USC Pacific Asia Museum

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The Arts of Japanese Sake

March 5 - June 20, 2004

View the Exhibition Brochure [PDF: 2.5MB]

Sake Set
Sake bottle and cup set
Japan, 19th C.Porcelain and glaze
USC Pacific Asia Museum Collection, gift of Margot and Hans Ries

Sake is Hot at USC Pacific Asia Museum!
The exhibition, Kampai! The Arts of Japanese Sake will be the first of its kind in an American museum to introduce the public to what is considered to be the national drink of Japan - highlighting its importance in Japanese religious and social rituals through the centuries. Curated by Meher McArthur, Curator of East Asian Art, the exhibition will feature paintings, prints, ceramics, lacquer ware, and sculpture regarding the production, marketing and serving of sake, as well as images that depict the Japanese from all levels of society (as well as the gods!) enjoying this drink.

Drinking Sake-  Scroll  
Scroll painting of Shoki the Demon-Queller and Okame,
Goddess of Mirth Drinking Sake
By Kawanabe Kyosai (1831-89)
Japan, c. 1870s
Ink and color on paper
USC Pacific Asia Museum Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. George A. Brumder

Wine of the Gods
Rice wine, or sake, is a clear alcoholic drink made from fermented rice and has played an important role in Japan for roughly 2,000 years. Sake has long been considered a means by which people could become closer to the gods, and is a key element in the worship of the indigenous deities of Japan. The drink has also been at the heart of many social rituals that bring people closer to each other, including festivals, parties, and the tea ceremony.

Intoxicating Art
Over the centuries, significant artistic traditions have evolved relating to sake, including the ceramic and lacquer vessels for holding, serving and drinking the wine, as well as the art work used to promote and sell sake. In addition, many paintings and prints depict people and gods enjoying sake in both a social and religious context. The objects in the exhibition will be drawn primarily from the collections of Dr. James Roorda, Virginia and Raymond Atchley, Jacqueline Avant, Patricia Ayers Gallucci, John Gauntner, Kelton Foundation, Dr. Stephen A. Kanter, Konishi Oriental Antiques, Rob Singer and Takara Sake, USA. Most notably, USC Pacific Asia Museum is partnering with Sushi & Tofu Magazine, Cultural News, the Japan America Society and Asia Society on this exhibition, which coincides with the 150th anniversary of Japan-US relations. The exhibition is being sponsored by the Consulate General of Japan, the Japan Foundation, and Toshi and Frank Mosher. Additional support has been provided by David and Margaret Barry and Dave and Mitsuko Felton.

For more information about this exhibition, please contact (626) 449-2742, extension 19.

Related Events:

  • Drinking SakeFriday March 5, 7 - 9pm Lecture
    All About Sake

    Lecture and Sake Tasting by sake expert, John Gauntner, Followed by a Book Signing
    Admission $30 ($25 for members of PAM, JAS, the Asia Society)
    John Gauntner is a leading authority on Japanese sake and currently resides in Japan. He writes a weekly column on sake for Japan's most widely distributed newspaper, the Yomiuri Shimbun. His four books include The Sake Handbook (Tuttle, 1997), The Sake Companion (Running Press Book Publishers, 2000) and Sake, Pure & Simple (Stone Bridge Press, 1999, co-authored with Griffith Frost), as well as one book in Japanese, Nihonjin mo Shiranai Nihonshu no Hanashi (Shogakkan, 2003). He also publishes a free email newsletter about sake from the website

    His lecture will cover the basics of sake production, the grades of sake, and what it is that makes a good sake. He will also enlighten listeners about how to select and enjoy premium sake. The talk will be followed by a sake tasting and sushi reception in the Museum courtyard. This event is co-sponsored by the Japan America Society and Asia Society. Reservations are recommended. Please call extension 40.

  • Sake bottle
  • Saturday March 13, 2pm Lecture
    Curator’s Tour of Kampai! The Arts of Japanese Sake
    Exhibition Tour with Meher McArthur
    Free with Museum admission
    Exhibition curator, Meher McArthur will provide a lively, informative walkthrough of the exhibition. Meher McArthur specializes in Japanese art and is curator of the exhibition. Tour limited to 40 people. Please call extension 40 to make a reservation

  • Friday, June 4th, 7pm
    Sake Talk and Tasting
    In conjunction with Kampai! The Arts of Japanese Sake, Pacific Asia Museum will hold its second sake tasting. The event will include an exhibition tour and introduction to sake by museum curator Meher McArthur followed by a tasting of ten types of sake presented by Pacific International Liquor. USC Pacific Asia Museum members, Japan America Society and Asia Society members are $25; non-members are $30. Reservations are required, please call ext. 19.