On Oct 19th, 2007, my first full day in Japan, I had the honor of being named a Sake Samurai by the Japan Brewer’s Association’s Jr Council. Ok, this experience was definitely once in a lifetime. The day started with my arrival by taxi at the UNESCO World Heritage site known as Shimogamo Shrine. It was pouring rain and I was feeling a little down we we weren’t going to have perfect weather, but as I started walking the grounds, I stumbled on a japanese wedding ceremony. The bride and groom looked so happy and full of life, I felt invigorated and the rain seemed somehow more romantic than before.
Soon, Mr. Saura, President of both Urakasumi Brewery and the Japan Brewer’s Association Jr Council found me and led me to the starting point of our ceremony. After brief introductions and some instructions on what to expect, we headed single file through the main gate and into the shrine. We removed our shoes and had our hands purified with water by the shinto priest. We were then lead into the main chamber of the shrine for half an hour of formal worship. The Priestess rang bells over our heads and each guest had the honor of presenting a branch to the altar with a deep bow. The music they played on what looked like a bamboo flute was haunting and spiritual. As I sat there trying to take it in, I couldn’t help but wonder for how many hundreds and hundreds of years this ceremony had been preformed on this very spot.
After formal worship, we processed to a raised platform off the main shrine. This is where the induction ceremony was to take place. There were 5 people receiving the title of Sake Samurai today. Mr. Takahashi, Mr. Wakuda, Ms. Seno, Mr. David Wrigley and myself. One by one, we were called up to the platform. The first order of business is to accept the three tenets of being a sake Samurai as read out by Mr. Saura, they are:
- Love both sake and the beautiful culture of Japan.
- Strive to gain a deeper understanding of sake culture and work on behalf of its further development.
- Spread the word about Japanese sake around the world with pride and passion.
After accepting these tenets, we were each invited to write our name into the book of Sake Samurais. Then, Saura-san stamped our certificate as well as the book with a seal. We there then, one by one, presented to the crowd and assembled photographers as a new Sake Samurai! At the final stage, all new Sake Samurais were invited back up onto the stage for a final Kanpai!
After the ceremony was over, we processed to the main gate for a formal group portrait. The rain continued to fall hard and we were barely protected from the rain as we sat under the protection of the main gate roof far above us. Despite the rain, the photographers crowded around to snap our picture. After the photo, we came in from the rain for a the press conference.
The day drew to a close with a magnificent Kaiseki Dinner. There was course after course of delicious Kyoto delicacies. The feast began with the traditional breaking of the barrel by the 5 new sake samurai. now, that was a lot of fun. We had real Geisha in attendance who entertained with song and dance and helped pour sake. That was yet another of many firsts for me on this trip. amazing.
I also had the opportunity to finally meet Beau Timkin of San Francisco’s True Sake. Special thanks go out to Beau-san for all his guidance and support on this day. I also especially want to thank Mr. Saura for all the hospitality and all the brewers who are members of the Japan Brewer’s Association Jr Council for the invitation to Kyoto and for this tremendous honor. I will certainly continue to work hard to promote sake both in person and on-line. I think sake as a great future in the US and I’m happy to be a part of it.
When I made it back to the hotel, my mind was awash with impressions of this day. I tried hard to collect my thoughts, but jet lag had caught up with me. As I drifted off to sleep I was delighted about they day but couldn’t help but wonder what further adventures awaited me this week in Japan…