food culture and climate of the region.”
The centerpiece of The Sake Fair 2023 was the 15th All Japan Sake Fair, where each prefecture unveiled its own distinct theme and sake offerings. Prefectures like Yamagata and Shiga garnered attention by showcasing GI-themed sake, leveraging the prestige of their acquired Geographical Indication (GI) status. Other regions highlighted the unique characteristics of their sake, incorporating locally developed yeast strains and emphasizing the provenance of their sake rice.
In addition to the exhibition and sales booths, the Sake Fair 2023 featured an array of seminars. These sessions were conducted by local producers’ groups, aged and sparkling sake producers’ associations, and esteemed experts in the art of serving warm sake. Attendees had the opportunity to delve into the complex world of sake production techniques and gain a deeper appreciation for the nuances that make each sake type distinct.
Another highlight is the public tasting program, where an astonishing 400 sake varieties, winners of the Annual Japan Sake Awards 2023, were showcased. Organized jointly by the National Research Institute of Brewing (NRIB) and JSS, this grand tasting event served as a mecca for sake enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike, allowing them to savor the exquisite craftsmanship and exceptional quality that epitomize Japanese sake.
“The biggest attraction of the Sake Fair is that visitors can compare various types of sake,” emphasized Masumi Nakano, chairman of the overseas sake sales promotion committee of JSS. “Sake can be enjoyed not only by pairing it with food but also by enjoying different tastes with different sake-wares and temperatures, so we want people in the alcohol industry around the world who are interested in sake to be aware of this fair.”
The Sake Fair 2023 celebrated not only the artistry and heritage of sake-making but also aimed to foster greater awareness of the beverage on a global scale. As Japanese restaurants continue to flourish worldwide and sake exports reach unprecedented heights, reaching a staggering 47.5 billion yen (US$330.7 million) in 2022. The JSS remains committed to elevating the status of sake as a cherished brewed alcoholic beverage, capable of enhancing gastronomic experiences much like its esteemed counterpart, wine.
Hitoshi Utsunomiya, director of JSS, expressed his ambitious vision for the future. “Currently, our main target of this fair is domestic sake fans, but we want to make this an event that attracts sake fans worldwide. We would also like to hold an exhibition that attracts buyers from around the world who are interested in sake,” Utsunomiya revealed.
The details of the Sake Fair 2024 will be announced in April next year.