Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on November 2013
“Total beverage consultant” Akiko Tomoda has just published a Japanese-English sake primer for anyone who’s ever wanted to know more about Japan’s national drink or how to pair it with apple pie.
What does a total beverage consultant do exactly?
At first, I was a wine sommelier, but I thought that a sommelier working in Japan should also know sake, shochu and all of the other drinks that you can enjoy here, along with the food that can be paired with them, so I’ve broadened my field of expertise. Although I’m not a brewer and I’m not in the restaurant or retail business, I serve as a kind of bridge between the makers and the consumers of alcohol, and it’s work that can take a lot of different forms.
For example, I hold lectures and seminars, I write about the latest news in the industry, and I plan events, among other things. I also do professional consulting targeted at makers, retail shops, restaurants, hotels and the like. I assist them with a wide range of activities like product development and promotion, staff training and certification, study sessions, and producing manuals.
I’m also involved in tourism promotion. Sake and shochu are Japanese products, but they are also tourist attractions. I’m helping to attract tourists at home and abroad to come enjoy traditional Japanese alcohol as ambassador for my home prefecture of Fukui and for Kumamoto’s kuma shochu, a kind of shochu made with rice.
How did you get interested in this field?
My family had an Italian restaurant, so I grew up surrounded by food and drink. My parents and everyone in my family loved food, so I got a very special education. I also grew up in Fukui, which has an abundance of seasonal foods, so that probably had an influence as well.
When I became an adult, I knew I wanted to work in the food industry. Around 1980, wine culture was just starting to take root in Japan and that provided an employment opportunity for me. Since then, I’ve been expanding my expertise along with people’s expanding tastes.
Tell us about your new book.
Super Sake, The Pride of Japan is my second bilingual book. It’s a sake primer with easy-to-understand explanations in Japanese and English and lots of pictures. I cover the different seasonal sakes and recommended pairings for both Japanese and Western food, as well as introducing some nice everyday sakes and some of the long-standing celebrated breweries in Japan.
Why did you decide to write bilingual books?
I wanted the world to know about Japan’s wonderful national drink. There weren’t really many books in English about sake, and what was available was often quite inaccessible. I wanted to create a book with easy-to-understand explanations and a realistic idea of how sake is enjoyed in daily life, while still showing the rich variation sake offers.
That was one part of it. I also wanted to share my story and have more people experience the appeal of sake.
Any easy tips for sake beginners?
Sake has 2000 years of history and is a celebrated traditional product of Japan, but it doesn’t have to be a formal drink. There are a lot of different types of sake and as many different ways to enjoy them. From important toasts to the weekday dinner table, sake is flexible enough to suit any occasion. There will surely be a sake that matches your taste and drinking style, so let’s raise a glass together!