Looking to learn the ins and outs of one of Japan's most popular drinks? If you've ever been curious about sake (an alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice), don't miss out on the monthly sake tasting experience at Wa Experience Kafu, one of Kyoto's up-and-coming cultural experience centers.
During the day, Kafu's beautifully renovated machiya in the museum quarter (just a short walk south of the Heian Shrine) hosts a variety of classes, ranging from ikebana to cooking to calligraphy. However, at least once a month in the evening, Kafu welcomes certified sake expert (and fluent English speaker) Ayuko to share the secrets of sake with interested visitors.
The workshop opens with a brief lecture on sake - its history, the process by which it is made or fermented, and the various classifications you'll find on the labels. If you've ever wondered what the heck junmaiginjo means, here's your chance to find out. Thanks to some helpful slides, you can also get a better idea of what makes a sake dry or sweet. Ayuko's useful graphics also help thoroughly explain the process of fermentation, what makes sake the tasty beverage it is.
But lest you think that's the whole experience, the main portion of the workshop is a tasting component. Participants will have the chance to taste five different brands of sake and pair them with a plate of nibbles. The brands on the night I attended ranged from a sparkling sake (incredibly easy to drink) from a brewery in Miyagi Prefecture to a full-bodied sake from just down the road in Kyoto's sake district of Fushimi. The other three brands came from nearby Shiga and Fukui Prefectures, as well as one more from the Kyoto area. Everyone in the workshop was quite surprised by the range of tastes that were served, proving that sake can have as much sophistication and variety as other beverages.
The easy-to-navigate Kafu website has all of the information you'd need to sign up, including directions to the machiya and information on Kafu's other programs. Due to the growing popularity of the sake workshop, however, it's advisable to book your spot well in advance.