The Mayor Of This Famous Sake Town Really Knows How To Enjoy His Nishonshu

The Town of Ikeda in Nagano, Japan, is blessed with snow-capped mountains, bringing with it crystal clear mineral-rich waters  that make for excellent sake brewing. Fukugen and Daisekkei, two Ikeda-based brewers with a long history, produces truly refined rice wine.

“Ikeda is known as a sake town,” says Motai Kiyoaki, the town’s mayor. “Fukugen and Daisekki breweries are very close to the people of Ikeda Town’s hearts and local drinking culture. These jizake (local sake) have a special connection to the townspeople because it is only available here.”

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Kiyoaki has a point, Fukugen has been in Ikeda since the Edo Period in 1758, when samurai still roamed the streets. Never giving in to the allure of mass production, Fukugen stays true to its roots and traditional brewing methods using spring water from the Northern Japanese Alps and organic sake-grade rice. Daisekkei, which means magnificent snow gorge, also credits the alps’ waters and local high quality rice to its longstanding success since 1898.

These two breweries were the sponsors of the Sake Sommelier of the Year 2019, taking place in Malaysia for the first time outside of its headquarters of London thanks to master sake sommelier and founder of The Saké Place Danny Leong’s efforts.

“The people of Ikeda enjoy their sake in various types of glasses, but most locals have it in tea cups for a more casual drinking atmosphere,” says Kiyoaki. “We enjoy our sake with local pickled leafy vegetables called nozawana, best enjoyed during cold winter days. These pickles are really interesting, in a sense that if you take nozawana to other places that do not have the same climate as Nagano the flavours can change.”

Pickles go well with a sake such as a junmai daiginjo due to its tart briny flavours, playing well with a more elegant and drier wine. Besides nozawana, Kiyoaki suggests pairing all kinds of Japanese pickles in various seasonings to elevate your sake drinking experience, from carrots and eggplant in soy sauce or miso to Chinese cabbage in kasu (a byproduct of sake making).

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