Aki Maekawa reports for Dime on a new venture between former Japan national football player, now dedicated sake fan Hidetoshi Nakata and Tokyo radio station J-Wave.

Their popup “entertainment restaurant” J-WAVE NIHONMONO LOUNGE is open from Tue 14 July to 6 September 2020, opposite Takanawa Gateway, the newest station on Tokyo’s Yamanote Line.

Nakata, known for his deep knowledge and appreciation of Japanese culture, is directing the project. which – unsurprisingly – has a special focus on sake and features 159 breweries from all over the country. Nakata previously travelled throughout Japan’s 47 prefectures to experience the profound attraction of both sake and Japan’s traditional arts, and now wants to communicate their charms to the world.

Nakata has also organised the CRAFT SAKE WEEK event four times, giving him plenty of experience for selecting prime sake for this project. Sake from about 20 different breweries will be featured each week on a rotating basis. Each week also has a theme, making it easy for visitors to come at a time when they’ll find sake they like.

The first week (14-19 July) is Tokyo and Tohoku Week, featuring the nine sake breweries operating inside the urban greater Tokyo area plus 10 more from the green and expansive Tohoku region. There will also be a non-geographical Sakenomy ALL STARS week for breweries selected by users of the Sakenomy app, and one featuring winning sake from SAKE COMPETITION. [Which really needs a more distinctive name. I have no idea which competition this is, will research.] Other weekly themes include otherwise hard to find labels, such as the legendary Jūyondai.

The sake is served in wine glasses to emphasise both aroma and flavour. Hand sanitiser made by sake breweries is available on the bar counter, which also serves exclusive dishes from top restaurants such as Yoidore Chocolat cake Nishiazabu restaurant l’Effervescence, and shutō [salted and fermented bonito intestine] cheese made with Hiroki sake-kasu from the Kudan izakaya at Tokyo Gakugei University.

You can shop as well as eat and drink, as the site features NIHONMONO TOKYO, a collection of traditional art and food products that Nakata found during his travels around Japan. The products are introduced alongside books and aphorisms, with shelves designed by “book director” Masataka Haba. There is also a premium counter with a range of beer and ale from Yebisu Beer, which celebrates its 130th anniversary this year.

The shop and bar/restaurant area features entertainment, including live broadcasting from J-WAVE and short films from the US Academy Awards Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia shown daily from 18:00 and the programme Yebisu Beer Beginnings – From Takanawa Gateway on weekdays from 12:30, featuring commentators such as Rachel Chan and Kavka Shishido reporting live on Tokyo’s hottest spots, plus live performances.

The J-WAVE NIHONMONO LOUNGE is completely cashless, taking only special tokens (“starter coins” cost JPY 1,600 for 10 when making a reservation, with further packs of 10 available on site). Drinks and food are ordered using phones, ensuring that staff and customers can keep their distance.

So if you want another example of how Japan combines old and new – with traditional crafts and sake in one of Tokyo’s newest locations – you know where to go.

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