News

Digital Kokushu Museum

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This past autumn, something really special came into being that all of our sake and shochu-loving listeners ought to appreciate.

A project that has been in-the-making for quite some time behind the scenes at the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association, the Digital Kokushu Museum offers a rather particular kind of glimpse into the ongoing evolution of tradition and culture of Japan’s iconic and long-celebrated koji-fermented beverages – sake, mirin, and shochu – collectively referred to (occasionally) as, kokushu.

Should you find yourself with the opportunity to visit some of the many sake breweries and shochu distilleries scattered across Japan, you’ll find that nearly each and every one has rooms (and sometimes entire buildings) brimming with sake and shochu-related artifacts, from retro advertisements and signboards, to vintage glassware and merch, and even volumes upon volumes of historical texts. The true nature of most of the content stashed away, however, is often a mystery even to the owners, as there’s just too much to sift through. It’s amazing when you consider the prospect of all that’s potentially out there, but as very little of it has been properly organized and catalogued, and because it’s all scattered to the winds across the island of Japan, very few people ever get the chance to encounter it, and even less an opportunity to appreciate it.

The Digital Kokushu Museum is a small, but significant step in taking centuries of both physical and digital paraphernalia representing the evolution of Japan’s kokushu culture and curating it into an easy-to-navigate and insightful digital format online.

With such a long, rich history, as well as vast pool of content to potentially draw from, we were curious as to how one would even begin to go about approaching such a daunting and gargantuan task, as well as determining how to then go about organizing and curating all that information. To find out, your hosts Marie Nagata and Justin Potts invited the project’s director and curator, Miho Ohta, to the show to share in the process, as well as the discoveries she and the team at JSS made along the way.

Thanks for tuning in again this week. Please feel free to leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or whatever service you rely upon for your podcasting needs. Contact us at questions@sakeonair.staba.jp with any thoughts about the show, and feel free to follow us on  InstagramTwitter, and Facebook. Everything from Sake Future Summit 2020, as well as a number of other recordings, are all archived over on our YouTube channel, as well.

We’ll be back with more Sake On Air for you in just a couple of weeks.
Until then, kampai!

Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is a co-production between Export Japan and Potts.K Productions, with audio production by Frank Walter. Our theme, “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” was composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.

Okawari: Water, Food, and Terroir

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A lot of the interview material from our episodes here at Sake on Air winds up on the cutting room floor, but some of it is just too good to let go to waste. With our Okawari series, we raise our glass for a second round of information and insight from our past guest interviews and serendipitous encounters that we just didn’t get enough of the first time around.

This week’s Okawari welcomes back three very special guests, each touching upon topics that took place as part of our previous discussions that were equally as fascinating as the original theme of their respective shows, however because the topics covered stretched beyond the scope of the show at that time we couldn’t manage to get that material on air – until now.

First up is Ayako Yamaguchi, who joined us for Episode 55 in order to discuss Fushimi Sake. At the time of the show, because Fushimi was the topic at-hand we kept the content focused as-such, however when discussing Fushimi, it’s impossible to leave out the impact of and relationship with two other neighboring sake producing powerhouses: Nada and Itami. In this segment, Ayako shares with us a bit of historical context surrounding this relationship between this sake-making trifecta of the Kansai region, as well as discusses the challenges of researching for such deep and vast historical topics.

Next, we’re rejoined by Water, Wood and Wild Things author, Hannah Kirshner from Episode 58. Seeing as how we are a show about sake (and shochu), much of the content from that interview that made it on air were discussions centered more directly around sake-specific references and experiences outlined in her book, where her time with Shishi no Sato producer, Matsuura Shuzo, is a significant component. However, Hannah’s book is about a great deal more than sake, and to fully appreciate the role of sake both in the book, as well as in general, it’s really many of those seemingly peripheral components that are, actually, just as central. In this part of the interview, Hannah shares with us her relationship with food and cooking as a part of her life in Yamanaka and how that manifested itself the book, we discuss the wonderful range of expressions for the word “water” and the similarities between the worlds of tea and sake, and she shares with us how her ever-present role as an author documenting her experience was received as a component of her life in the countryside.

Lastly, we once again hear from Xavier Thuizat, who joined us back on Episode 53 to share with us the process of developing and hosting the world class sake competition that is Kura Master. That story in and of itself is a fascinating one, which is why we kept the focus on it for that episode, however Xavier had some very provocative food for thought when the topic of terroir came up in relation to sake. Tune in to hear about how he considers an emphasis on excessive rice polishing to be a challenge to expressions of authenticity in sake, how the dependance upon specific yeast strains is destroying the soul of sake, and why Geographical Indications (GI) could play an important role in actually simplifying the communication surrounding sake while contributing to communicating the inherent values of the beverage.

Thanks for tuning in again this week. Please feel free to leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or whatever service you rely upon for your podcasting needs. Contact us at questions@sakeonair.staba.jp with any thoughts about the show, and feel free to follow us on  InstagramTwitter, and Facebook. Everything from Sake Future Summit 2020, as well as a number of other recordings, are all archived over on our YouTube channel, as well.

We’ll be back with more Sake on Air for you in just a couple of weeks.

Until next time, kampai!

Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is a co-production between Export Japan and Potts.K Productions, with audio production by Frank Walter. Our theme, “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” was composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.

Holiday Drinks

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Although this particular holiday season may prove to be somewhat of an exception for some – much in the way that many of us assumed 2020 to be an exception – for many people around the world the year winding down and a new year ramping up tends to be a long-awaited opportunity to gather and spend a bit more time with family, friends and colleagues. A natural extension of this is, for many, also a welcome opportunity to open a few bottles of something special that they’ve been hanging on to, or put just a bit more thought into what to open for whom and for what occasion. In doing so, it’s a great opportunity to extend yourself just a tad – within safe and healthy means, of course – in order to sip some more variety than you may be accustomed to when tied to more of a routine throughout the rest of the year.

As such, in addition to the range of holiday classics, we here at Sake On Air see this as a wonderful season of opportunity, not only to sample some fantastic new sake and shochu, but to proactively share these stellar beverages with friends and family and establish some all new holiday classics of your own.

So this week, Justin rang up each and every member of the team to find out what their sake and shochu routines and go-to drinks and drinking styles are for the season, as well as find out if they have any special drink plans or suggestions for the weeks ahead. Naturally, depending upon where it is you call home is going to determine your access to different styles of shochu and sake, so your mileage with some of the team’s suggestions might vary, but we thought it would be a fun opportunity to share a bit of our holiday season with all of our listeners, even if only in voice and in spirit.

02:20 — John Gauntner & Chris Pellegrini
13:44 — Marie Nagata & Chris Hughes
22:40 — Cindy Bissig & Sebastien Lemoine
48:43 — Rebekah Wilson-Lye & Shuso Imada

Thanks for tuning in this week. Please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or whatever service you rely upon for your podcasting needs. Contact us at questions@sakeonair.staba.jp with any thoughts about the show, and feel free to follow us on  InstagramTwitter, and Facebook. Everything from Sake Future Summit 2020, as well as a number of other recordings, are all archived over on our YouTube channel, as well.

We’d like to wish all of our listeners, followers, fans and supporters both new and old a very happy and healthy holiday season, however it is you may choose to spend it and wherever it is you may be tuning in from. We’ll be back with one more episode to close out the year in a couple of weeks, but until then, a very happy holidays and a festive kampai to all of you from the team here at Sake On Air.

Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is a co-production between Export Japan and Potts.K Productions, with audio production by Frank Walter. Our theme, “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” was composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.

Future of Sake with Les Larmes du Levant & Kanpai London

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Seeing as how we haven’t featured any of our esteemed sake brewing revolutionist friends on the European continent recently, we thought it was about time we check in. This week we’re joined by Tom Wilson, co-founder and head brewer at Kanpai in London, as well as Grégoire Boeuf, kuramoto at Les Larmes du Levant, located in Pélusin, France.

While often loosely lumped into the same category, both brewing (excellent) sake on the same continent, the approaches and philosophies of these two breweries, as well as their experiences in getting established, growing, and also working through the ups and downs of the past couple of years are entirely unique to themselves and their individual scenarios.

Both Grégoire and Tom share with us a bit about the early days getting started and the initial motivations for making the leap into the sake world, but also open up about their thoughts (and actions) surrounding a vast range of topics, including the overall communication of the sake category, the honest nature of the sake brewery, challenges with taxes and regulation for sake in Europe, the balance between honoring tradition and the importance of creative freedom, and how getting back to basics and doubling down on quality and meaningful work has been a savior in times of trial.

Sebastien Lemoine and Justin Potts are now highly motivated to figure out how to execute a Sake On Air European Tour following this enjoyable and insightful session. Each of these breweries deserve their own feature, so we’ll definitely be sitting down with this week’s guests again in the future – hopefully in person – while continuing our exploration of the sake brewing landscape across Europe and beyond.

Be sure to follow along with the exciting endeavors of @kanpailondon and  @larmesdulevant as well.

Thanks for tuning in this week. You can leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or whatever service you rely upon for your podcasting needs. Contact us at questions@sakeonair.staba.jp with any thoughts about the show, and feel free to follow us on  InstagramTwitter, and Facebook. Everything from Sake Future Summit 2020, as well as a number of other recordings, are all archived over on our YouTube channel, as well.

We’ll be back in two weeks with plenty more Sake On Air.

Until then, Kampai!

Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is a co-production between Export Japan and Potts.K Productions, with audio production by Frank Walter. Our theme, “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” was composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.

Three-year Anniversary Special

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On October 18th, way back in the distant past that was 2018, we released the first official episode of Sake On Air. Exactly three years to the day, we got the entire crew together to commemorate and celebrate (virtually) along with our listeners and supporters  from across the globe.

Back at the end of September we still weren’t sure what we would be able to do in order to share this special occasion. The Japan Sake and Shochu Information Center still wasn’t able to host and serve sake or shochu, the same being true for bars and dining establishments across most of Japan. We were at the tail end of what was essentially an extended ban on the service of alcohol extending back into mid-summer, a move that surprised everyone.

So when word got out at that from early October we were going to be able to share a space – and a drink or two – we scrambled to make it happen. It was a bit short notice, but we wanted to share that time with all of you out there that have been listening, following, and supporting the show throughout these past three years.

For those that would like a visual component to this week’s episode, we did indeed livestream the get-together on both YouTube and Facebook. Due to a few technical hiccups it’s a black screen for a majority of the time up through about the 28:00-minute mark (our apologies), but there are some great tidbits of insight and food-for-thought during that time as well, so do listen in.

Thanks to the incredible support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association for believing in our vision back when sake-related podcasting ceased to exist, we’ve been able to gradually grow and develop Sake On Air into a show that shares not only the stories and information related to sake and shochu, but also the people and the joy that the community surrounding these incredible beverages have brought to all of our lives for so many years. To be able to share just a fraction of that with all of our listeners has been an absolute honor.

But it doesn’t stop here! We’ve got plenty in the works for year four and beyond. Stay with us and we’ll keep on bringing you all of the sake, shochu and awamori goodness that you’re looking for – and then some.

To all of our listeners we send a massive heartfelt ‘Arigato’ and enthusiastic ‘Kampai’ from the entire team here at Sake On Air.  

We’ll be back again in two weeks.

Until then, Kampai!

Feel free to leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or whatever service you rely upon for your podcasting needs. You can contact us at questions@sakeonair.staba.jp with any thoughts about the show, and feel free to follow us on  InstagramTwitter, and Facebook. Everything from Sake Future Summit 2020, as well as a number of other recordings, are all archived over on our YouTube channel, as well.

Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is a co-production between Export Japan and Potts.K Productions, with audio production by Frank Walter. Our theme, “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” was composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.

Interview with Gautier Roussille

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Back in Episode 65 during our discussion with the president of Sohomare, Mr. Jun Kono, another interesting name popped; that of Gautier Roussille.

An agronomist and oenologist by trade, Gautier’s exposure to sake back in 2006, followed by years of proactively exploring and researching the category, eventually lead him to a brief foray as a kurabioto at Sohomare, which then inspired one of the most thorough examinations of the sake-making process to be outlined in print in a language other than Japanese. His book, Nihonshu: Japanese Sake, first published in French in 2016, with a Kickstarted English version appearing in 2018, has come to serve as an invaluable resource to the world’s ever-curious sake aficionados and budding sake brewers.

With a professional background rooted in the science and related practices of winemaking and the agriculture supporting it, the lens through which he explores and communicates the world of sake is rooted in relatable, analytical, and practical experience. Currently co-manager of Domaine Guillemot-Michel, a celebrated winery that transitioned to biodynamic agriculture back in 1991, his experience in the field, in the winery, and through research, has informed his perspective on sake, a category that he now regularly educates for and consults on, also serving as judge for both the International Wine Challenge and Kura Master.

Gautier shares his rational, logical and well-informed perspective on our favorite drink with Sebastien Lemoine and Justin Potts this week. It’s a thoughtful and inspiring conversation from which we think all of our listeners can find something that speaks to them and furthers their passion and interest in this fermented beverage we all love.

Feel free to leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or whatever service you rely upon for your podcasting needs. You can contact us at questions@sakeonair.staba.jp with any thoughts about the show, and feel free to follow us on  InstagramTwitter, and Facebook. Everything from Sake Future Summit 2020, as well as a number of other recordings, are all archived over on our YouTube channel, as well.

We’ll be back in two weeks with more Sake on Air.
Until then, Kampai!

Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is a co-production between Export Japan and Potts.K Productions, with audio production by Frank Walter. Our theme, “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” was composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.

Sake Brewing School at Gakkogura

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Along with a general interest in sake expanding globally, the number of homebrewers curious to try their hand at sake making and professional brewers setting up formal production operations around the world continues to grow year-on-year at an ever-increasing rate.

At the same time, as the population committing themselves to sake both personally and professionally across a range of activities – from sales and distribution to education and evangelism – more and more people are looking for ways to get a little bit closer to the process and craftmanship of sake in order to further develop their understanding from a more personal and experiential angle.

The need to fill the gap between “brewery tour” and “full-on brewer” for a growing number of sake-curious and sake professionals has been growing for years. Thankfully, Gakkogura appeared.

Officially operating in limited capacity since 2014, Gakkogura (literally, “Brewery School”) is the work of Obata Shuzo, makers of Manotsuru brand sake on the beautiful and historic Sado Island in the Sea of Japan off the coast of Niigata Prefecture.

The project began, not with the intention of constructing a brewing school, but with a desire to save a piece of personal history on the island. Due to population decline and decreasing number of children on the island, the beautiful Nishimikawa Elementary school had already been committed to closure by the local government, ending more than a century of youth education that spanned multiple generations of islanders.

Wanting to develop a means of saving the school and preserving it as a place for learning and connecting in the local community, president of Obata Shuzo, Mr. Ken Hirashima, along with his wife, Mrs. Rumiko Obata, the non-stop powerhouse leading the charge of the family business, together they settled on a community-centric, educationally-driven micro brewery as the means of breathing life into the historic structure.

Brewing only a small number of batches each year from late-Spring through the end of Summer, each batch of sake made is crafted with a specific goal in mind for a specific group of individuals, with the hands-on component of the brewing process timed and organized to fit the needs of the small group of people that have committed to attending the school on Sado Island for a pre-determined week in the summer.

Designed to be more than just a technical training establishment, each group of participants selected for each program are each attached to a single batch of sake, through which they are introduced not only to the production process, but also to life and culture on Sado Island and the role that sake plays in the lives and livelihoods of the people. Each group is taking part, not only in making sake, but in becoming a contributor and ambassador to the majesty of the island and the unique role that each batch of sake is crafted to play upon being introduced to the world at large.

Due to some peculiar legal regulations surrounding the production of sake in Japan, it wasn’t until 2020 that Gakkogura was finally able to really open up its operations and promote and share the fruits of their labor in a more outward-facing capacity. Having obtained that additional bit of freedom amidst the COVID pandemic, it’s really just now that Gakkogura is beginning to transform and grow into a new phase of community development and brewing education.

For this episode, in the first half we’re joined by Mrs. Rumiko Obata, representing five generations of Obata Shuzo and the communicative force behind Gakkorua. In this short interview, Obata-san shares with us some insight into the origins of the brewing school, the values driving the project, and the relationship between the unique brewery and the special place that is Sado Island.

For the second half, to offer a bit of an experiential perspective, we have a short roundtable discussion between this summer’s final group of brewing students, who were assigned to help craft the brewery’s first ever attempt at a kimoto-style sake. We’re joined by journalist, YouTuber and Tokyo Aijo editor, Roberto Maxwell, along with engineer and technical consultant-turned-sake startup founder, Philipp Maas, as well as Sake Tours founder and director Etsuko Nakamura, who has joined us on the show before at Sake Future Summit 2020. Regular show host Justin Potts (and Gakkogura program supporter and participant) joins the crew on-site at the brewery over a glass of sake following the completion of their week-long experience to get a feel for the impressions and takeaways that resonated with year’s final cohort.

If you enjoy Sake On Air, you can help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts or on whatever service delivers you all of your podcasting needs. Contact us at questions@sakeonair.staba.jp with any thoughts about this week’s show, and feel free to follow us on  InstagramTwitter, and Facebook. Everything from Sake Future Summit 2020, as well as a range of recordings, are all archived over on our YouTube channel, as well.

We’ll be back in another two weeks with more Sake On Air.
Until then, be well and Kampai!

Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is a co-production between Export Japan and Potts.K Productions, with audio production by Frank Walter. Our theme, “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” was composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.

Listener Questions: August 2021 Edition

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This week at Sake On Air we tackle a wide range of sake and shochu-specific topics based upon questions submitted by you, the listeners!

Even though we’re always available and eager to engage with our listeners, viewers and followers across all of the online spaces you can find us on, we also recognize that there’s still a great deal more that we could be doing to facilitate that dialogue. This episode is just one small piece of a larger initiative in-the-works to help make that happen.

In order to help improve and expand the flow of communication between our listeners and everyone here at SOA, we’ve actually welcomed a new partner-in-crime to the crew!

It was thanks to Cindy Bissig that we were able to make this episode happen, and if you happened to submit a question or interact at all with us here on social media over the past couple of months, chances are it was Cindy that you were talking to.

A talented, ambitious, sake-loving and ever-traveling documenter of the Japan experience, we were incredibly lucky to have our world collide with Cindy’s despite a year of limited interaction and travel. For the past few months she’s been keeping a close eye on the world of sake to share up-to-date info with our listeners, while also going out of her way to create more opportunities to dialogue with the people that make this show a joy to create: you.

On this week’s show, Cindy joins a handful of your regular hosts, Rebekah Wilson-Lye, Justin Potts and Chris Hughes, to tackle your questions and offer perspective from our position over here on the fine island of Japan. Consider this “Part 1”, as we still have many more questions that we weren’t able to get to and we’re always accepting your thoughts and questions. It’s an ever-expanding, never-ending quest that we’re on.

Be sure to send along a big “Kampai!” to Cindy and welcome her to the show! And while you’re at it, let us know what you think of this week’s format and if you’d like to hear more of this type of discussion-based Q&A from your hosts and guests. You can go ahead and leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or whatever service you rely upon for your podcasting needs, as well. Contact us at questions@sakeonair.staba.jp with any thoughts about the show, and feel free to follow us on  InstagramTwitter, and Facebook. Everything from Sake Future Summit 2020, as well as a number of other recordings, are all archived over on our YouTube channel, as well.

We’ll be back in two weeks with more Sake On Air.
Until then, Kampai!

Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is a co-production between Export Japan and Potts.K Productions, with audio production by Frank Walter. Our theme, “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” was composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.

Sparkling Sake Interviews: Ichinokura & Shichiken

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Continuing this month’s series examining the world of sparkling sake, this week we bring you a pair of interviews with sake makers that have been instrumental in both evolving and improving the sparkling sake category.

Regular host Chris Hughes first sits down with Mr. Hitoshi Suzuki, president of Ichinokura, and sales representative Ms. Erina Nakamura, to discuss what’s largely considered to be the industry’s first commercialization of a naturally fermented sparkling sake product, the Miyagi-based brewery’s beloved Suzune, along with the sake’s roots in their other popular Himezen line of sake.

Following that discussion, Chris then invites CEO of leading sparkling sake producer, Yamanashi Meijo, makers of Shichiken, Mr. Tsushima Kitahara, to discuss not only the technical evolution of their sparkling sake, but also how committing to the style as a core of their business has resulted in sparkling sake now making up more than 30% of their overall sake production, with a dedication to ever-improving quality and communication around the style leading to opportunities and partnerships that are opening new doors for the wonderful world of sake.

If you have more questions about the fascinating world of sparkling sake, please do reach out to us. We welcome both your questions, as well as stories of your own experiences and discoveries with the style. We’ll be revisiting this topic again down the road, so any thoughts and feelings you’re willing to share now will serve as fuel for developing a future episode of Sake on Air.

You can always help us out by leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts or whatever service you rely upon for your podcasting needs. Contact us at questions@sakeonair.staba.jp with any thoughts about this week’s show, and feel free to follow us on  InstagramTwitter, and Facebook. Everything from Sake Future Summit 2020, as well as a number of other recordings, are all archived over on our YouTube channel, as well.

We’ll be back in two weeks with more brand new Sake On Air.

Until then, Kampai!

Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is a co-production between Export Japan and Potts.K Productions, with audio production by Frank Walter. Our theme, “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” was composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.

Deconstructing Sparkling Sake

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Of all the requests that we get for various show topics, an episode focusing on “Sparkling Sake” is probably one, if not the most requested topic filling our inbox. So this week, we (finally) bring you the first of two episodes that we’ve put together to help provide a bit of context and perspective for this rapidly expanding style that’s showing no signs of slowing down.

This week Chris Hughes, Rebekah Wilson-Lye and Justin Potts break down the range of sparkling sake styles – from the classic kassei styles, to CO2-infused staples, to bubbly derived through secondary fermentation, and the relatively new Awasake – outlining how they differ, what makes each unique, and a providing bit of context for how each are developing and evolving in the market, particularly as the style exists in Japan.

A couple of weeks from now we’ll be bringing you a follow-up episode featuring interviews with a pair of sake breweries that have been instrumental in developing, proliferating and expanding the style, pursuing ever-improved quality while carving out their own interpretation of this exciting category.

Listeners, when you ask, we deliver. We hope you’ll enjoy this month’s exploration into a style of sake poised to rapidly gather the mindshare of a world of sake lovers while transforming the perception of sake for a new world of drinks-curious.

Let us know what you thought of this episode of Sake On Air by leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts or whatever service you rely upon for your podcasting needs. Contact us at questions@sakeonair.staba.jp with any thoughts about this week’s show, and feel free to follow us on  InstagramTwitter, and Facebook. Everything from Sake Future Summit 2020, as well as a number of other recordings, are all archived over on our YouTube channel, as well.

We’ll be back in two weeks to dive even deeper into the world of sparkling sake here at Sake On Air.
Kampai!

Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is a co-production between Export Japan and Potts.K Productions, with audio production by Frank Walter. Our theme, “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” was composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.

Rakugo Storytelling (and Sake) with Katsura Sunshine

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This week we have a rather special story to tell, as we’re joined by Katsura Sunshine, the second non-Japanese master Rakugo-ka in the history of the craft.

The nuanced, playful, dramatic, and at sometimes outright hilarious art of Rakugo storytelling carries over 400 years of historical and cultural significance, passing down universal messages and timeless life lessons that have helped shape how Japan enjoys and appreciates its stories.

While sharing in a bit of sake, Katsura Sunshine opens up to us about his ongoing life journey through the largely untrodden (outside Japan) world of Rakugo and his steadfast dedication to endlessly honing his craft while bringing honest and faithful depictions of the artform’s beloved stories to international audiences, whether it be Off Broadway, or on YouTube

At Sake on Air, after having been away from our regular home at the JSS Sake & Shochu Information Center amidst a turbulent and challenging year, our guest brought a much needed bit of Sunshine to our short-lived return to our sake sanctuary. While this week’s show isn’t entirely sake (or shochu) specific, together with our very special guest, your regular hosts Chris Hughes and Sebastien Lemoine explore the shared qualities of both the sake and rakugo experience, while being treated to a few performances – and resulting laughter – along the way.

Sunshine’s next show is on the 7th of August at the Yoshimoto Yurakucho Theatre, tickets are ¥1,500 in advance or ¥1,800 at the door. Doors open at 12:30 and the performance will begin at 13:00. Tickets can be purchased at https://yoshimoto.funity.jp/search/?kaien_date_type=2021%2F08%2F07&kaijyo_code=999230&kaien_time=13:00

If you enjoyed this week’s (or any week’s) episode of Sake On Air, you can help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts or on whatever service delivers you all of your podcasting needs. Contact us at questions@sakeonair.staba.jp with any thoughts about this week’s show, and feel free to follow us on  InstagramTwitter, and Facebook. Everything from Sake Future Summit 2020, as well as a number of other recordings, are all archived over on our YouTube channel, as well.

We’ll be back in two weeks’ time with more Sake on Air.

Until then,
Kampai!

Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is a co-production between Export Japan and Potts.K Productions, with audio production by Frank Walter.

Sohomare Sake With Brewery President Jun Kono

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We’ve been way overdue for an episode highlighting one of Japan’s many inspiring sake breweries. When your hosts Sebastien Lemoine and John Gauntner line up a sit-down with Mr. Jun Kono, who represents five generations of award-winning Sohomare sake, you know you’re in for a treat.

Located in Tochigi prefecture – a bit of a hot-spot in the world of sake these days – Sohomare’s stretch of consecutive gold medals over the past decade at the National Sake Appraisal, along with top honors at the Kanto Regional Appraisals in both the ginjo and junmai ginjo categories in 2020 – a rather unheard of achievement – the brewery’s recognition has more than solidified the accumulated efforts of Mr. Kono and the team at Sohomare throughout his tenure.

In this episode, Mr. Kono shares with us the story of his family’s lineage that was kept a secret for centuries, how intricate blending sensibilities and a return to kimoto-style sake making have grown to define Sohomare, the behavioral quirks of different yeast types, how they’ve managed to acquire yamada nishiki from Hyogo’s most prized growing sites for so long, and how for Mr. Kono, “making sake he wants to drink” takes precedent over everything else.

If you enjoy Sake On Air, you can help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts or on whatever service delivers you all of your podcasting needs. Contact us at questions@sakeonair.staba.jp with any thoughts about this week’s show, and feel free to follow us on  InstagramTwitter, and Facebook. Everything from Sake Future Summit 2020, as well as a number of other recordings, are all archived over on our YouTube channel, as well.

We’ll be back in two weeks’ time with more Sake On Air.

Kampai!

Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is a co-production between Export Japan and Potts.K Productions, with audio production by Frank Walter. Our theme, “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” was composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.

Serving Up Shochu

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We’ve been relatively quiet on the shochu front in recent months, but we’re looking to remedy that this week by serving up an episode that should inspire our listeners to begin procuring their shochu and awamori selections for the weekend and beyond.

This week Christopher Pellegrini welcomes frequent collaborator, author and co-host of the Japan Distilled podcast, Stephen Lyman. Stephen took us on a detailed tour of Yamatozakura Distillery for the Sake Future Summit back in 2020, joined us to talk about his book, Guide to Japanese Drinks, back on Episode 26, and also appeared on Episode 14 to discuss some of the finer nuances of our favorite koji-crafted distillates.

While shochu and awamori can be served up wonderfully any myriad of ways, this week Stephen and Christopher drill down into the basics. How are shochu and awamori most commonly prepared, served and consumed in Japan? Why would you select one style over another and how does it influence the sensory experience? What styles of shochu naturally lend themselves to certain serving and drinking styles?

As shochu and awamori expand their reach across the globe, drinking and service styles are diversifying at a dizzying pace – which is incredible. But for this episode, our hosts inform as to not only ‘what’ the common and established drinking styles are, but also ‘why’. There’s a reason this beloved beverage holds market share and mindshare in Japan on-par with (and occasionally eclipsing) sake. If you’re looking to explore those reasons, this week’s episode is the perfect place to start.

Thanks for once again tuning in to Sake On Air. You can help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts or on whatever service delivers you all of your podcasting needs. Contact us at questions@sakeonair.staba.jp with any thoughts about this week’s show, and feel free to follow us on  InstagramTwitter, and Facebook. Everything from Sake Future Summit 2020, as well as a number of other recordings, are all archived over on our YouTube channel, as well.

We’ll be back in two weeks’ time with more Sake On Air.
Have a happy and healthy week, everyone.

Kampai!

Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is a co-production between Export Japan and Potts.K Productions, with audio production by Frank Walter. Our theme, “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” was composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.

North American Sake Rice & Agriculture with Isbell Farms Part 2

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This week we continue our conversation with the multi-generation family of rice (and sake rice!) farmers at Isbell Farms in the heart of Arkansas. For those of you just now joining, we highly recommend you make time to give Part 1 of this conversation a listen before diving in, as it provides a great deal of context for this week’s discussion, is referenced occasionally throughout the show, and more than anything, it introduces you to this inspiring family.

This week the family kicks things off by talking about the transition from their early work with Takara Sake USA to connecting with Blake Richardson of Moto-I and Minnesota Rice & Milling via Norway, which lead to further expansion into a range of sake-specific rice varieties in support of North America’s craft sake breweries, along with the recent development of their own sake rice variety, known as Somai.

From there we get into the creation of sake rice sample kits (and post office shenanigans!), the experience of opening up and sharing family life on the farm through YouTube, tackling sustainability and conservation issues surrounding rice farming while selling carbon credits to Microsoft in the process, and a great deal more.

We hope that this pair of episodes not only contributed to our listeners’ appreciation of sake and the hard work and passion involved in bringing that magnificent beverage to life, but also helped to further your interest in the world of agriculture in North America – and anywhere, for that matter. All of our futures hinge upon the people and means through which we grow food. If that food being grown contributes to beautiful sake, and if that beautiful sake contributes to a healthy and sustainable future, all the better. In that capacity, we here at Sake On Air can’t wait to see where the Isbell Family takes us next.

For more about Isbell Farms:
Website
Instagram
Facebook
Twitter
YouTube

Thanks for once again tuning in to Sake On Air. You can help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts or on whatever service delivers you all of your podcasting needs. Contact us at questions@sakeonair.staba.jp with any thoughts about this week’s show, and feel free to follow us on  InstagramTwitter, and Facebook. Everything from Sake Future Summit 2020, as well as a number of other recordings, are all archived over on our YouTube channel, as well.

We’ll be back in two weeks with a bit more Sake (and Shochu!) on Air.
Until next time.

Kampai!

Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is a co-production between Export Japan and Potts.K Productions, with audio production by Frank Walter. Our theme, “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” was composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.

North American Sake Rice & Agriculture with Isbell Farms Part 1

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When it comes to producing sake outside of Japan, still one of the most significant hurdles to crafting the sake of a brew-master’s dreams is access to the ideal resources needed in order to realize the vision, and included in those resources are the raw materials.

Sake specific rice varieties from Japan are in high demand from sake makers across the globe–and for good reason–but there’s also something to be said for being able to craft an incredible beverage from the resources available close to home.

While consistent access to a good number of sake brewing tools and resources still remains rather elusive for a significant number of international sake breweries, when it comes to sake rice in the U.S., the family at Isbell Farms is on a mission to make Japanese rice and sake rice varieties an accessible, quality, and viable option for a new world of sake breweries.

After a successful foray into the production of koshihikari, a Japanese staple table rice variety that put the family’s rice (and faces) on televisions and convenience store shelves across Japan in the 80s, demand from the rapidly growing number of Japanese restaurants across the U.S., along with a handful of major sake breweries setting up operations on North American shores led to opportunities to double-down on a then relatively niche market. Since then, they’ve grown and evolved to become a go-to supplier of established sake rice varieties, including yamada nishiki and gohyakumangoku, amongst others, to breweries large and small across the U.S.

This week (and next) we speak with the Isbell family as we explore the origins of cultivating Japanese rice varieties in the heart of Arkansas, the expansion to sake rice varieties, and just what it means to be a grower in the U.S. today.

We’ll be back with Part 2 of this special look at sake and rice growing in the U.S. next week, as we join the family at Isbell Farms once again to more closely examine the nature of sake specific rice varieties, as well as the future of rice farming and agriculture in the U.S. Stay tuned.

For those of you interested in following the work of the Isbell family online:
Website
Instagram
Facebook
Twitter
YouTube

Thanks for once again tuning in to Sake On Air. You can help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts or on whatever service delivers you all of your podcasting needs. Contact us at questions@sakeonair.staba.jp with any thoughts about this week’s show, and feel free to follow us on  InstagramTwitter, and Facebook. Everything from Sake Future Summit 2020, as well as a number of other recordings, are all archived over on our YouTube channel, as well.

Wishing all of our listeners happiness and health in a (hopefully) sake-infused week ahead. Take care out there.

Kampai!

Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is a co-production between Export Japan and Potts.K Productions, with audio production by Frank Walter. Our theme, “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” was composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.