Participating in the JAPAN Sake Tasting Competition
I had the chance to participate in the International Category of the 39th JAPAN Sake Tasting Competition, organized by the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association. The competition caters to sake amateurs with the goal of promoting sake culture in Japan and overseas.
On a rainy Friday morning we all gathered on the 15th floor of the Shinagawa Prince Hotel in Tokyo for the opening ceremony. We were greeted by the organizers and each participant group was introduced. There were four categories: individual, prefecture, university, and international.
The competition included a written test and a practical tasting test. Luckily, the international category only had to do the tasting part since the written test was in Japanese. While the Japanese participants went on to start their written exam, our International team was led to the competition room where we received our instructions in English.
After that we were ready to put our unrefined tasting skills to the test! We were given seven unknown cups of sake, which we had to taste and number from 1 to 7 according to our liking. Then we did it a second time, only this time the sake cups had been randomized. The goal was to give the same score to the same sake. Having never done it before, it was challenging to remember the difference between each. Still, I had a lot of fun discovering new tastes and aromas while trying to describe them.
Once all teams were finished with their tests, a seminar was held in Japanese. Then we moved to another hall for the much-awaited award ceremony. Here we were treated to some excellent food and drinks. The refreshments included everything from sushi to freshly cut roast beef to cakes. A sake tasting corner was offering more than 40 bottles organized by flavor. There were also bottles of sake on each table for us to enjoy. On another table were the seven sake types that we had to taste during the competition so people could try them again. I had fun sampling some unusual varieties, like a delicate sparkling sake and a syrupy 30-year aged sake.
After some time to wind down enjoying food, drinks, and conversation, winners were announced. I only got three out of seven correct answers so sadly I didn’t make it to the top three, but I’ll be happy to try again next year. Congratulations to the winners, well done!
Winners of the International Category
It was a stimulating experience that made me want to know more about sake. I learned a few things, I had fun and I even made some friends. I think it’s a great way to get acquainted with the beverage, understand how many different types of sake there are and find the ones you like.
See you next year!