Nestlé Japan to release sake-flavored Kit Kats this February

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RocketNews 24 (by Oona McGee):

Now you can enjoy a break with a Kit Kat and a shot of Japanese rice wine all rolled into one.

Japan is well-known for its huge variety of Kit Kats, with flavors ranging from wasabi to soybean and purple sweet potato to red bean sandwich. While most are developed as regional souvenirs, representing delicacies of the area, there’s one particular variety that says “Japan” like no other, and appears at the top of the must-buy souvenir list for many foreign visitors: the Green Tea Kit Kat.

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Nestlé Japan says the exclusive variety remains a popular choice with foreign tourists, with sales for 2015 up by 20 percent over the previous year. The product’s huge popularity encouraged the company to develop another Japan-exclusive flavour, this time based on the country’s well-known traditional brew, nihonshuu, or sake as it’s known internationally.

▼ Aimed at the foreign tourist market, the packaging features a beautiful pink sakura cherry blossom design, along with an image of the well-known liquor.

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The new Kit Kats contain sake powder which has been kneaded into the white chocolate-encased wafers, giving the chocolates all the flavor and aroma of a top-quality rice wine, while providing a light and refreshing aftertaste. Available from 1 February this year, the new variety will come in three-pack boxes for 150 yen (US$1.24) at convenience stores, while the specially designed nine-piece box will be available for 700 yen from souvenir stores around the country.

▼ The nine-piece packs feature a beautiful package in the shape of an Isshobin, 1.8-litre bottle.

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If you’re in Japan and would like to try a sample, Nestlé Japan will be featuring the sake Kit Kats at a booth at the upcoming event, which will  be held from February 5-14 at Roppongi Hills in Tokyo.

Japanese sweet sake found to have beauty benefits

sweet sweet blood candies

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It seems like every time you look, there’s some sort of new fad diet or superfood, all purported to be the best thing you can do for your health or to improve your natural beauty. But the good news is, this one’s actually fun to partake in.

Researchers at a university in Japan have now put sweet Japanese sake to the test, and have found it to have a number of positive beauty benefits, including improvement to under-eye health!

Japanese confectionery company Morinaga recently collaborated with Tokyo Engineering University to study the effects that amazake, or sweet sake, has on the drinker’s health.

Amazake, if you don’t know, is a traditional Japanese drink made from fermented rice, and is often sold at festivals, particularly around the new year period. Despite its name, “sweet sake” is actually a very low- (less than 1%) to non-alcoholic beverage, made using the lees leftover from sake production, and a type of mold – called kōji – used in fermenting miso paste and soy sauce. It may not sound very appetizing, but the amazake develops a natural sweetness as it incubates, and is really refreshing served chilled in the summer or hot in the winter.

▼Outdoor stall selling amazake (甘酒)

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Results from the study have led researchers to believe that the sake lees and kōji mold in amazake are beneficial to personal health and beauty. The study involved 17 participants, all females between the ages of 40 and 60. One group drank a prescribed amount of amazake every morning and evening for one month. The other group was given a placebo- an amazake-like drink, but without the lees and mold found in the traditional stuff.

After the trial month was over both groups were compared. The amazake group were surprisingly reported to have improved, brighter under-eyes than the placebo group. Members of the amazake group were also found to have a slight increase in the temperature of the surface of their skin, which researchers theorize helps promote the excretion of waste from the body, hence giving the test subjects brighter, healthier-looking under-eyes with reduced shadows and eye-bags.

In addition, members of the amazake group also reported having “glossier hair”, and feeling more refreshed when waking up in the morning, while the placebo group did not.

Sound too good to be true? Of course it’s difficult to believe there is a miracle beauty secret out there, and considering the size and short time-span of the study, the results should possibly be taken with a grain of salt, but if you wanted to test it out yourself at home, it would definitely be a tasty experiment. Kanpai!

Japanese sake brewers revive interest by using Western fermentation processes to create “Champagne Sake”

Kawanakajima

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As imports of Western drinks increase, interest in Japan’s native alcoholic beverages has been declining. There have been efforts to bring drinkers back to traditional drinks such as sake and shochu, but they face tough competition from the likes of wine and champagne, which evoke fashionable, sophisticated images in the minds of Japanese drinkers.

One way to revive interest could be to apply Western fermentation techniques to Eastern beverages such as sake, Japan’s “rice wine”, to create unique twists on traditional drinks.Champagne sake” is an example of this done deliciously right.

Traditional or “real” champagne is sparkling wine made from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France which, after the usual fermentation process, are fermented a second time in the bottle to produce the carbonation. In other words, it’s this special process of secondary fermentation that gives a glass of bubbly its bubbles. People all over the world, including Japan, like to crack open a bottle to celebrate special occasions. At other times, many Japanese people are partial to sake, or nihonshu as it’s known in its native land, a popular alcohol with a long history made from fermented rice.

But what do you get when you apply the fermentation process used to make champagne to sake? Well, you get an effect similar to champagne, but with that special rice wine flavor!

Because of the in-bottle fermentation process, as with champagne, you get the fizz of fine bubbles jumping out at you when you open the cap. It’s different to “sparkling sake“, which has recently seen a boom in popularity, which is simply sake with added carbonation and is more like an alco-pop with around 5% alcohol content. When using the champagne secondary fermentation process, the resultant drink has a fruity flavor and is around 12% proof. It’s very easy to get carried away drinking too much of it but, since it’s made from only rice and natural water, if you’re going to drink alcohol then this is probably a reasonably healthy choice! Apparently it goes well not only with Japanese food, but with Chinese and Western cuisine, too.

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Shusen Kurano is the oldest sake brewer in Nagano and the seventh oldest in all of Japan, and they are extremely proud of their “champagne sake”, called Kawanakajima-Fuwarin, which is different to all the traditional sake they produce. Founded in 1540, Shusen Kurano has over 470 years of history and it’s even said that the famous daimyo Takeda Shingen drank their sake at the Battles of Kawanakajima. While champagne sake may not have been around at the time, if it had been he surely would have enjoyed cracking open a bottle after a win on the battlefield.

Kawanakajima-Fuwarin retails on the brewery’s website at 450 yen (US$3.70) for 180 ml, 750 yen ($6.20) for 300ml, and 1,250 yen ($10.30) for 500ml. If you do pick any up, be sure to let us know what you think.

Outdoor apparel label Snow Peak introduces custom Titanium Sake Bottle

Portland-based outdoor apparel label Snow Peak introduces its custom Titanium Sake Bottle. Boasting a lightweight titanium construction, the Snow Peak sake bottle weighs less than half a pound and is able to carry 540 mL of fluids, making it ideal for storing spirits at cold temperatures at home or on the road.

Made exclusively in Japan, the titanium sake bottle also features a practical black stopper, which complements the bottle’s utility and portability. Matching sets of titanium sake cups and a bottle case add to the outdoor-inspired sake experience. The Snow Peak Titanium Sake Bottle is available now at the brand’s online store.

ZOZOTOWN collaborates with Japanese sake distillery Ohmine Shuzou with 10th Anniversary “Ohmine Junmai” Pack

Drinking sake just got more convenient with convenience store Family Mart’s new canned brews

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Like with wine, there are variations in flavor between different types of Japanese sake. However, it can be kind of tough to pick up on the subtle differences unless you’re drinking them back to back. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for prices for anything other than the house sake at restaurants to start at about 800 yen (US $6.75), so putting together your own sampling set can get pricey.

But if you’re looking for a budget-friendly way to dip you toes in the wide, wonderful world of sake, convenience store Family Mart is here to help, with its new lineup of affordably priced canned sake.

While convenience stores selling individual-sized servings of sake isn’t anything new, there are two unique points to Family Mart’s Sake Bottle series. First, while most cheap convenience store sake is of a quality as low as its price, Family Mart’s four exclusive brews are produced by respected sake maker Nihonsakari.

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Second, the Sake Bottle series is sold in 200-mililiter (6.8-ounce) oblong cans with resealable tops. There’s no pressure to drink any more than you feel like at that exact moment, unlike with other brands which come in glass containers whose tops have to be completely and irreversibly removed in order to get at the liquid refreshment inside.

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The least expensive of the quartet is the josen karakuchi, which comes in a black container and is priced at 260 yen ($2.17). Family Mart says this dry, 15-percent alcohol sake goes down smooth and can be paired with a wide range of foods.

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Ponying up 280 yen will get you a can of the refreshing junmaishu, which is just a tad less dry than the josen karakuchi but also has an alcohol content of 15 percent.

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Identically priced at 280 yen, the rich-tasting namagenshu provides the strongest kick of the bunch, with 20 percent alcohol and the sweetest flavor of the four.

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Finally, there’s the dry, aromatic, and elegant 16-percent-alcohol daiginjo, for 300 yen ($2.50).

All of the Sake Bottle varieties are currently available at Family Mart branches across Japan, which is also a handy place to pick up some snacks to munch on while you sip them. Even better, until January 12 they’re all 10 yen off, meaning that even if the top-of-the-line daiginjo turns out to be your favorite, right now it’s buy-30-get-one-free.

Norse Hutchens Sake Making Kit

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For those fascinated with the often mishandled craft of home brewing, Norse Hutchens provides the correct kits needed to explore the ancient art and science. Alongside wine, moonshine and gin making kits, the label’s latest kit allows you to explore the production of Japanese sake.

Equipped with a manual, all the necessary ingredients (rice, yeast, sake additives) and utensils — jugs, plastic tubing, rubber stoppers and muslin bag — you can now bring a piece of traditional craft to your kitchen without venturing to Kobe’s breweries.

Priced at $60 USD, head to uncommongoods for more information on the kit.

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Travelers on Trip Advisor pick Japan’s 30 best restaurants

 

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Travel website Trip Advisor recently released its annual list of the 30 best sightseeing spots in Japan. Featuring centuries-old shrines, futuristic cityscapes, and no fewer than four whale sharks, it’s an impressive collection of much of what makes Japan such a unique and awesome country.

Honestly, if you had the time, we wouldn’t try to talk you out of an itinerary that hits all 30 places. Of course, with that much sightseeing, you’re bound to work up an appetite. Thankfully, Trip Advisor is back again with its top 30 restaurants in Japan.

As with the sightseeing list, the rankings are based on reviews from Trip Advisor users who dined at the restaurants. While there’s no shortage of high-priced Japanese fare, there are a few budget-friendly eateries that made the cut too, along with some foreign cuisine as well. Let’s dig in and get this multi-course meal started with number 30.

 

30. Abucha Nigoten
Hokkaido,  Abuta-gun, Kucchan-cho, Yamada 191-29

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Visitors to the Niseko ski resort on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido rave about this Japanese eatery’s sushi and hot pots.

29. The Niseko Supply Company
Hokkaido, Abuta-gun, Kucchan-cho, Azayamada 190-13

If you’re looking for western food in Niseko, the Supply Company is known for its crepes, pastries, and fondue, plus its invigorating coffee and relaxing beer.

28. Niseko Pizza
Hokkaido, Abuta-gun, Kucchan-cho, Yamada 167 3J, Sekka Building basement level 1

Not far from the above entry you’ll find this Italian restaurant that’s popular with the foreign community.

27. Jomon
Tokyo-to, Minato-ku, Roppongi 5-9-17, Fujimori Building 1st floor

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Not only does Jomon serve up outstanding yakitori chicken skewers, its location on one of the secluded backstreets of Tokyo’s rowdiest nightlife district means you won’t have to worry about barkers trying to drag you off to their hostess bar on the way there.

26. Tsunahachi
Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-31-8

Just a few minutes’ walk from the always bustling Shinjuku Station, Tsunahachi’s mix of great tempura and moderate prices has had diners lining up out front for years.

25. Kani Doraku
Osaka-fu, Osaka-shi, Chuo-ku, Dotombori 1-6-18

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Japan has a number of restaurants that advertise their specialty with a giant animatronic crab, but none is more famous than the Kani Doraku branch in Osaka’s Dotombori entertainment district.

24. Sukibayashi Jiro
Tokyo-to, Minato-ku, Roppongi 6-12-2 Roppongi Hills Keyakizakadori 3rd floor

Ever wanted to dine at the same sushi restaurant as sake-sampling heads of state and demanding Chinese exchange students? Here’s your chance.

23. Katsukura
Kyoto-fu, Kyoto-shi, Shimogyo-ku, Higashi Shiokojicho, Kyoto Station Building Senmontengai The Cube 11th floor

If you’re not interested in sushi, because of an aversion to raw food, this Kyoto Station restaurant specializes in deep-fried tonkatsu pork cutlets.

22. Yamato Sushi
Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 5-2-1, Tsukiji Fish Market, Building 6

Back to Tokyo, back to sushi with this restaurant located inside Japan’s largest seafood market.

21. New York Grill and Bar
Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Nishi Shinjuku 3-7-1-2 Park Hyatt Tokyo 52nd floor

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Yes, you can drink and dine just where Bill Murray’s character did in Lost in Translation. Sip your Suntory whiskey, marvel at the fantastic view of Tokyo, and wonder just how Bob and Charlotte managed to get bored in such a massive city with so many places to explore.

20. Kyoto Gogyo
Kyoto-fu, Kyoto-shi, Nakagyo-ku, Yanagibabadori, Takoyakushi Kudaru, Jumonji-cho

Japan’s ancient capital isn’t all rarified restaurants and delicate delicacies, as proven by the many fans of Kyoto Gogyo’s ramen.

19. Maiizumi
Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 4-8-5

Once again, deep-fried pork proves to be a hit with a wide cross-section of travelers, as yet another tonkatsu restaurant, the Aoyama branch of Maiizumi, makes the list.

18. Kamimura
Hokkaido, Abuta-gun, Kucchan-cho, Yamada 190-4, Shiki Niseko 1st floor

The Niseko ski resort shows up again, this time with the Michelin-ranked French/Japanese fusion Kamimura.

17. Midorizushi
Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 1-12, Shibuya Mark City East 4th floor

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Located beneath several floors of offices, you’ll want to get here before the lunch rush for some of Tokyo’s best reasonably-priced sushi.

16. Ro
Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Jingumae, 6-2-4

If you’re not looking for the latest fashions, you might be tempted to pass on visiting Tokyo’s shopping mecca of Harajuku. If you’re into deep-fried gyoza pot stickers, though, you owe it to yourself to wade through the fashionistas and try the ones at Ro.

15. Chojiro
Kyoto-fu, Kyoto-shi, Shimogyo-ku, Hashimoto-cho, 103-2

You’ll see a few revolving sushi restaurants in any large Japanese city, but Trip Advisor’s didn’t find any they liked more than Chojiro.

14. Ninja Akasaka
Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Nagata-cho 2-14-3, Akasaka Tokyo Plaza 1st floor

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Even if it wasn’t designed to look like a secret ninja castle, and even if the wait staff didn’t perform incredible magic tricks at your table, Akasaka’s ninja-themed restaurant would still be worth a visit for its beautifully inventive and delicious food. Make sure you reserve a table ahead of time, though, as a two-hour wait isn’t unheard of.

13. Ukai
Tokyo-to, Minato-ku, Shiba Koen 4-4-13

This branch of the Ukai chain, located near Tokyo Tower, specializes in tofu, which is served in private dining rooms surrounded by beautiful gardens.

12. Tapas Molecular Bar
Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Muromachi 2-1-1 Mandarin Oriental Tokyo 38th floor

With space for only eight diners and just two seating per night, reservations are essential for this molecular cuisine restaurant in the luxury Mandarin Oriental Tokyo hotel.

11. Kaiseki 511
Tokyo-to, Minato-ku, Akasaka 4-3-28 Dia Plaza Akasaka basement level 1

Although it’s located in the upscale Akasaka neighborhood of Tokyo, Kaiseki 511’s specialty is kobe beef.

10. Ichiran
Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Jinnan 1-22-7 Iwamoto Building basement level 1

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While travelers gave the no to the Shibuya branch in Tokyo, there’s a whole chain of Ichiran ramen joints. The first time I ate in one on the outskirts of a red light district in Yokohama, I thought its unique setup, with privacy-insuring walls and a screen that ensures even the waiter doesn’t see your face, was to protect the privacy of diners who stopped in for a bite after spending time at one of the local hostess bars. The reality isn’t anything so untoward, as Ichiran’s owners simply want to make sure nothing distracts you from the delicious noodles they serve.

9. Ippudo
Kyoto-fu, Kyoto-shi, Nakagyo-ku, Higashi Toin, Nishikikoji Higashiiru 653-1 Nishiki Building 1st floor

Edging Ichiran for the top ramen restaurant on the list was Ippudo. The original location of this pork-broth specialist is in Fukuoka, but you can find branches of the chain in Tokyo and Yokohama as well.

8. Yamazaki
Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 5-2-1, Tsukiji Fish Market Building 6

Tsukiji gets still more help in building its reputation as the best place in Japan for sushi with this restaurant located inside the market.

7. Narisawa
Tokyo-to, Minato-ku, Aoyama 2-6-15

Trip Advisor’s number-seven restaurant actually did better in Hospitality Magazine’s rankings, where it was picked as the best in Japan for its innovative French-inspired menu that includes such unique offerings as dirt soup.

6. Hofu
Kyoto-fu, Kyoto-shi, Nakagyo-ku, Fuyachodori, Ebisugawa Noboru, Sasayacho 471-1

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This restaurant, which specializes in steak and beef cutlet, was Kyoto’s highest-ranked restaurant on the list.

5. Wakkoqu
Hyogo-ken, Kobe-shi, Chuo-ku, Kitanocho 1-1, Shin Kobe Oriental Avenue 3rd floor

It’s no surprise that Kobe’s top restaurant serves Kobe beef.

4. Kyube
Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Ginza 8-7-6

This sushi restaurant, located in Tokyo’s Ginza, came so close to taking the sushi crown away from Tsukiji.

3. Dai
Toyko-to, Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 5-2-1, Tsukiji Fish Market Building 6

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No, that’s not a photo of the entrance to Tokyo Station during rush hour. It’s just the line for lunch at Dai, Japan’s highest-ranked sushi restaurant.

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2. Center4 Hamburgers
Gifu-ken, Takayama-shi, Kamiichino-cho 94

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What’s more surprising, that Japan’s number-two restaurant is located in rural Takayama, or that it uses the region’s prized Hida beef to make mouth-watering hamburgers?

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1. M
Osaka-fu, Osaka-shi, Chuo-ku Namba 1-1-19

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Surprisingly, Trip Advisor’s top-ranked restaurant isn’t in Tokyo or Kyoto, and it doesn’t serve sushi or tempura. Instead, the Hozenji Yokocho branch of M in Osaka is ready to satisfy your carnivorous cravings with marbled Matsuzaka beef. Oddly enough, Matsuzaka beef isn’t raised in Osaka, but in Mie, two prefectures to the east.

Apparently the logistics aren’t a problem though, as travelers chose M as their favorite restaurant in the country.

 

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Travelers on Trip Advisor pick Japan’s 30 best restaurants

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Spanish artists How and Nosm collaborate with Yardbird (Hong Kong) to produce limited edition sake bottle

 

Image of How and Nosm x Yardbird Limited Edition Sake Bottle

Despite only entering its second year, Art Basel Hong Kong week has rapidly become one of the most anticipated weeks of the year for the bustling gateway city. Adding a much needed street influence into the burgeoning Art Basel Hong Kong extension, resident lifestyle outpost and restaurant Yardbird have tapped German born, Spain-raised artists How and Nosm for a special edition Yardbird Sake Junmai bottle. The two artists initially rose to prominence during their early years when they relocated to New York and became a part of the Bronx-based TATS CRU.

In addition to creating a soon-to-be-revealed mural inside of the restaurant during Art Basel Hong Kong 2014, How and Nosm have designed original artwork for limited edition Yardbird Junmai Sake bottles, which will be sold exclusively through Yardbird at an opening reception and throughout the Art Basel Hong Kong week.

Both the mural and the How and Nosm Sake bottles will be displayed and sold exclusively at Yardbird on Wednesday, May 14th to the public. The event is slated to take place from 9:00 p.m. to Midnight and will be open to the public.

Yardbird
33-35 Bridges Street
Sheung Wan
Hong Kong

 

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Spanish artists How and Nosm collaborate with Yardbird (Hong Kong) to produce limited edition sake bottle

 

 

Image of How and Nosm x Yardbird Limited Edition Sake Bottle
Image of How and Nosm x Yardbird Limited Edition Sake Bottle

 

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Drink like a world leader with the $10 sake President Obama and Prime Minister Abe shared

 

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During his visit to Tokyo, American President Barack Obama stepped out for a bite to eat with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Sukibayashi Jiro, widely held to be one of the finest sushi restaurants in the world. As you’d expect from their lofty positions, Sukibayashi Jiro isn’t an eatery for ordinary folks, what with its months-long reservation waiting list and set courses that cost 30,000 yen (US$294) yet only an amount of food that can be polished off in just 15 minutes.

And what about the sake the two leaders drank together? Surely, that must be an equally rarified brew, far out of the price range of anyone who isn’t the most powerful individual in his or her country. You probably even need a direct connection with someone in the industry to buy some, right?

Nope. Not only can you score a bottle for less than 10 bucks, but you can order it online right now.

While the two heads of state enjoyed a tipple in downtown Tokyo, their sake actually comes from the other side of the country. The brewer is Hiroshima Prefecture’s Kamotsuru. While their product recently graced the cup of Japan’s prime minister, Kamotsuru’s history stretches back to when Japan was still ruled by a shogun, as the company was founded in 1623.

▼ The Kamotsuru brewery

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Thanks to the distinctive square-based bottle Prime Minister Abe is seen pouring from, it didn’t take long for sake aficionados to discern that the specific brew the two were drinking is Kamotsuru’s Diginjo Tokusei Gold, which the brewer later confirmed through its website. Kamotsuru proudly states that the Diginjo Tokusei Gold is the finest representation of its techniques and traditions, made with water drawn from subterranean sources in Hiroshima’s northern Takahara highlands.

 

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Daiginjo Tokusei Gold is highly esteemed, having received more than 95 awards for its flavor since 1970. According to its maker, the sake has a refined aroma, with a rich, full flavor, and is best served chilled or at room temperature.

Kamotsuru also claims to be the first brewer to think of adding decorative flakes of gold to its sake, and as you pour the Daiginjo Tokusei Gold into your glass, you’ll see cherry blossom-shaped gold leaves floating in your beverage.

 

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Even more surprising than this clever visual design point, though, is the price. Kamotsuru sells the Daiginjo Tokusei Gold through its website here, with prices starting at just 1,378 yen (US$13.50) for a set of two 180 milliliter (6.1 ounce) bottles.

 

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With prices like that, Kamotsuru’s sake can be enjoyed by anyone, even if the only seat of power you have is the sofa in your living room.

Sources: LivedoorKamotsuru

 

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Drink like a world leader with the $10 sake President Obama and Prime Minister Abe shared