Hasegawa Saketen has been an expert retailer of high-quality liquors for decades, specializing in the traditional drink of Japan: sake. Made from a careful process of rice polishing and fermentation, sake has been enjoyed for over a thousand years in both social and ceremonial contexts and is becoming increasingly trendy thanks to a growing worldwide interest in Japanese cuisine.
The world of sake can, however, be as mystifying as it is delicious, with an expansive selection of flavor profiles, aromas, and categories. This is where a specialty shop such as Hasegawa Saketen can be your guiding light. Hasegawa Saketen has branches in seven central locations across Tokyo and stocks a wide selection of sake from breweries throughout Japan.
Their newest location opened in the Nihonbashi area just last year. Stepping into the store, you're immediately met with a warm and welcoming ambiance. A picturesque arrangement of beautifully designed bottles, gourmet snacks, and traditional drinkware are on display in the main shop area. The store’s chic dining bar is another inviting feature, offering a range of sake tasting sets and tempting otsumami - small appetizers which enhance the sensory experience of the drink.
The manager of the Nihonbashi store, Mr. Kato, explains that their core mission is to bring the joy of quality Japanese sake to the world. As the store becomes increasingly popular with international customers, he and his staff are happy to offer suggestions and recommendations. Mr. Kato tells us that for those who are new to choosing sake, drinkability is the key. There is a basic spectrum of flavor which ranges from smoother, sweeter flavors (amakuchi) to drier, heavier sakes (karakuchi). Generally, people tend to enjoy sake with a lightly fruity quality; a good bet when choosing a bottle to give as a gift.
Mr. Kato tells us that Hakurakusei, a popular brand, is a great choice for international visitors. Their light-bodied sake is extremely drinkable and can be complemented by many types of cuisine, particularly Italian, tomato-based dishes. He also recommends Isojiman, a drier brew with slightly sweet undertones that is very easy to pair with Japanese otsumami. Although many people associate it solely with Japanese food, sake is in fact as versatile as wine and can be paired with a broad range of western foods. A good rule of thumb for beginners is to pair food in proportion with the richness of the sake. For lighter, sweeter brews, appetizers like fruits and or lean fish would be complementary. For heavier brews, he personally recommends dishes with richer flavors, but stresses that it’s open to personal taste and experimentation.
The world of Japanese sake now seems a little clearer having visited Hasegawa Saketen Nihonbashi. Although the enjoyment of certain flavors, aromas, and textures depends on our individual palates, informing personal tastes with basic fundamental knowledge really enhances the sensory experience and leaves one excited to experiment further.
Ultimately, the only thing which makes sake even more enjoyable is sharing it with friends and family, and there’s no better souvenir to deliver an authentic taste of Japanese tradition.
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