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Meet Our Sake Contributors!

Meet Our
Sake Contributors!

Erin Niimi Longhurst 🇬🇧🇯🇵 

Based in London

Learn More About Erin

Erin Niimi Longhurst is a British/Japanese author in New York and London.

Her work has been featured in the BBC, Vogue, Stylist, El Mundo, Elle Vietnam and MarthaStewart.com. She is also a Director at a digital agency, working with purpose-led organisations in strategy development, helping them use social media to reach their goals.

She is the author of Japonisme (HarperCollins, 2018), Omoiyari (HarperCollins, 2020), and A Little Book of Japanese Contentments (Chronicle Books, 2018). Her work is influenced by her dual heritage, and focuses on her passion for food (she is also a trained private chef), Ikigai (finding purpose), Ikebana (flower arranging), and Shinrinyoku (forest bathing).

She is currently in East London, where she lives with her partner and their sausage dog Milhouse.

Erika

🇯🇵🇳🇬

Based in Yokohama

Learn More About Erika

Hi, I'm Erika, half Japanese and half Nigeria grow up in Japan. The reason why I became interested in sake it's simply because I love it. Not only the taste but also the stories behind it. You can learn about Japanese culture and history through sake. If you have never tested sake before, once you read this blog, I'm sure you will be excited to taste it, and if you already tasted it before, I'm sure you will want to try more different types of sake.

 

Q#: When and where was the first time you had sake? Was it love at first sight or more of a long slow-burning love story? Do you remember what that first sake was? How was it served?

In Japan, we have a custom of drinking (for children just a sip) sake every year with the family at the new years. I don't know exactly how old I was, but I remember I didn't like it. After I grew up, I worked at a sushi restaurant and had a chance to drink sake. First, I said no because I thought all sake was the same. Then a friend of mine convinced me, and I agreed to taste a bit of drink. I loved it. It was sweet and fruity. Since that day, I learned that there are so many types of sake.


Q#: What led you to make sake your full-time career?

7 years ago, when I went to college in LA, I've made so many friends from different countries, and all of them knew and loved their countries' culture. So I was ashamed because I didn't know about my country's culture as much as other students did. So since that, I decided to learn more about my country's culture, and sake job was the closest way and kind of bridge for me to learn about Japanese culture, and it has been really a good experience. Also, in my opinion, it's the most interesting Japanese culture.

 

Q#: What do you think is the biggest misconception people outside of Japan have about sake.

I think people don't know there are many kinds of sake like wine or beer. Even in Japan, it is changing, but many people still believe that sake is for "Oldman."

 

Q#: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the sake industry right now?

Changing the "image" of sake.

 

Q#: What advice would you give to people looking to explore the world of sake?

Go to a sake bar and try different kinds of sake as much as you can.

 

Q#: Do you have sake in your fridge as we speak? What is it?
Six different bottles from Kinoshita brewery.

 

Q#: To anyone interested in sake right now, what would you like to say to them?

Try brings sake to the next home party. Bring friends when you go buy sake.

Giulia aka Jiji

🇮🇹

Based in Tokyo

Learn More About Guilia

My name is Giulia, but you can call me Jiji. Born and raised in Italy, I moved to Japan in 2015. I started working in the tourism industry as soon as I arrived in Tokyo. My focus quickly shifted to Japanese food culture and sake, and this was when the sake journey started. Focused on spreading the knowledge of this Japanese ambrosia, I took the 利酒師 Kikizakeshi diploma in Japanese and started hosting tastings and doing lectures about sake. In 2020 I founded Jijisake and created https://www.jijisake.com/ where I talk about sake, share facts & anecdotes and host online tastings.

I also took the Certified Sake Professional (CSP) diploma recognized by the Sake Education Council. Thirsty for knowledge, I briefly worked at Itakura Shuzo, a sake brewery located in the Shimane Prefecture.

More recently, I became a Sake Educator with the SSA. And this is just the beginning. I really cannot wait to share my passion and love for Japanese sake with everyone.

 

Q#: When and where was the first time you had sake? Was it love at first sight or more of a long slow-burning love story? Do you remember what that first sake was? How was it served?

The first time I had sake, I was in Italy. I and some friends went to a "Japanese restaurant" and ordered sake without knowing much about it. I got this piping hot drink (I don't even remember the brand) that was warmed up in a microwave for sure. Not the best first experience. When I visited Japan, I finally had the chance to try sake properly, and I loved it.


Q#: What led you to make sake your full-time career?

It's hard to explain, but since I started getting involved in this amazing industry, I can't go back to doing anything else. The history and the cultural background is so intriguing. And the beautiful and passionate people I get to meet thanks to this amazing journey makes me just want to get even more into it. It's like love, it feels so real, yet you can't explain it.

 

Q#: Did you have any misconceptions about sake before?

More than misconceptions, there was so much I didn't know about it. Luckily, I didn't have a strong idea of what sake was (or supposedly was) before moving to Japan, so I started from a white canvas and worked from there.

 

Q#: What do you think is the biggest misconception people outside of Japan have about sake.

Probably that sake is booze just to get drunk. Another one is that if a sake isn't "premium" (or if they don't see the word premium on the bottle) then it isn't good sake. Sometimes words can be deceiving.

 

Q#: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the sake industry right now?

Well, now I'd have to say that one of the biggest challenges is Covid, as for many other industries as well. Unfortunately, the Japanese government is prohibiting restaurants and bars from serving alcoholic beverages, and this, as you can imagine, has a huge impact on the industry. Aside from the virus, climate change is affecting rice cultivation and farmers are facing a big challenge trying to adapt to it.

 

Q#: What advice would you give to people looking to explore the world of sake?

Luckily, there is a lot of information out there, so checking up a thing or two online definitely helps. If you really don't know where to start, join a tasting experience to get useful tips. I do many online tastings nowadays for beginners to help them understand the labels, the types and, hopefully, boost their confidence in buying sake. But, most importantly, getting out of our comfort zone and trying new things is ALWAYS important. Try a couple of different bottles; sake is really supportive of food and way more forgiving than wine when it comes to food pairing. You won't regret it!

 

Q#: Do you have sake in your fridge as we speak? What is it?

As we speak, I have, let me count... 21 bottles of sake. Is it too much? lol
Some bottles are in the fridge, some outside. I like to do my own experiments, and sometimes I ill-treat sake on purpose to see how long it takes to go bad or how it changes over time. I have a bit of everything. Honestly, I don't buy much junmai daiginjo, I prefer aged sake, yamahai & kimoto, and I love anything funky ;)

 

Q#: To anyone interested in sake right now, what would you like to say to them?

Be curious! If you never tried sake, the easiest way is a bottle of junmai daiginjo or junmai ginjo, as usually, these are quite smooth and delicate. Make that be your first bottle, and from there, dare to try more types, and enjoy it with your favourite dishes. You don't have to wait to get sushi to drink sake. Have it with a barbecue, with cheese, with pizza and with anything else in between! And have fun!

Kosuke Takayanagi

🇯🇵

Based in Tokyo

Learn More About Kosuke

Hello, I’m Kosuke, and I was born in Tokyo, Japan. I work as a Kikisake-shi(唎酒師) sake sommelier; I host events, supervise the pairing of sake with food at restaurants, and lecture about the beautiful world of sake. I want to spread Japanese sake and toast with people all over the world!!

Erin Niimi Longhurst 🇬🇧🇯🇵 

Based in London

Learn More About Erin

Erin Niimi Longhurst is a British/Japanese author in New York and London.

Her work has been featured in the BBC, Vogue, Stylist, El Mundo, Elle Vietnam and MarthaStewart.com. She is also a Director at a digital agency, working with purpose-led organisations in strategy development, helping them use social media to reach their goals.

She is the author of Japonisme (HarperCollins, 2018), Omoiyari (HarperCollins, 2020), and A Little Book of Japanese Contentments (Chronicle Books, 2018). Her work is influenced by her dual heritage, and focuses on her passion for food (she is also a trained private chef), Ikigai (finding purpose), Ikebana (flower arranging), and Shinrinyoku (forest bathing).

She is currently in East London, where she lives with her partner and their sausage dog Milhouse.

Erika 🇯🇵🇳🇬

Based in Yokohama

Learn More About Erika

Hi, I'm Erika, half Japanese and half Nigeria grow up in Japan. The reason why I became interested in sake it's simply because I love it. Not only the taste but also the stories behind it. You can learn about Japanese culture and history through sake. If you have never tested sake before, once you read this blog, I'm sure you will be excited to taste it, and if you already tasted it before, I'm sure you will want to try more different types of sake.

 

Q#: When and where was the first time you had sake? Was it love at first sight or more of a long slow-burning love story? Do you remember what that first sake was? How was it served?

In Japan, we have a custom of drinking (for children just a sip) sake every year with the family at the new years. I don't know exactly how old I was, but I remember I didn't like it. After I grew up, I worked at a sushi restaurant and had a chance to drink sake. First, I said no because I thought all sake was the same. Then a friend of mine convinced me, and I agreed to taste a bit of drink. I loved it. It was sweet and fruity. Since that day, I learned that there are so many types of sake.


Q#: What led you to make sake your full-time career?

7 years ago, when I went to college in LA, I've made so many friends from different countries, and all of them knew and loved their countries' culture. So I was ashamed because I didn't know about my country's culture as much as other students did. So since that, I decided to learn more about my country's culture, and sake job was the closest way and kind of bridge for me to learn about Japanese culture, and it has been really a good experience. Also, in my opinion, it's the most interesting Japanese culture.

 

Q#: What do you think is the biggest misconception people outside of Japan have about sake.

I think people don't know there are many kinds of sake like wine or beer. Even in Japan, it is changing, but many people still believe that sake is for "Oldman."

 

Q#: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the sake industry right now?

Changing the "image" of sake.

 

Q#: What advice would you give to people looking to explore the world of sake?

Go to a sake bar and try different kinds of sake as much as you can.

 

Q#: Do you have sake in your fridge as we speak? What is it?
Six different bottles from Kinoshita brewery.

 

Q#: To anyone interested in sake right now, what would you like to say to them?

Try brings sake to the next home party. Bring friends when you go buy sake.

Guilia aka Jiji 🇮🇹

Based in Tokyo

Learn More About Guilia

My name is Giulia, but you can call me Jiji. Born and raised in Italy, I moved to Japan in 2015. I started working in the tourism industry as soon as I arrived in Tokyo. My focus quickly shifted to Japanese food culture and sake, and this was when the sake journey started. Focused on spreading the knowledge of this Japanese ambrosia, I took the 利酒師 Kikizakeshi diploma in Japanese and started hosting tastings and doing lectures about sake. In 2020 I founded Jijisake and created https://www.jijisake.com/ where I talk about sake, share facts & anecdotes and host online tastings.

I also took the Certified Sake Professional (CSP) diploma recognized by the Sake Education Council. Thirsty for knowledge, I briefly worked at Itakura Shuzo, a sake brewery located in the Shimane Prefecture.

More recently, I became a Sake Educator with the SSA. And this is just the beginning. I really cannot wait to share my passion and love for Japanese sake with everyone.

 

Q#: When and where was the first time you had sake? Was it love at first sight or more of a long slow-burning love story? Do you remember what that first sake was? How was it served?

The first time I had sake, I was in Italy. I and some friends went to a "Japanese restaurant" and ordered sake without knowing much about it. I got this piping hot drink (I don't even remember the brand) that was warmed up in a microwave for sure. Not the best first experience. When I visited Japan, I finally had the chance to try sake properly, and I loved it.


Q#: What led you to make sake your full-time career?

It's hard to explain, but since I started getting involved in this amazing industry, I can't go back to doing anything else. The history and the cultural background is so intriguing. And the beautiful and passionate people I get to meet thanks to this amazing journey makes me just want to get even more into it. It's like love, it feels so real, yet you can't explain it.

 

Q#: Did you have any misconceptions about sake before?

More than misconceptions, there was so much I didn't know about it. Luckily, I didn't have a strong idea of what sake was (or supposedly was) before moving to Japan, so I started from a white canvas and worked from there.

 

Q#: What do you think is the biggest misconception people outside of Japan have about sake.

Probably that sake is booze just to get drunk. Another one is that if a sake isn't "premium" (or if they don't see the word premium on the bottle) then it isn't good sake. Sometimes words can be deceiving.

 

Q#: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the sake industry right now?

Well, now I'd have to say that one of the biggest challenges is Covid, as for many other industries as well. Unfortunately, the Japanese government is prohibiting restaurants and bars from serving alcoholic beverages, and this, as you can imagine, has a huge impact on the industry. Aside from the virus, climate change is affecting rice cultivation and farmers are facing a big challenge trying to adapt to it.

 

Q#: What advice would you give to people looking to explore the world of sake?

Luckily, there is a lot of information out there, so checking up a thing or two online definitely helps. If you really don't know where to start, join a tasting experience to get useful tips. I do many online tastings nowadays for beginners to help them understand the labels, the types and, hopefully, boost their confidence in buying sake. But, most importantly, getting out of our comfort zone and trying new things is ALWAYS important. Try a couple of different bottles; sake is really supportive of food and way more forgiving than wine when it comes to food pairing. You won't regret it!

 

Q#: Do you have sake in your fridge as we speak? What is it?

As we speak, I have, let me count... 21 bottles of sake. Is it too much? lol
Some bottles are in the fridge, some outside. I like to do my own experiments, and sometimes I ill-treat sake on purpose to see how long it takes to go bad or how it changes over time. I have a bit of everything. Honestly, I don't buy much junmai daiginjo, I prefer aged sake, yamahai & kimoto, and I love anything funky ;)

 

Q#: To anyone interested in sake right now, what would you like to say to them?

Be curious! If you never tried sake, the easiest way is a bottle of junmai daiginjo or junmai ginjo, as usually, these are quite smooth and delicate. Make that be your first bottle, and from there, dare to try more types, and enjoy it with your favourite dishes. You don't have to wait to get sushi to drink sake. Have it with a barbecue, with cheese, with pizza and with anything else in between! And have fun!

Kosuke Takayanagi 🇯🇵

Based in Tokyo

Learn More About Kosuke

Hello, I’m Kosuke, and I was born in Tokyo, Japan. I work as a Kikisake-shi(唎酒師) sake sommelier; I host events, supervise the pairing of sake with food at restaurants, and lecture about the beautiful world of sake. I want to spread Japanese sake and toast with people all over the world!!