Jizake Yokocho – Events in the Age of Corona

On October 3, I was finally able to attend a sake event, the first since the pandemic hit. It was the fourth annual Jizake Yokocho, an event I attended last year–in a much different atmosphere.

The scene last year.

Until now, Jizake Yokocho was a wide-spread event with kura from all over the Chugoku region arranged along the streets around Tokuyama station. It was crowded, raucous, and so much fun. Of course, this year had to be different. The scale was much smaller, focusing on Yamaguchi prefecture only, and it was in a park with strict access limits.

The obvious corona measures were in place: temperature checks, face shields, and space indications to prevent close contact even outdoors. A surprising additional measure was forbidding access to people from outside the prefecture, enforced by ID checks. It added a level of emotional security, even if I don’t really think the face shields do anything. The real protection was in the spacing, and the fact that it was outdoors.

I was surprised also at how well everyone followed the precautions, even after a few drinks. People kept their shields on, and stayed spread out for the whole event. There was a cautious excitement, I think you’d say, and it went well.

The sake, of course, was all great. 19 breweries from around Yamaguchi had booths, and tickets included 10 drinks. I only had 8, because it was 11:30 in the morning… It was a fall event, so there were a lot of hiyaoroshi versions on display. Nakashimaya even had a sake heater out to serve up atsukan, and it was a great idea. Their sake really comes alive when warmed up.

There weren’t any big surprises. The usual breweries were present, and they were putting out their best–most of which I had already made a point of picking up. Still, it’s great to enjoy them with others, and with everything going on this year I am so happy I got the chance to do it this time.

Social distancing seems OK.

I was also pleased to see that many of the toji and kuramoto were present. It feels good to be able to meet the brewers directly, especially this year, and check in on how things are going. I was also able to meet some new members for the first time, and enjoy some new sake as well.

I think this is a good indication for moving forward “with Corona,” as they say. The event was still fun, despite the still apparent worry, and of course it felt good to support the breweries. There was a sales booth on-site, of course, and people were buying–including me.

I am cautiously hopeful that we will be able to have more events like this in the near future. I will definitely be joining, and let everyone know how it goes.

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