The Complete Online Sake Party Report (With Impressions by the Attendees):
Sake Crosses All Borders and Positions Worldwide

Written by Keita Okubo
Translated by Saki Kimura & Ken Ko

Going out for a drink is difficult these days.
I know it is non essential, but I want to continue enjoy drinking with my friends. To release such stress, a group of sake fans on Twitter held an online sake party via Zoom.

This event was presided over by Saki Kimura, a sake journalist based in San Francisco under lockdown as of April 2020. 

Is an online drinking party as effective? Although I participated in it expecting just as an alternative to an in-person event, I found many advantages unique to online.

Preparation: Let’s Buy Takeout Dishes at the Restaurants You Want to Support

Recently, restaurants and bars that only operate in the evenings have been struggling with the difficult circumstances. Many of them have been transitioning to a takeout model of business.

This online drinking party was planned because we can’t go out to drink. To-Go dishes by the restaurants where you want to go but you can’t go should be the most suitable nibbles for such an event.

I visited Sanshichi, the restaurant serving sake and creative cuisine in Minami-Asagaya, Tokyo as I heard they started the To-Go service.

(This is my first time here during the day. Looks empty.)

(Apologies for the blurry picture…)

I bought dashimaki tamago (Japanese style omelet), iburigakko-cheese (smoked radish pickles with cream cheese), sukiyaki-flavored croquette. I will enjoy them wholeheartedly, and I will always support you!

*You can check their daily To-Go menu on their Twitter account.

As I was going home with nibbles, I stopped in my tracks.

Sadly, the 20-year-old Chinese restaurant decided to close due to the current situation.

I bought their last ever sozai (side dishes) offerings. I will savor this last encounter and treasure this memory forever.

I prepared two kinds of sake: the left is a slightly sparkling sake for a toast, “Shuwatto Sora” by Chiyomusubi Brewery @Tottori. The right is “Shoki Jika-gumi” by Shoki Brewery @Nagano.

I brought four types of ochoko. Also I made preparations to taste sake at different temperatures from chilled to hot at any given moment.

I am ready!

Honestly, I bought too much. But it is no problem because I can eat them tomorrow even if I can’t finish everything.

At 5:00PM, the online sake party is going to start.

Kampai! Online Drinking Parties Facilitates Gathering People Who Can’t Meet Usually

I entered the meeting room of Zoom… I am a bit nervous. I heard some voices like “What?” “Huh?” Since many members are not used to using this service, it took a little longer for everyone to get ready. (Actually, I noticed that my earbuds were not compatible with the iPad at the time.)

Actually, I only knew a few participants in today’s session. Over half are new people, as we all introduce ourselves and try to figure out what to say to one another (this carries over to real life too, not just online).

Finally all members got ready (according to today’s rule, everyone can go in and out freely), let’s toast through the display!

(Wait, wait… The pressure built up in the bottle of the sparkling sake is very strong, and upon release of the cap it overflows! It takes a lot of effort and time to open carefully…)

(Kampai! Cheers! Nice to see you everyone!)

Since there were many people who had never met each other before, we all introduced ourselves at the beginning. I was surprised at the variety of participants.

 Example of the Attendees
 ・Sake journalist who lives in San Francisco
 ・Owner of a sake brewery in Vietnam
 ・Brewer for a major sake company in Japan
 ・Brewer for a US subsidiary of a sake company
 ・Manager of a sake store in the US
 ・Owner of a restaurant in France, a mother of one
 ・University student (20 years old)
 ・Ambassador for a sake maker
 ・Editor of a sake medium who works for a sake store
 ・Middle-aged man (Me)

People from countries and industries that we would not normally have contact with were all here. They were coming together across different countries, age differences and time zones. This should be one of the advantages of an online drinking party.

Each attendee introduces themselves and the sake that they prepared for this event. It’s fun just listening to them introducing their selections like “The sake I made” or “The sake brewed in California.”

(It’s my turn to introduce my choice. I feel a bit strange to be in the same split screen as the other members, at the same time as being in front of the screen!)

Having the Opportunity to Talk is Crucial to a Successful Online Drinking Party

(You can disguise yourself like a guy in the bottom center)

Though self-introduction can be an icebreaker, everyone seems to hesitate to start speaking as they are unfamiliar with an online conversation.

Actually, Saki, the organizer of the event set some “talk themes” (a failure related to sake, a strange way of drinking, etc…) in advance. Gradually, participants who were initially speaking in order began to feel like they were at the same table, and the conversation began to flourish.

Saki led the conversation this time, but it seems that it is important to make a chance to “start talking” online.

Perhaps Online Video Chat is Easier than In Person?



Once the tension is gone, sake lovers can engage in lively conversation naturally. Especially, pets and kids make everyone feel at ease.

This is a global drinking party where members sometimes speak in English. When a participant says “My Japanese might sound weird because I’m not a native speaker…,” some members immediately respond with “No problem! Everyone says weird things when they get drunk!”

I think sometimes there are participants who may be seated further away, like in the corner of a table at an in-person drinking party, and thus are lost in the exchanges. When you’re online, however, you can see everyone’s face (in a sense, everyone is seated in the front). It might be easier to see and talk to each person than in real one.

The Continuous Flowing of Sake – Because You’re At Home!

One of the attendees says "Good night" on the chat box

(It’s hard to listen when people are talking at the same time online, but when you use chatting, the tempo is closer to normal in-person conversations.)

Since many of the members were based overseas, the topic of conversation on this day centered on “the state of sake in the world.”

 For example…
 - Are people overseas afraid of treating unpasteurized sake?
 - The “Sake bomb” (the American way of drinking sake, which is like a punishment game) is now a thing of the past.
 - People in Paris like sake: the way to drink has recently become recognized.

In addition to that, there are some fun stories about how to drink sake and what kind of amazing things breweries are doing, which allowed me to forget about the coronavirus for a moment.

When someone says “It’s difficult to manage nigori (cloudy) sake. It turns into brown when it gets old,” the editor of a sake medium says “Oh, I have it, I’ll bring it out” and went to the back (it disappeared on the screen).

(He explained a lot of things, but unfortunately I don’t remember. I wanna try it!)

This is the salt collection shown by a participant who likes to drink sake with salt.

They are fun things available only online, impossible for at a real drinking party.
You don’t get disappointed with the usual conversation at a conversation, “Oh, I have the one you’re talking about,” because you can show it soon since you’re at home.

As the conversation goes, everyone brings various drinks and nibbles, one after the other.

Suddenly, I realized.
I’m getting drunk. I changed from cold sake to a hot one, and have been drinking for about three hours.

In a real restaurant, you say, “Excuse me!” to order a drink, which makes everyone at the same pace. At home, however, it doesn’t matter. The moment I feel like drinking it, I can drink it already, and before I know it, I’m drinking more than I usually do.

An online drinking party can be quite dangerous.

You Can Fall Asleep During the Party Because You’re At Home!

(There are some moments when many members disappeared.)

As is the case with most of the drinking parties, the more you get drunk, the freer you become. You can leave your seat anytime because you’re at home.

(I caught a member falling asleep.)

Now it is 8:00 PM after starting at 5:00 PM. PDT is 2:00 AM. It’s no wonder some people feel sleepy. It is an advantage of online drinking that you can leave at any time.

(I started washing dishes.)

Four hours have passed. I left for the kitchen to make lunch for the next day. 

However, as I took the device and left it nearby (I muted my voice), I could continue to listen to what’s going on at the drinking party. It is like a radio.

It is a similar feeling to going to a bar solo listening to the voices around you in the midst of the clamor.

Participants’ Voice: Pros and Cons of the Online Drinking Party

(I don’t remember how many times we toasted.)

Five hours from the start, finally the party ended. It was fun, I don’t remember well though.

Here are the comments by participants. If you’re planning an online drinking session, you can check it out.

 ・You can meet people you wouldn’t normally meet.
 ・When you attend a large group of people, the number of people you can talk to is limited (you’re divided into groups of two or three people each), but it was nice to be able to talk to every single person.
 ・You can join us with your kids! (Even if your kid cries, you can mute your microphone).
 ・It is easier than a normal drinking party because there are convenient system features like mute.
 ・You can share your photos on the screen.
 ・It’s fun to see the homes of the people you’re drinking with (children, pets, etc.).
 ・You are free to leave (you can do it with less care than in real life meet up).
 ・As the organizer set the themes, it was nice to have a topic from the beginning of the meeting.
 ・It’s fun to use both speaking and text chatting.

 【Improvement Points】
 ・Since the number of people who could be displayed on the screen at the same time was limited, I couldn’t see all faces at all times after everyone had gathered.
 ・Tendency of over drinking. It might be a good idea to set an end time or an intermediate time.
 ・You can talk about a theme, but it’s hard to come up with something unexpected.
 ・It was sometimes difficult to hear the speaker’s voice due to the overlapping sounds from the computer or the sounds of daily life: it might be a good idea to wear earphones. In the second half, many members actively mic’d off when they didn’t speak, so there was no problem.
 ・You need to be careful if you live in an apartment, because you will inevitably get louder.
 ・I’m more than happy to know what everyone is eating and drinking. It might be a good idea to make a rule to upload images as much as possible.
 ・(Sequel) There were many hungover members.

Let’s Toast Again with Everyone

(After the festival.)

The online drinking party was so fun.

Let’s drink together, at your favorite restaurant next time.