New Sake Festivals
Location: Participating Breweries
When: Annually around early Spring
Every year around early spring, with the vast majority of brewers across Japan finally able to see the finish line of their winters hard work and toil, many sakagura start preparing to open their doors for the first time of the new year (蔵開き). Although tired and weary from the seasons work, brewers are understandably keen, and perhaps a little nervous, to present their latest creations to the general public. For their part, loyal fans of sake are excited to try the latest offerings from their favourite breweries. Yes, in the world of sake, spring is the season of the shinshu matsuri (新酒祭).
For those of you who do make the effort to go to one of these events, and I highly recommend you do, you can expect to find great local food, cultural activities, and of course the opportunity to try the freshest of fresh sake. Furthermore, depending on the brewery, you may even find that that they have prepared a Limited Edition of sorts (限定品) just to celebrate the event. Therefore, attending one of these events is a great way to procure some rare sake which might be a bit different from that brewery's usual offerings. Lastly, if you are lucky, you may even get the chance to see the inside of the kura while there is still brewing activity taking place. This is rarely part of the standard event, but sometimes the owner might decide to do a special small tour as part of the event.
However, finding the dates for these events is not always completely straight forward, as some of the smaller kura can be reluctant to embrace social media. Therefore, the best way to find out the times and dates is by contacting the brewery directly. Many will advertise locally through notices and such at town centres and train stations. However, if you don't live locally, and don't really want to make a phone call in Japanese, it is still worth checking social media outlets just in case they are active. You almost certainly won't need a ticket or booking, just the time to arrive. But be warned though, in the case of popular breweries, the queue for the limited sake will form very quickly, and expect it to sell out well before the event is finished. If you do miss out though you needn't worry, for the one thing that is certain at these events is that there will always be plenty of other delicious sake close by for your enjoyment.