On September 2, Kurand Sake Market opened a new shop in the Asakusa district of Tokyo. This location is a sister branch to the original Kurand Sake Market which opened earlier this year in Ikebukuro, where sake lovers can sample 100 varieties of sake for 3,000 yen (US$24.64) per person with no time limit.
The Asakusa branch invited curious members of the media in for a sneak peek before its grand opening to the public, so we promptly sent our sake-loving reporters Mr. Sato, a veteran of the Ikebukuro shop, and Sailor Venus-cosplaying reporter extraordinaire Yoshio to check things out. But rather than write their opinions for each of the 30 individual brands they sampled, which would undoubtedly become tedious after a while, they decided to create a handy visual guide so that you can gauge their reactions to each cup with a picture, thus eliminating any language barriers in the process. Let the sake festivities begin!
■ A shop geared towards foreign visitors
Like its predecessor, this new branch in Asakusa offers unlimited, all-you-can-drink sake with no time limit for an entry fee of just 3,000 yen ($24.64). Not bad, especially since there are 100 varieties to choose from, and bringing in your own food is not just okay but actively encouraged.
In addition, its location right next to the Asakusa Engei Hall makes it a prime stop for the droves of foreign tourists who visit historical Asakusa. In fact, a big reason the shop was established in this area in the first place is because its owner wanted to provide a place for foreigners to sample some of Japan’s finest sake (which, by the way, is more accurately called nihonshu in Japanese).
▼ A look at the interior of the Asakusa shop. There’s room for about 70 people to stand/sit on stools, making it more spacious than the Ikebukuro branch.
▼ Some food being offered at the special media reception. It all came from famous shops in the Asakusa area.
▼ You even get to choose your favorite o-choko [sake cup] at the counter!
▼ Be sure to follow the rules, such as “Beware of over-drinking” and “No smoking.”
■ Limited sake brands for a short time
The Asakusa branch is offering slightly different varieties of sake than the Ikebukuro branch for a short time after its opening (the brands between the two shops will become normalized at a later time). In other words, now’s your chance to try some kinds of sake that may not be there in the near future!
▼ The Asakusa shop’s 100 carefully selected bottles of sake.
■ Our two reporters tried 30 varieties
Mr. Sato and Yoshio were able to sample 30 kinds of sake at the exclusive media reception event. Previously, Mr. Sato had sampled 16 varieties along with Japanese RocketNews24 editor-in-chief Go Hattori in Ikebukuro, so this was an impressive feat indeed! He and Yoshio agreed that it’s pretty much impossible to conquer all 100 in one visit, but they wanted to share their top four favorites out of all of the ones they tried with our readers.
■ Their top four recommendations (in no particular order)
1. Junmai Ginjo Koshi no Hana, Koshi no Hana Brewery (Niigata) [note: not pictured in the body of this article]
2. Yasakatsuru Iwai Kurabu, Takeno Brewery (Kyoto)
3. Tokubetsu Junmaishu Tenryo no Taki, Kunbai Brewery (Shizuoka)
4. Tokubetsu Junmai Miyamagiku, Funasaka Brewery (Gifu)
▼ The four pictured in order below
Mr. Sato and Yoshio both like drinks with a dry finish, so their opinions regarding the subtle flavors of each brand are unabashedly biased based on personal preferences. However, they would like to stress that the four varieties listed above should prove to be an enjoyable experience no matter what your tastes are, even for non-sake enthusiasts.
■ Kyoto Prefecture for the overall win
They were especially impressed by the Yasakatsuru Iwai Kurabu from Kyoto. It had a smooth taste and fairly ordinary expression of flavor, but it went down as easily as water. A faint hint of sweetness and the lingering aftertaste proved to be incredibly pleasant, and they had to hold themselves back from gulping the whole bottle down at once. They highly recommend this variety if you ever visit the establishment.
▼ Yoshio holding the Yasakatsuru Iwai Kurabu, Takeno Brewery (Kyoto)
■ Find your own favorite variety of sake!
The beauty of Kurand Sake Market is that you can keep sampling until you discover the ultimate sake flavor for your taste buds. If you have no idea where to begin, the staff members will be more than happy to help you in your quest, and since there’s no time limit, you can take your time sampling the different varieties until you’re fully satisfied.
All right folks, now it’s time to kick off Mr. Sato and Yoshio’s sake sampling silliness! Watch the short video below first or scroll down for our pictures capturing their candid reactions for 26 out of the 30 sake varieties they tried (yeah, we don’t know what happened to the remaining four either). Enjoy!
Note: Wikipedia has a handy guide to the eight special-designation varieties of sake.
On with the pics! (Try to spot the point where their faces go from “I am having a cheeky tipple” to “Aaaand now I’m drunk.”)
1. Noto Junmaishu, Kazuma Brewery (Ishikawa Prefecture)
2. Tama no Yorokobi Junmai Daiginjoshu, Ishikawa Brewery (Tokyo)
3. Homei Junmaishu, Ishii Brewery (Saitama)
4. Inatahime Junmai Ginjoshu, Inata Honten (Tottori)
5. Choki Jukusei Ginjoshu Shichifukujin, Kiku no Tsukasa Brewery (Iwate)
6. Koro Tokubetsu Junmaishu, Kumamoto Brewery Research Institute (Kumamoto)
7. Funamuku Junmai Ginjoshu, Chiyo no Kame Brewery (Ehime)
8. Ginban Tokusen Junmai Daiginjoshu, Ginban Brewery (Toyama)
9. Junmai Ginjoshu Koshi no Yuki Shizuku, Ofuku Brewery (Niigata)
10. Yasakatsuru Iwai Kurabu, Takeno Brewery (Kyoto)
11. Nishi no Seki Josen Tezukuri Junmaishu, Kayashima Brewery (Oita)
12. Mimurosugi Junmaishu Muroka Nama Genshu Mizusake Tsukuri, Imanishi Brewery (Nara)
13. Hojun Karakuchi Junmaishu Gassan, Yoshida Brewery (Shimane)
14. Tokubetsu Junmai Yamahai Dewa Kirari Hi, Shuho Brewery (Yamagata)
15. Shirakawago Nigori Sake, Miwa Brewery (Gifu)
16. Junmai Daiginjo Meguro Goro Usuke, Tamagawa Brewery (Niigata)
17. Nanbu no Shizuku Junmai Daiginjo, Sakuragao Brewery (Iwate)
18. Muroka Nama Genshu, Kanbai Brewery Honjozo (Saitama)
19. Tokubetsu Junmaishu Tenryo no Taki, Kunbai Brewery (Shizuoka)
20. Ginjo Kizake Abe, Abe Brewery (Niigata)
21. Kiku Izumi Junmaishu, Takizawa Brewery (Saitama)
22. Homare Kokko Junmai Ginjo, Tsuchida Brewery (Gunma)
23. Hachitsuru Junmaishu, Hachinohe Brewery (Aomori)
24. Ura Kasumi Junmaishu, Saura Co., Ltd. (Miyagi)
25. Tokubetsu Junmai Miyamagiku, Funasaka Brewery (Gifu)
26. Yasakatsuru Yamahai Junmai 70, Takeno Brewery (Kyoto)
Kurand Sake Market Asakusa Branch
Address: Tokyo-to, Taito-ku, Asakusa 1-43-10, Rekusu Asakusa B, 1st floor
Hours: 12:00-16:00, 17:00-23:00
All photos © RocketNews24
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