A Sake tasting event in Melbourne [from Kurashiki, Okayama Japan]


Kurashiki SAKE a tasting event in Melbourne

Kurashiki is famous for it’s rice wine (sake). With the rich natural environment providing high quality fresh water and rice, delicious sake is still produced here. On March 3rd  some of the most famous names in Kurashiki Sake put on a tasting event.




With the support of the Kurashiki city government, 3 Sake houses participated. It was the first opportunity for each of them to introduce their prime products to the Australian market. Approximately 70 people came to the invitation only event, held at the RACV city club, including the Japanese Consular General and his wife, the President of the Japanese Club (Nihonjin kai), food and drink distributors, and restaurateurs, and each was able to fully enjoy the selection.




Executive chef Mark Normoyle, and chef Ikuei Arakane  provided canappes specifically created to accentuate the flavour of the sake. The canappes by Normoyle were created from the viewpoint of food Australians would expect to go well with Sake, whilst Arakane took a traditional path and made Japanese cuisine such as sushi to match with the Sake.


(Left picture: Chef Mark Normoyle (left) and Chef Ikuei Arakane (right)
right picture: The Beef Tartare and Chipolte Tacos with Wasabi Mayonaise dish created by Chef Normoyle)


The event also saw a special guest, Andre Bishop being presented with the “Sake Samurai” award – an award given to people who have worked hard to help expand the Sake market. Before the event, he visited Kurashiki personally and toured each of the Sake houses, and, during his presentation, he spoke of this experience as well as his hopes for the future of Sake in the Australian market.


andre-speech(Guest speaker and Sake Samurai Andre Bishop)

After the event….

* Executive Director of Juhachi Zakari Shuzou, and Toji (Sake master) Keizou Ishiai




The special characteristics of Juhachi Zakari is the delicate flavours that come from over 200 years of tradition. The well-rounded flavour is very easy to drink and was well received at the event. They introduced their pride product – a Sake still completely handmade with the same traditional techniques.  Being a Sake master himself, his passion for Sake making is understandably strong.

“It was great to see so many people at the event. I think the response was even greater than at tasting events held in Japan, and it really emphasised to me just how much focus is on Japanese cuisine and Sake now.

I was concerned that the sake would be compared with wine, but believe the very different flavour to wine that Sake has was well received.”




“I was very surprised when I saw the restaurant – it was even more Japanese than a Japanese restaurant in Japan is, and the food was delicious. It was interesting that both (chefs) were able to really show their individuality in their foods.“


“I felt that the atmosphere and laid back way of life in Melbourne reminded me of life in Okayama, and I felt very at home here.”


“Being involved in making Sake as a brewer, I hope to continue to make good, high quality sake that resonates to the heart of the consumer, and I hope this can be understood by the consumer. We make everything carefully by hand. In the finished product you can taste the hand of the maker – that is Juhachi Zakari. We hope you enjoy it.”





*  Executive director of Kikuchi Shuzo, Daisuke Kikuchi




Being such a young head of this traditional Sake house, Kikuchi is using name and the main brand, Sanzen (radiant) to take on the modern market. A unique characteristic (of Kikuchi Shuzo) is that they play Mozart to the Sake as it sleeps in the Kura (Sake house). Using high quality water from the Takahashi river and a special blend of rice perfect for Sake, the motto of Kikuchi is making Sake the traditional way using only the finest components.


“The response was more than I expected. I was really happy to hear not only Japanese guests, but also Australian guests tell me that my sake was delicious. I was also happy that there was so much interest in our naturally produced Sake “Kimurashiki Kiseki no Osake” (Sake produced using natural farming techniques – no organic compost, no chemicals, no pesticides, no weed killers – under the guidance of Akinori Kimura, the man famous for his “Kiseki no Ringo – the miracle apple”).”


“It was the first time for me to give a presentation in English, so I was nervous about my grammar and pronunciation, and was very relieved when it was over. I hope that the Australian guests were able to understand our passion.”




“It was my first time to Melbourne, and, looking at the high quality of Japanese food and restaurants here, I felt like I was in Japan. I was able to enjoy Sake here, as I would in Japan, and I felt that Japanese food and Sake culture was starting to take off here.

Japanese Sake is very delicious during meals. I hope that people experiment with drinking it not only with Japanese food, but also with a wide variety of foods.  I hope that Sake can be embraced as a drink to enjoy with friends and family.”





* Eco Logy network –  Ichiro Hiramatsu

(Mr Hiramatsu is at the far right, with guests from the Japanese Consulate)


Mr Hiramatsu is the man responsible for this event. He hopes that by shining the spotlight on Kurashiki, he can bring Kurashiki and the world together.


“We had decided to have a Sake tasting event somewhere in Australia but had not yet decided on the city. We eventually decided to hold it in Melbourne, as Melbourne not only has a very strong interest in different cultures, it is also very open to new products and ideas, and as such we thought it would be the perfect place to introduce the Sake from Kurashiki to.”


“We were both excited and surprised to see the guests at the tasting event, so interested and passionate about learning more about how they could incorporate Sake into their businesses. Some were even taking notes during Andre Bishop’s presentation!”


“Kurashiki was traditionally referred to as a Tenryo area (an area of special importance) during the Edo period, so it has always held a strong sense of independence. It is quite special in that it tries to do things for itself. It is also a very historical town with a lot of old buildings, and we hope to promote the special cultural elements of Kurashiki, not just within Japan, but abroad as well.”




I feel that a time when we can enjoy these Sakes, even here in Melbourne, is not so far away. I look forward to being able to get drunk on the flavour and characteristics of these Sake houses.


 © Photos: Takako Drew
Story: Yoshimi Okita

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