Held on 28 April 2018, the event is hosted by sake brewers and sake-loving bars and restaurants. This year saw 20 pairs of businesses exhibiting, including French brewers Les Larmes du Levant.
The format for Kamigata Nihonshu World is that kura and bars/restaurants pair up to provide carefully selected sake and food to go with it. Started in 2010 and held during the Golden Week holiday period, it is now in its ninth year.
It’s actually not the first time the event has had a non-Japanese business taking part, as they had a Singapore restaurant on one of the stalls last year, but there was considerably more excitement at having French brewers, which the article sees as a sign that sake is really starting to go global.
The event is organised by Nihonshu Manjigatame (日本酒卍固め) [not sure how to render that in English – nihonshu is what we call sake and manjigatame… is a pro wresting move called an “octopus hold”?], a group formed by three izakaya, Kurashhu (蔵朱), Sake ya Sakana Yoshimura (酒や肴 よしむら) and Umasake Kamunabi (味酒 かむなび), who want to communicate the wonders of sake. They came up with the idea for an event in March 2008, thinking that they needed a space where they could have as many people as possible drinking and appreciating sake.
The 2017 event was the biggest one to date with around 6,200 visitors. It was previously held at Osaka Tenman shrine (also affectionately known as “Tenjin-san”), but due to the number of people it was moved to Minatomachi River Place in the Nanba area of the city. Advance tickets cost JPY 500 and come with a brochure and glass ochoko with the event logo. Tickets on the day cost JPY 800. Sake and food were paid for at each stall, with the sake drunk from the event glass and plenty of tables to sit and relax while eating and drinking.
Looking around at the people there, the writer noticed not only people in their 50s and 60s, seen as the main segment interested in sake, but also groups of young people, couples and even parents with their children, so it was a good mix. There were even foreigners!
The Larmes du Levant (“tears of the levant”, an easterly wind that blows over the south of France and Mediterranean), the first sake brewers in France, were serving their own sake with French fries covered in cheese. Brewer Grégoire Boeuf first encountered sake five years ago during a visit to Japan, was smitten and immediately planned to start brewing in France. He studied at the Umetsu brewery in Tottori for a year starting in 2015, and attended the 2016 Kamigata Nihonshu World with them. He returned to France in 2017 and founded the Les Larmes du Levant brewery (called 昇涙酒造 in Japanese) in Pélussin in the Loire area of central France.
He was nervous at attending the event as a brewer for the first time, as well as the change of location, but amazed at how lively it was. The sake he had brought with him was the brewery’s Kaminari (Thunder). It was made from rice imported from Japan, and water from the local Mont Pilat which is particularly soft by European standards. [Water in Japan is generally very soft compared to Europe, which is why there’s all the fuss over the not-so-soft water in Nada.]
Tasting the French sake, the writer was impressed by its rich aroma and found that it tasted just like a sake brewed in Japan. The brewery had paired up with the Nihonshuya restaurant/bar who were taking care of the pairing with cheesy fries. The writer commented that it was a great pairing of fermented foods.
Grégoire Boeuf was very clear on where the Larmes du Levant was going next – he has a five-year plan to produce sake in France from French-grown rice and French water, producing muroka kimoto junmai daiginjō.
The Kamigata Nihonshu World also seems to have a bright future ahead. The new, larger venue was packed to capacity within an hour of opening.