Get ready to kampai — Joy of Sake’s coming


Ah, summer! Languid days, south shore swells … and here in Honolulu, the musical crackle of 370 sake bottles being opened.

The Joy of Sake returns to the Hawaii Convention Center on July 18 with 370 sakes from all over Japan. Given last year’s lines and crowds, organizers are increasing the space by about 20 percent, bringing in more restaurants (19 total) and introducing early access tickets to stagger entry times.

So who’s cooking?

  • Vintage Cave is making oysters with yuzu and ponzu
  • Koko Head Cafe is making mazemen soba with parmesan dashi cream and caramelized onion sauce
  • Migrant Maui’s Sheldon Simeon is bringing his adobo with Boy Bawang
  • Hoku’s at the Kahala is doing a roast pork summer roll with umeboshi honey
  • Buho, the Waikiki rooftop lounge that hasn’t even grand-opened yet, is making slow-cooked pork belly tacos with pineapple pico on handmade tortillas
  • And from California, SF’s Memphie Minnie’s is flying in with 18-hour smoked Texas beef brisket, and Oakland’s Hopscotch is bringing in seasoned yukhae beef with pine nuts and quail egg

More factoids, since I’m liking this bullet thing:

  • Joy of Sake is the world’s largest public sake tasting outside Japan
  • Since 1,400 sippers are expected, Honolulu gets two bottles of each sake — 740 total
  • All the sakes have been blind-judged the same week at the U.S. National Sake Appraisal, which is why many will have gold or silver stars
  • Joy of Sake was born in Honolulu and has spread to New York and Tokyo
  • Honolulu has more sake-serving restaurants per capita than any other U.S. city
  • Honolulu’s history with sake began when King Kalakaua greeted Japanese immigrants at the dock with a cask of sake
  • Honolulu Sake Brewery, in Pauoa just mauka of downtown, was the first sake brewery built outside Japan. 1904-1989, RIP

Finally, my disclaimer. A couple of years after I started going to these as a fan, Joy of Sake hired me to start its social media. Now I’m the restaurant coordinator, writer and a member of the board of directors. I kind of like it. And the perks are delicious.

Joy of Sake sneak peek

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Photo courtesy of Neal Izumi

Joy of Sake

Hawaii Convention Center

Friday, July 18

6:30 to 9 p.m. (early access from 5:30)