A Joyous Occasion

Long before sake made its mark on the U.S., brewers across Japan were hand-crafting this rice-based beverage and passing down recipes from generation to generation. Thanks to a group of traveling friends, The Joy of Sake was born. The first event took place in 2000, and it has since grown into a full-fledged nonprofit that holds events in New York, Tokyo and Honolulu each year. I had a chance to talk to director of marketing Jan Nagano to learn more about the organization and this year’s event, which takes place from 6:30 to 9 p.m. July 22 at Hawaii Convention Center.

How did The Joy of Sake event begin?

It’s funny — it sort of started with a bunch of guys who used to go to Japan a lot. They would return from their travels and have parties with the sake they brought back. The parties started getting bigger and bigger, and people became more and more interested. That’s when they thought maybe we should have more of an appraisal side of it. With the appraisal always comes, what do we do with all this sake? We have a party! And with that, The Joy of Sake was born … The best way to learn about sake is to taste it!

What can we expect at this year’s event?

It’s a record 408 sake to taste! They are all sake that have been judged, so they are in their peak condition for tasting. All the breweries have put their best product forward … This year, we are also offering what will be called Brewer’s Oasis: 10-12 brewers will be available to talk to people one-on-one and share their sake.

What makes the sake at The Joy of Sake unique?

Many of the sakes are from regional villages that do not send their sake out of their specific region. They are these smaller, boutique-style hand-crafted brewers that have been making sake for many generations, but they don’t get exposure.

If you are a sake newbie like me, why should you attend this event?

It’s a new beverage for a lot of people in the U.S. market, but it’s becoming such a global beverage these days. Even though the sake brewers are providing to a wider audience, they are still maintaining the hand-craftedness, which is sometimes really hard to do … What we have for The Joy of Sake is sake from all areas of Japan and the U.S., so to be able to take all these regional sake under one roof on one night is quite an opportunity. I also guarantee a fabulous, unique experience — something you can never experience anywhere else.