07 October 2012

Saijo Sake Festival

Over the weekend I attended a sake festival in the town of Saijo, where Hiroshima University is located, half an hour's train ride outside of Hiroshima city. It was a two day event and my friends and I went along on the Sunday when it was open from 10 am to 5 pm. After paying 1800yen on the door you enter the festival grounds and once inside there you must remain for the day as leaving and trying to come back in will cost you the price of another ticket. As the 1800 yen covers the cost of all your drinks for the entire day setting up camp inside and not budging is actually a pretty attractive offer.

At the door you are handed an adorable little sake cup (which you get to keep) and a booklet detailing the name, origin and description of each brand of sake at the festival of which there were hundreds (possibly even thousands). Unfortunately it was in Kanji so I couldn't read it, luckily this made sod all difference to me as I don't even like sake and chose them at random based on what letter/number combination sounded good to me by the time I reached the counter. I changed my tune as the day wore on and they all began to taste slightly better due to the previous 15 cups having dissolved my taste buds and making all the drinks that followed far more tolerable.
This was towards the end of the day as they began to run out
Inside the festival grounds the various bar tents are divided by region. Along the top of the tents are strips with letters and numbers printed on them corresponding to each sake so all you have to do is walk up and say the letter and number of the sake you want to try. As they run out of a particular brand they simply tear the strip down. Food stalls wouldn't accept money but instead were looking for 'point coupons' which you buy at a different tent. An odd method. I guess it was so the vendors wouldn't have to worry about handling money and could instead focus exclusively on getting things bbq-ed to a deliciously burnt crisp.
The weather was fabulous, the craic was mighty, the sake was... tolerable after a certain period of time and the food was mouth wateringly good, albeit a tad expensive. We did witness a few revellers who approached the festival with a bit too much enthusiasm passed out or being carried to the first-aid tent but for a festival focused purely on alcohol it was surprisingly mellow, trouble free and the majority of attendees were on their best behaviour. A successful day by all accounts and an event I would recommend to anyone near Hiroshima next October.
Traditional Japanese sake sleeping circle

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