17 October 2008

Celebrating 'Sake festival' without 'sake'

Readers from Japan or, those who are familiar to the Japanese language & culture, Sake (साके) may not need any introduction. But, before I proceed further, I would like to introduce it to rest of the readers:

In general, the word sake, in Japanese, refers to any alcoholic beverage; however, in English, it means a specific type of rice alcohol, also known as nihonshu.
Sake is sometimes called rice wine, but in truth, it is not a wine, nor is it exactly a beer, nor a spirit. Sake is a rather unique type of fermented alcohol: a truly 'brand Japan' item.

The last weekend (October 11-12, 2008) was a celebration time in the Central park of Saijo town in Higashi-Hiroshima where, 'Sake Festival', also known as 'Sake Matsuri', an annual celebration of Japanese sake (rice wine), was held. Over 900 brands of sake was assembled from sake breweries around Japan and was served to the visitors to taste. This festival is one of the most well known and attended events in the Hiroshima prefecture of Japan.

A section of the Saijo town, known as 'sake street' became a hive of activity with its old family breweries opened to the public. Outdoor stalls selling sumptuous local snacks line the street, and in the evening a colorful parade kept visitors merry well into the night. There were also several stalls run by the foreigners living in Hiroshima. Please take a look of some of the photographs that I captured through my camera:

(The entrance of the Central park, Higashi-Hiroshima city, Japan)

(A Sake stall)

(A stall selling sumptuous local snacks)

(A stall selling Barbeque along with the local snacks)

(A stall run by Sri-Lankan people at the Sake Festival)

(Musical show during the festival)

(A glimpse of the performance during the Sake festival)

I was on the streets of Saijo, which literally resembled 'a sake town' that afternoon, with some of my friends. One could feel the cloud of Sake-fueled haze there and, see the ever growing thirsty crowd moving around the stalls in search of different brands of sake (& foods) and, the staff seemed to be doing their best to get everyone as drunk as inhumanly possible. However, there was a notice board reading "We reserve the right to refuse to serve to any guest who is deemed to have had too much to drink. Any guest who fails to follow directions given by the event staff will be asked to exit the event grounds."

I don't drink alcohol. So, you must be thinking that perhaps, I am not the right person to report the thrill & fun associated with the sake festival. But hang on, I don't drink, that is why I am in a better position to tell you exactly what was happening on the ground. For people like me, who don't drink, there were plenty of food items & non-alcoholic beverages in the stalls. In addition to that, there were musical performances going on relentlessly. I captured some of the clips and uploaded them at the Revver (Click here to watch).

It was indeed a fun visiting all those stalls displaying (& selling, of course!) local as well as international foods. However, all good things had to end, and so did the sake festival. Even basic animal skills like walking had deserted a lot of us. We realized that while the Japanese claim themselves to be polite and self-controlled people in the world, they are probably the world’s pre-eminent alcoholics. The sheer amount of alcohol put away in such a short time was astonishing. I’ve never thought of myself as being a drinker, but It was a good (?) feeling to witness the presence of all the alcoholic Giants!

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Dilip Acharya on October 17, 2008 at 3:01 PM said...

It is an interesting and informative article.

And I think you are very right when you say:

I don't drink, that is why I am in a better position to tell you exactly what was happening on the ground.

Alok said...

I admire the effort you have put in writing this post. Interesting stuff! wish that u will continue to share the cultural aspect of Japan though your experiences. pictures n video are nice. keep up the good work, friend!

Anonymous said...

I wonder how there can be a festival which encourages drinking of alcohol. Alcohol affects in several ways. It never really makes people friendly and jolly. people have a tendency to be argumentative anyway, strengthened by going to law school, and alcohol makes ppl spoil for a fight. And it can't be a fun way to interact with people.
Having said this, I also feel that festivals are good and cultural aspect needs to be preserved. probably, drinking within the limit is okey (?).
btw, nice info and picture/video stuffs!

Basanta Gautam on October 22, 2008 at 7:28 AM said...

Nice to read this post Deependrajee!

I love Sake. Sake, mixed with some hot water is the best drink for the approaching winter. Sake is much better than other alcoholic drinks as it doesn't cause any headache the next morning:)

Though Japanese seem to love alcoholic drinks a lot, their behavior is never alcoholic. They have almost a philosophical approach towards sake and it is a very big part of their culture. They drink but they are disciplined even when drunk.

And I don't need to explain our attitude towards alcoholic drinks, right?

Happy to know that you don't drink alcohol. But you are missing some fun too, I am sure:)

Anonymous said...

Dilip Acharya jee, welcome to this blog! I am happy that you liked the post.

Dear Alok, It's always nice to have your comments.

Dear 'Anonymous' friend,
I too don't drink alcohol, but I am not in opposition to the occasional drinking, provided it's in a limit. However, you are probably right about the consequences of excessive drinking. thanks for your views.

Basant jee,
Thanks for adding your thoughts on sake and, I agree with you regarding the post-drunk behavior of Japanese people. & probably, you are right that I may be missing the associated fun (can't think, though), when I say NO to alcohol.

Ravi said...

why don't you write a blog on [-moderated-]festival too. what about racist Japanese. would love too see that. "Expose the real Japan And Japanese" not the fake one

Anonymous said...

Mr. Ravi,
The post doesn't intend to expose anything or anybody. It's just about sharing my experiences of Japan and the Japanese culture.

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