This weekend marks the one-year anniversary of the March 11 catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that so terribly damaged Japan. Food-safety issues and scares — particularly around the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor — remain in the news.

Although Japan's traditional sake brewers were hard hit (and 250 breweries directly affected), the indigenous beverage has become a symbol of national pride and renewal. Like the rest of the nation, sake brewers are resilient. Sake World's John Gauntner writes in his monthly sake newsletter, “Every single brewery damaged or destroyed has somehow managed to pick themselves up and continue to make sake this year” He terms it nothing short of miraculous.

In Japan, drinking sake, particular sake from Tohoku the heavily damaged northern region of the country, became a way to support those most affected by the disaster. (Fundraisers in Los Angeles last year benefited some of those breweries as well). Notably sake shipments are up in certain areas, as Japan's homegrown alcoholic brew helps fuel the country's recovery.

Common Grains' mushrooms paired with Dewatsuru Habataki Junmai Ginjo; Credit: Kathy A. McDonald

Common Grains' mushrooms paired with Dewatsuru Habataki Junmai Ginjo; Credit: Kathy A. McDonald

According to Chris Bunting, author of the recently published Drinking Japan guidebook, figures released by the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association are encouraging and indicate increased shipments of sake from the three worst-hit prefectures between April and September of last year. Overall sake exports set a new record in 2011. “What we have seen is great support from some drinkers for the sake breweries that were ravaged by the tsunami,” Bunting advises.

L.A. can do its part for disaster relief as well. At the end of the month two sake-tasting events — coincidentally on the same day, Thursday, March 29 — are spirited introductions to the aromatic brew. The Social Sake Club sponsors a tasting that features 30 kinds of sake, shochu and beer at the Izakaya & Bar Fu-ga. And downtown's Buzz Wine Beer Shop will pour six premium sakes — including a rustic Junmai from Akita, Japan's Dewatsura Shuzo brewery. Squid Ink previously reported on the Top 5 things essential to know when drinking sake.

On the serious side, co-organized by the Japan America Society, a Love to Nippon memorial event and discussion will take place Sunday, March 11, at LAPD Headquarters. But it's also a day to make soba: Common Grains' Sonoko Sakai will conduct a soba-making class at the Japanese American Museum (now sold out). And on Saturday, Japan's Consulate General in Los Angeles thanks supporters and acknowledges friends of Japan and invites all to a day of entertainment, Japanese food, a tea ceremony presentation and Hello Kitty appearances at the Grove. Kampai.

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