October 1 signifies the beginning of the last quarter of the year, and this year there’s a lot of us that will be pretty keen to say a disdainful さようなら/sayōnara to 2020. Yet there’s a lot more to celebrate on October 1 than just that it seems.
Depending on your situation, you’ll be looking to spoil your pet as it’s both National Black Dog Day and Fire Pup Day. You could head down to the salon for National Hair Day or gorge yourself senseless with the excuse that it’s also National Homemade Cookies Day.
The Sake Central team choose to celebrate another ‘Day’, and that’s none other than World Sake Day 日本酒の日 (Nihonshu no Hi), or just simply Sake Day. This annual event is held each October 1 as a tribute to sake, celebrating its history, highly skilled brewers and their contributions to Japanese culture.
In the early years from its inauguration in 1978 the Day was a national event in Japan only and became recognized by the Japan Sake Brewers Association. More recently World Sake Day has been a growing global phenomenon and we’re keen to be part of the party.
Why October 1? Well, as sake rice is largely harvested in September, the month of October is usually when most breweries restart production. Of course sake brewing isn’t required to start on World Sake Day itself, but it is a significant day for the industry as it is sometimes the start of the fiscal year for a sake brewery.
The fundamental reason, however, for the choice of date relates to the written character for sake. Many centuries ago, sake 酒 as we see it now did not have the three short diagonal lines on the left side of the character (these three strokes are in fact what is termed a radical and represent water) so you’re left with what, with some imagination, looks like a storage vessel - 酉 - with a snug fitting lid, perfect for your sake stash.
In addition, within the Chinese zodiac we see the twelve animal signs used to number years in the traditional sequence, 2020 being quite appropriately the Year of the Rat. Plus, back in the day, the zodiac was a way to count twelve two-hour periods in each day.
The tenth animal is tori, or chicken (from which we of course get yakitori: yaki - grilled and tori - chicken). To confuse further, the written character for ‘zodiac chicken’ is special, and thereby not the standard character used for chicken in day to day writing. This unique character can be pronounced as ‘toh’, a synonym for ten and suddenly all roads lead to October - the tenth month of the year. That’s a gross oversimplification but hopefully casts some light on all this.
Either way, whatever the heritage, Sake Day is a much needed opportunity, or excuse, to have a lot of fun and promote awareness of Japan’s national beverage, before the serious brewing season kicks in with much of Japan enveloped in heavy snowfalls and freezing conditions.
Our sake swilling chums in the US go for World Sake Day in a big way. As the leading country for importing sake, there’s good reason to use World Sake Day as a springboard and each year we see $1 hot sake shots, blind sake tastings, brewery socials and boozy after work ‘drinking gatherings’ or nomikai, that descend into even boozier nijikai ‘second gatherings’ (think after party) and beyond to sanjikai ‘third gatherings’ where it all becomes, well, nobody can really remember.
In the UK, impressively number two sake importer in some years, Brits flock to London for tastings of forty or more different sakes but it’s San Francisco that lays claims to have the biggest World Sake Day celebrations outside of Japan, where the tastings top 200 different sakes. It’s been going on there since 2005.
Back in Japan, things can be equally boisterous, but for an upmarket experience the illustrious Palace Hotel Tokyo has in the past created a sake inspired afternoon tea composed of a number of confections infused with sake and amazake. We’re talking sake-flavoured foie gras terrine, mozzarella bites pickled with miso made of sake kasu, amazake focaccia with salmon and prosciutto, koji-flavoured roasted tea crème brulée and sake kasu-flavoured scone, all washed down with, presumably, lashings of sake.
This year we’re making special plans for 1 October at Sake Central, making it a hotspot for celebrating World Sake Day this year.
Chef Russell Doctrove will be overseeing a special pop up dining event, bringing more than ten years of Hong Kong Executive Chef experience as well as three star Michelin artistry learned under the frowns and glares of Gordon Ramsay and the legendary Roux brothers back in the UK.
Sake pairings will be carefully selected by Elliot Faber, Sake Samurai, to match the dishes. To complete the menu, our chums at Ronin are busy making homemade sake kasu chocolates to finish dinner in style.
The fun doesn’t end there though, as each diner will be entered into our World Sake Day lucky draw with discount coupons, bottles of NOTO 88 sake and gift certificates all up for grabs, so be sure to stick around to see if you’re a winner.
And of course if you want to celebrate at home with your own nomikai or nijikai, Sake Central is jampacked with Japan’s finest sakes for retail purchase. Just be sure to give a rapturous “kanpai” to all those tireless brewery workers in Japan making all this possible.
More information on the event will be mailed out soon, watch this space and be sure to sign up to our Sake Central bulletin if you haven’t already. Our Team is here to answer any questions so feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org