July 14 - A 10-year-old has become the youngest certified sake expert in Japanese history. Gemma Haines reports.
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She's a decade shy of the legal drinking age, but that hasn't stopped Kogoma Niikura becoming Japan's youngest certified sake expert.
The 10-year-old has passed her test at the Sake Service Institute of Japan and is now a specialist in pairing the alcoholic beverage with food.
SOUNDBITE: Kogama Niikura, 10-year-old sake expert, saying (Japanese)
"My favourite dish to cook is Japanese-style snapper carpaccio. If we assume that the snapper is from the sea off the island of Sado, I recommend a sake called 'Kintsuru' from Sado, which is made from pure rice."
Although she's qualified, Niikura has reportedly never tasted sake, for the legal drinking age in Japan is 20.
She does, however, have remarkable knowledge about the history and production of the traditional Japanese rice-wine, and how to enjoy it -- enabling her to make the perfect food and wine pairing.
Sake shop owner Yukio Oyake is impressed.
SOUNDBITE: Yukio Oyake, sake store owner, saying (Japanese)
"This tiny girl who is a fourth grader, who cannot even taste sake, passed the test. I think it's amazing."
Niikura's mother is also an expert, and runs a sake bar.
She says she hopes to foster a love of sake amongst the next generation.
SOUNDBITE: Goma Niikura, Niikura's mother, saying (Japanese)
"I'm doing this because I think people in their 20s don't drink sake that often anymore. If that's so, I want to train the sense of smell in children from a very young age, and have them take action to have people know more about sake, and have more opportunities to drink sake where they live."
After school, Niikura helps her mother at the bar, often surprising customers with her level of knowledge.
SOUNDBITE: Mayumi Kurihara, customer, saying (Japanese)
"At first, I was taken by surprise, but once you get to know her, she's just a normal girl. I really enjoy being with her. She knows so many things, and I think she's such a charming kid."
.. and not to mention, a budding sake bar owner, just like her mother.
Gemma Haines, Reuters.
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