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Saijo to host sake festival

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The Sake Matsuri, an annual celebration of Japanese sake (rice wine), will be held Oct 11-12 in Saijo, Hiroshima Prefecture. Over 900 brands of sake will be assembled from sake breweries around Japan for visitors to taste.

This is the 19th anniversary of the event which was visited by over 240,000 people in 2007. It is the largest event of its kind in Japan in both the number sake brands gathered and the number of sake-lovers who pour in to enjoy the brew.

The event will be held in Central Park in front of JR Saijo Station from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Admission is 1,600 yen at the door, and 1,300 yen in advance.

Saijo is counted as one of Japan's three major sake brewery areas along with Nada in Hyogo and Fushimi in Kyoto. It is the birthplace of Ginjo, a high grade and unadulterated sake made from highly milled rice (polished at 40%) and fermented slowly at a low temperature, giving it a delicate and complex taste.

There are 10 sake breweries in the town, with traditional black-and-white walls and tall brick chimneys and packed in one neighborhood – Sakagura Dori. Saijo sake, made from Hiroshima’s natural spring water and brewer's rice, and processed by the local brewers' traditional skills, is known for its rich aroma and smooth taste.

In May 2008, Saijo sake became the first Japanese sake to be adopted as a JAPAN Brand, the government-lead project to back the export of high quality products that use local resources and traditional skills. The unified logo was designed so that foreigners may identify the 20 sake brands that meet the rigorous quality standards to be certified as "Saijo sake."

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There are many, many things that I greatly appreciate and admire about Japan. This is one of them. But I must confess that I am still a novice and have much more to test (drink) and learn.

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