Japan has given many things to the world that I cherish, but few of them have an unofficial holiday that gives me the excuse to celebrate them. Every October first, along with sake lovers all over Japan and around the world, I get to observe Nihonshu no Hi, also known as Sake Day.
Like wine, no one knows exactly when sake first made an appearance. In a similar fashion to grape wine, the knowledge that fermented rice eventually yields an alcoholic beverage was probably discovered in accidental and then later deliberate stages, as innovative and curious folks explored ways of getting drunk.
Sake production and demand is likely to have peaked in Japan the mid 19th century when a law was passed allowing anyone to become a brewer. As many as 30,000 breweries were opened in the year of the law’s passing, though that number dwindled as taxes on sake and its raw materials increased through the end of the century.
Despite ups and downs, and not being anywhere near its 19th century production levels, sake is seeing a major renaissance around the world, and that is worth celebrating for any sake lover. More and more excellent sake is leaving Japan and making its way abroad.
All of which means that in early October you’ll not only have something to celebrate but, some really good stuff to celebrate with, should you care to partake in the 11th Annual Sake day celebration put on by San Francisco’s own True Sake store.
As in past years this celebration is a benefit for the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, who direct funds to many good causes.
Sake Day is an opportunity to taste an assortment of sake, eat some good Japanese food, and listen to a little music in a casual atmosphere. Various tasting stations will be set up that will allow attendees to compare different styles of sake, blind taste some varieties, as well as explore flaws like heat damage.
If you’re looking for a way to learn about sake, you’d be hard pressed to find a better occasion to experience a number of them than this little event.
11th Annual Sake Day Celebration
Saturday, October 1
5:00 PM to 9:00 PM
1800 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94103 (map)
Tickets are $75 and should be purchased in advance online, as the event may sell out. A valid photo ID will be required for entry.
A word of caution for those used to wine tastings. Spitting is not normal at sake tastings, and consequently, spittoons aren’t usually available. For those who want to taste without getting wasted, I recommend bringing an empty water bottle into which you can surreptitiously spit.