A while back, Takahoko Sake’s very own Soji Sakai returned to Melbourne after a brief trip to New Zealand. Over the few days he was here in Melbourne, his schedule was chocked full of business meetings and events. One of those being bringing his company’s sake to Wasshoi in the Prahran Market for promotion.
The two sake up for tasting were the Kamikatsu Junmai Ginjo Genshu and their special Iteza Zosenjo Junmai Ginjo Genshu. Now you’ll notice that the names are very similar, “Junmai Ginjo Genshu” refers to how the sake is processed and created. These sake are made in the same way, however Kamikatsu contains only grade 1 rice and Iteza contains a combination of grade 1 and grade 2 rice. Kamikatsu is also full bodied and has a sweetness to it. Iteza is more of a seasonal beverage and is great to drink on a hot day! It has a lighter taste compared to Kamikatsu, however, both have uniquely distinct fruity flavours and fragrances.
We encouraged people shopping at the Prahran Market to give them both a try and compare the two.
Often people had a favourite, but most seasoned sake lovers enjoyed both varieties for their differences. Despite their being a few people very familiar with sake, there were a number of people who had never tried sake before. While hesitant, most people found that they were pleasantly surprised with the flavours and sensations of Takahoko’s beautifully and lovingly crafted sake.
As some people were not overly familiar with sake, we even managed to teach people about the various ways of drinking sake and won some tasters over. One man had mentioned that he’d only ever tried warm sake and didn’t enjoy it very much. Upon trying both Iteza and Kamikatsu, he was delighted by how delicious and refreshing they were. We were able to recommend that next time he visits a restaurant, he asks for cold or even iced sake as he had mentioned he would be visiting a Japanese restaurant with friends that week. Seeing him off, he said that he was looking forward to drinking sake with friends again.
By the end of the tasting session, all the bottles Sakai had brought with him were nearly empty and we had gotten great feedback from tasters throughout the day.
While on his break, Sakai was gracious enough to grant me a quick interview for the article for anyone who is interested in their sake.
With this trip included, is this your second time in Melbourne?
“Ah, no, this will be my fourth time in Melbourne!”
Is the purpose for your trip to Melbourne the same as your last trip? (For sake promotion)
“Well, it’s the same, but this time I’ve been dealing with clients more seriously and my goal for coming to Melbourne this time is really to sort out our sake’s trade and distribution more clearly (and bring it to Melbourne).”
Before coming to Melbourne, I hear you also visited New Zealand, what sort of work were you doing over there?
“In New Zealand, the company that Melbourne’s Mr. Akito Kurokawa works with, Tokyo Food is based over there. They gave me the opportunity to consult with their staff and people in charge regarding bringing our sake to overseas markets. While I was there I was also able to do some market research in Auckland.”
Regarding Melbourne in particular, what is your driving motivation or goal?
“I want our sake to become one that when people think of ‘sake’ in general, our sake will instantly come to their mind! I hope that I can make this happen.”
When I asked if he’d had much time for sightseeing, Mr. Sakai fervently shook his head.
What parts of Australian’s tasting your wine and hearing their feedback or appealing to them do you enjoy the most?
“To put it simply, it’s the same as when people taste our sake in Japan. When I ask them if they have heard of Tokushima Prefecture and they have, well, you’d be happy right? When people say they know or like Japanese sake, that also makes me happy! Even before I came to Melbourne, I found that Australian people already knew about sake, Tokushima and Japan and that makes me extremely happy.”
Interviewer: “…And I imagine watching people drink and enjoy your company’s sake must just be the best feeling.”
“Yeah, it makes me so happy! When I see people enjoying sake or Japanese wine or anything tasty, it does make me quite happy.”
Last time you came here, it was fairly cold wasn’t it? How are you dealing with the weather this time?
“It was really cold last time. This time it’s really really really hot! I’m going to remember to bring more summer clothes if I come back around this time of year.”
And finally, is there anything you’d like to say to the readers?
“Well, I hope that the people trying my sake today hopefully lead to them finding out more and more about Tokushima, Japan and find things they like about those things. From there I hope that from an opportunity like this, those people will visit Japan as well! If they do, I hope they’ll come and try our sake again! I also enjoy Australian wine, so if you bring some, I’ll buy it or drink it!”
Mr. Sakai thoroughly enjoyed his busy trip to New Zealand and Australia and flew home the day after our interview. I think he should be proud that his sake brought so many smiles to the faces of shoppers at the Prahran Market! Hopefully he will visit Melbourne again soon and bring more sake along with him, I look forward to enjoying sake with him again!