Deeply Japan

Don't settle for shallow.

Saka-ba     酒場

Saka-ba:Immerse Yourself in Japan’s Unique Drinking Culture

Japan has a unique culture of saka-ba (a pub, bar, or tavern). Japan’s traditional style of saka-ba, called izakaya, is not very commonly seen in other countries. In today’s Japan, young people often prefer large izakaya chains run by big corporations, but in this article, I’d like to introduce small, individually-owned izakaya as a symbol of Japanese saka-ba culture.

Step into a local izakaya, and you’ll typically find a wooden counter, behind which stands the proprietor, referred to as the taisho (for men) or okami (for women). The taisho or okami may not seem particularly friendly or welcoming at a glance, but there’s no need to be afraid. Sometimes they may dress down badly behaved customers, but you shouldn’t get upset or angry. While drinking sake is one of life’s pleasures, for the Japanese, the saka-ba is also a sort of training hall (dojo) for life. Behaving properly at a saka-ba is one of the conditions to be considered a mature, refined adult.

Now, I’d like to show you how to become a Japanese Saka-ba master. It isn’t easy, but it can prove to be one of the most fun and rewarding ways to immerse yourself in Japanese culture.

001 Sake     酒

Sake Stories Even the Japanese Don’t Know,

The Japanese word sake traditionally refers to what is also known as nihonshu, or Japanese sake—that is, Japan’s national beverage brewed from rice. These days, sake can also refers to all alcoholic beverages. Recently, Japanese whisky is becoming very popular around the word, and Japan produces a wide range of excellent wine and beer as well. However, I would argue that when we say sake in Japan, it should mean Japanese sake. The history and tradition of sake brewing in Japan is simply on a different level. When you see samurai drinking together in a Kurosawa movie, you can bet that it’s sake they’re sipping.

Japan is a country with a deep rice harvest culture, and Japanese sake, brewed from rice, is not just a pleasure but something intimately intertwined with our lives. The Japanese have developed a precious culture of sake brewing that has existed since ancient times. It may sound a bit self-serving for a Japanese person to say this, but I believe that Japan’s sake brewing culture really is a unique treasure unlike anything else in the world.

Unfortunately, to tell the truth, sake today is not as popular as it could be. The Japanese actually consume a greater quantity of beer and wine. Of course, this isn’t because sake doesn’t taste good—it’s delicious!—but rather because there are many Japanese people who don’t know about sake. As hard as it might be to believe, there are many fascinating stories about sake that even the Japanese don’t know. As for why this is, we’ll talk about that after. For now, let me share some of these stories with you.


Sake Fundamentals 知識編

AuthorToru Sakazaki

Toru Sakazaki

President, Sakaba Bunka Kenkyusho L.L.C.

Born in 1967. Have long experience working in advertising industry. Caught by the profoundity of Japan's Sake culture when he was still just one of Sake lovers. Felt the sense of urgency for the scarcity of places that can appreciate the true value of Japan's traditional Sake culture to offer authentic Sake, opened a tavern "Junmai-shu Sanpin" in Tokyo, Shibuya, in 2011. Also founded Sakaba Bunka Kenkyusho (An Institute for Japanese Sakaba Culture) L.L.C in March 2016, in addition to run an advertising company, continuously pursuing the study about Japan's Sake brewing culture and Sakaba culture.