The best experiences I have had in Japan have always been in the obscure unassuming places frequented only by locals. Thankfully, I have a lot of Japanese friends who like to throw random parties, and often invite us to tag along. Last weekend we celebrated the Lunar New Year in Yokohama (which coincidentally is home to the largest Chinatown in Asia) for a sake tasting. Going to the underground of Sakuragicho Station we found ourselves in a neat-looking sushi-ya called Kagura. A long table was allocated for those who booked the sake tasting. We joined approximately 20 strangers and made ourselves comfortable in our designated seats. The chef gave us formal greeting and laid out the bottles from two Fukushima breweries – Hiroki and Sharaku – which we would be tasting. It was all-you-can-drink deal.
While my palate is nowhere near as sophisticated as that of a sommelier able to taste the subtle differences between myriads of types of wine, I quite enjoyed the Sharabu brand, because it had sweeter taste and thicker velvety texture. We also gorged on some delicious snacks that kept coming to the table.
It was interesting to see Japanese, typically so restricted and well-behaved, completly let loose and unleash their boisterous character as soon as they had enough alcohol in their system. After one too many drinks the room was filled with terrific verve, and the uncomfortable silence caused by sitting next to a stranger was replaced with enthusiastic chatter. The boundaries, shyness and cordiality were well forgotten and we had our neighbors for the night approach us, strike conversation, throw random compliments, flirt and even share their love stories. I know, quite hilarious. Who knew booze would be such an interesting way to get an insight into the local