Cheers of “kampai!” filled the Official Residence of the Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles on Tuesday, August 16th to celebrate the American premiere of “KAMPAI! For the Love of Sake,” a documentary film about Japanese rice wine by director Mirai Konishi. Consul General Akira Chiba co-hosted an exclusive reception with Sundance Selects for the release, treating guests to a variety of Japanese food and, of course, Japanese sake.
While fresh sushi was prepared in the garden by resident chef Mr. Taro Araki (awarded the title of “Excellent Executive Chef for Ambassador/Consul-General of Japan” by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in July), the main attraction was inside the grand salon where over a dozen varieties of Japanese sake entertained the taste buds, including one variety especially brewed for the film aptly named, “KAMPAI!.” In addition to the palate-pleasing offerings, guests were also treated to a sneak peek of Mr. Konishi’s documentary and appearances from the film’s featured personalities.
Consul General Chiba welcomed all of the guests and encouraged everyone to try the different varieties of food and sake available to them that evening. Mr. Konishi then introduced his film and chronicled how his ignorance of the sake world actually helped him to pursue the project further. Following his remarks, Ms. Marie Chiba, sake sommelier and owner of Gem by Moto in Tokyo, credited sake for allowing her to meet Mr. Konishi and so many other people.
Mr. Konishi’s documentary features three unique personalities from Japan’s sake world: Mr. Kousuke Kuji, 5th generation owner of Nambu Bijin from Iwate; Mr. John Gauntner, a sake journalist often referred to as the “sake evangelist”; and Mr. Philip Harper, chief brewer of the Kinoshita Brewery’s Tamagawa sake in Kyoto. Mr. Kuji and Mr. Gauntner were both present at the event. Mr. Kuji was elated to be able to share sake with the world through the “KAMPAI!” film, disclosing how the film was not about how to make sake, but rather about the people involved. Mr. Gauntner, who along with Mr. Harper was a participant on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme in 1988, thanked everyone and capped the program off with the evening’s official toast.
He raised his cup and wished everyone happiness and success. And with a chorus of clinking cups, the entire room cheered, “Kampai!”
“KAMPAI! For the Love of Sake” premiered at the Arena Cinema in Los Angeles, the IFC Center in New York, and On Demand Friday, August 19th. For more information, please visit http://kampaimovie.com.