Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Year-end sales event)

By Ryuji Takahashi
Three sake breweries were invited to organize the 2023 year-end sales event at Kanemasu Brewery (Shibata city, Niigata prefecture). Thursday, December 28 felt like a half-day workday, yet many visitors arrived to purchase nigori sake “Hatsuyuki,” a popular nigori sake of this brewery. Some customers purchased sake in bulk since Kanemasu Brewery offers few bottled sake products. The sake products featured by Kanemasu Brewery were Junmai Daiginjo “Hatsuhana,” stored at freezing temperatures for two years; and “Kanemasu 36-year-old sake.”      
The container of “Kanemasu 36-year-old sake,” aged for thirty-six years since 1986, is eye-catching. The 360 ml titanium custom-made double wall tumbler was made by the renowned Horie Titanium Co., based in the Tsubame-Sanjo area. After the aged sake is finished, the uneven interior of the tumbler ensures silky froth beer foam. The 360 ml aged sake is priced at approximately 40000 JPY. Explaining the value of this aged sake to customers was very challenging.   
The sales event on December 29 featured “Nagatorogura” by Hakuro Brewery (Nagaoka city, Niigata prefecture) and new sake by both the Hakuro Brewery and Fujisaki Sobe Shoten (Nagatoro city, Saitama prefecture) of the same group. Hakuro Brewery featured their new sake, Junmai-Daiginjo Nigori Sake, and “Sanzui Junmai-Daiginjo Non-filtered Unprocessed Sake,” bottled in low volumes. New sake by Nagatorogura is unprocessed, non-filtered Junmai Ginjo sake with a flavor like fresh green apple juice. Customers came out in droves to the shopping district this day after completing their work for the year to prepare for New Year’s eve and New Year’s day. Many customers purchased fresh sake available only this time of the year. 
Nihonsakari was featured the next day, soon to become a classic sake featured during the sales event on December 30. The special set packaged in the Jinkichi bag (handbag made of durable canvas fabric used to transport sake from the sake shop) consisted of the Ginjo with gold leaf, Daiginjo with gold leaf, and “Souhana Junmai Ginjo,” also used when the Emperor ascended the throne, all products that suit the New Year ambiance. Sales personnel at Nihonsakari taught me the basics of selling sake before my shop opened. For the first time in over a decade, we teamed up so I could learn how to sell sake from a seller of a national sake brand, which is different from how local sake is sold. 
On the final day of New Year’s eve on December 31, two part-time workers were invited to sell out the rest of the inventory of the year. High-end sake sold out in no time, along with various new sake and New Year’s sake products that all sold out and concluded the year by 21:00. 
It is truly unusual to see this much sake sold at other times of the year. The phenomenon of high sake sales raises the question if domestic sake consumption is declining in Japan. If sake sales of this volume are consistent year-round, it would be safe to say the Japanese sake industry has a bright future ahead. 

*Jinkichi bag: handbag made of durable canvas fabric used to transport sake from the sake shop  
*甚吉袋: 酒屋からお酒を運ぶ時に使われていた丈夫な帆布生地でできている手提げ