Dozo Sake Tasting House: Home Away from Home
Dave and Miwa invite you into their cozy tasting house.
A Relaxing Experience, Every Time
Dozo Sake, a marvelous slice of San Francisco on the outskirts of Tokyo, offers a unique experience with every delightful visit. This means much more than being properly introduced to their premium nihonshu. The proprietors, David Cheek and Miwa Wang, present a comfortable neighborhood setting. They offer a blend of international fare, and of course, a fantastic selection of sake each week to be shared with family and friends.
From the outset it should be said that depending on when you visit the building you will actually find two different experiences, a café by day, and sake tasting house by night. Originally, the space used to be a sake store called Kanetaya. The Kato’s, owners of the café that operates in the afternoon, renovated it and kept the name. The café employs mostly mothers who, because of children and time constraints, would otherwise have difficulty finding regular employment. In the evening it transforms to Dozo Sake. These two completely different businesses share the same roof and the same philosophy in a very unique alliance. This commitment to community and trust is the backbone of this rare international collaboration.
The cozy dining area
When you come in and get settled Dave or Miwa will happily show you to the refrigerator where you will find the evening’s selection, carefully chosen by both these certified sake professionals. Customers are encouraged to look through the fridge to find what they would like to have, grab 1-3 bottles, and take it to their seat. Once they choose, Dave or Miwa will carefully pour you a cup. Dozo Sake stock a variety of styles of sake to appeal to the palettes of seasoned connoisseurs but also provide a good starting point for people wanting to explore the diverse world of sake for the first time. As the sake assortment is constantly evolving, they choose sake they think is well crafted and also made by their brewer friends. This experience is sure to surpass your expectations, so sit back and savor the clean, aromatic flavors.
Sake selection fridge
San Francisco Cuisine
Dozo Sake features a menu that changes almost weekly. The choices are guided by the sensibilities of Miwa, who comes from a restaurant family and also attended cooking school in San Francisco. She and Dave refer to their dishes as San Francisco cuisine because these are dishes that they have created over the years that combine various styles of cooking and baking while living there.
During my Dozo Sake visit, I sampled several extremely delectable dishes, including Dave’s French cheese puffs, Miwa’s sesame chicken, a kale dish with a special sauce, and the tastiest shiitake mushrooms I have ever had.
French cheese puffs
A Tale of Two Cities
Miwa was born and raised in Izu, a large peninsula in Shizuoka prefecture that is to the southwest of Tokyo. As a teenager, she moved to Minnesota where she attended High School. She attended the Institute of Design in Chicago before settling down in San Francisco where she spent most of her time around design, food and sake.
Dave, a former carpenter and musician born in Washington State, first discovered sake at age 14 while reading a James Bond book. He later moved to San Francisco and fell in love with cooking, building, baking, music, and, of course, sake.
Dave and Miwa met in America’s first sake store. She was managing the store and he soon became her best customer. They soon discovered early on they loved more than just the sake! Spending all their free time cooking and drinking sake together, the pair eventually decided to move to Tokyo and realize their 12-year dream of opening a destination for sake love.
Today, Miwa and Dave have a large plot in a big farm area near their home and raise only the best organic vegetables—which they refer to as uncertified organic—free of pesticides, so they can serve you the purest, freshest ingredients.
Shitake in special sauce
Where the Locals Become Regulars
Dozo is the Japanese word for please, kindly, by all means, or feel free. Naturally, Dozo Sake’s desire is to make their establishment a cozy retreat for those who may just want to drop by and hang out or for woman drinkers who want to feel welcome and safe to enjoy their sake. The idea is to make this a warm place where people from around the neighborhood can relax. If you are shy you can even come in and practice English in a safe place without feeling embarrassed.
While you are sipping your drink, do not be surprised if Dave pulls out his guitar and plays what inspires him at that time.
Vision Becomes Reality
Both Dave and Miwa have been drinking sake for a long time and that love of sake is a big part of what brought them together. Dozo Sake is the only sake establishment in Hachioji owned by Americans. Dave and Miwa would like, someday, to expand their vision and open a sake house near the ocean with the same farm-to-table concept. Their vision includes music, fresh food, dogs and of course, great sake.
Dave often gets asked what his favorite sake is or what is the best? He doesn’t have one but likens the bottles of sake as friends. Some he knows very well, some are acquaintances. Some are dry, some are sweet. Some you need to warm up to. Others are cool. His job is to introduce you to his “friends” so hopefully you can make some too.
Your education in Japan’s national drink begins with the first sip. They genuinely want to share their passion for sake and tasty food with all their guests and want you to have a fun and memorable experience each time you visit. Many locals are turning into regulars thanks to the welcoming atmosphere.
If you are on a budget, the bottles in the fridge have a color-coded string that reflects the cost-per-pour, starting at ¥350. Most run between ¥400 and ¥500, which is a bargain for what you are about to drink.
Dave and Miwa ready to serve you
My first selection was Kanae, a sake from Nagano Prefecture, which is only available in 11 stores across Japan. The only way I can describe it is that, if I had an entire bottle of Kanae, I might be tempted to drink it all at once. It was so smooth, with just the right fruity taste.
Rey Tasting Kanae Sake
Dozo Sake is just a five-minute walk north of JR Hachioji Station.
From Tokyo Station via the Chuo Line to Hachioji takes less than an hour.
From Shinjuku you can take the Keio line to Keio Hachioji Station.
The train ride is about 40 minutes and the walk from the station is about 5 minutes.
For more information, visit https://dozo-sake.com
TEL: 042-649-3300 (After 18:00)
Open 18:00–23:00, Monday–Saturday
Closed Sundays and Mondays that fall on national holidays (Irregular opening hours will be announced on their website.)
This article was written by Rey WatersBack