a potent potable is only as good as the rituals and traditions that come with
it. Japanese rice wine, known collectively as sake, has some of the best. It
can be served hot, chilled, or at room temperature, but is always best enjoyed
with others. Mirai Konishi introduces viewers to the brewers and journalistic
evangelists who are maintaining and spreading the sake tradition beyond Japan’s
borders in Kampai! For the Love of Sake (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
Gauntner will help introduce us to sake, because that is his job. He came to
Japan purely for a brief adventure before getting serious about his engineering
career, but fell in love with the country—sake most definitely included. He
became the preeminent western sake journalist and regularly runs sake tasting
workshops for appreciative westerners.
the distinctions between the many different kinds of sake, we refer you to
Gauntner’s publications. For the details on brewing see either Kosuke Kuji, who
reinvigorated his family’s Nanbu Bijin brewery, and Philip Harper, the first
(and only, so far) non-Japanese Toji master brewer for the Kinoshita Brewery. We
see some of their brewing processes, but not enough to glean any trade secrets,
which is probably just as well.
Nanbu Bijin and Kinoshita presumably stand to gain from the film’s publicity,
but sadly it is already too late for Blue Kudzu in Asheville, North Carolina.
Founded by graduates of Gauntner’s program, Blue Kudzu were real deal
traditional sake brewers, but they have sadly already shuttered, reportedly in
part due to costly delays in the permitting process. So thanks to the local
regulators, there is no sense traveling to Asheville now, in hopes of sampling
Regardless, it is surprisingly interesting to
hear how these diverse but thoughtful people relate to sake. Of course, anyone
who has seen their share of Ozu and Naruse films, particularly the latter’s
seedier classics, like When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, appreciates the social significance of pouring sake for
one’s drinking partner. Although the subjects were not untouched by the tragedy
of Fukushima, the film is mostly an upbeat and informative ode to sake. It even
makes product placement look quite elegant. Recommended for refined
food-and-drink palates, Kampai! For the
Love of Sake opens this Friday (8/19) in New York, at the IFC Center.
Labels: Documentary, Japanese Cinema, Sake