Mission Statement

SAKE SCHOOL OF AMERICA is an education and training center specializing in Sake, Shochu, and Japanese liquors, for Sake professionals and enthusiasts to expand their knowledge and to explore further enjoyment of the category.

SAKE SCHOOL OF  AMERICA aims toward fostering higher appreciation and memorable drinking and dining experiences.   We are fully committed to educating trade professionals and enthusiasts alike, to promote Sake in faraway countries at the same level of understanding and enjoyment as is in its homeland of Japan.

During the 1980s in Japan, Jizake, fine artisan Sake climbed to popularity as consumers discovered tantalizing flavors and aromas from microbrews crafted in remote breweries, some with legendary tales which date back centuries.  When this best kept secret arrived in the US during the 1990s, Americans too were quickly enamored and charmed by “the novel Jizake”.

Nowadays, with a variety of specialized foods spanning from casual dining, to trendy Sushi bars, authentic Izakayas, and fancy Kaiseki, there’s a Jizake suitable for any dish.  The world of Sake is a joyful exploration into Japanese culture, cuisine, and the brewing art, and it is our mission to spread this wonder of Japan to the people of the world.

SAKE SCHOOL OF AMERICA is endorsed by the Sake Service Institute International (SSI), the largest organization of sake sommelier certification in Japan & also by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust.



SSI International WEB








kaicho resized Ueno 2015

Noritoshi Kanai

Founder of Sake School of America
Chairman of Mutual Trading Co. Inc.

Noritoshi Kanai is regarded as the ambassador of Japanese food to the world. He pioneered the Sushi industry in America in 1963 by bringing the first Sushi bar to Kawafuku Restaurant in Little Tokyo. In 1982, he imported the very first genuine Junmai Shu from Japan paving the way for the eventual growth of Jizake popularity in the 90s. Today, as Chairman of Mutual Trading Co. Inc., along with his personal mission statement of, “Bringing the flavors of Japan to the people of the world”, he continues to foster authentic Japanese culinary tradition to be enjoyed by all around the world.



Executive Instructor: Toshio Ueno

Master Sake Sommelier, Sake Service Institute
Master of Sake, Sake Service Institute
2016 Sake Samurai, Japan Sake Brewer’s Association
Certified Sake Educator Level 3, Wine & Spirit Education Trust 

Advanced Certificate, Wine & Spirit Education Trust
Sake Sommelier & Shochu Sommelier, Sake Service Institute
Beer Adviser, Food & Beverage Organization Japan
Nanbu Toji Guild, Accredited Specialist

Born in Yamanashi Prefecture in Japan where his family has grown wine grapes for generations, Toshio Ueno grew up helping the business from a young age. After college studies in America, he joined a pastry and wine company, where he was put in charge, overseeing the personal wine collection of the company’s president. It was at this point when intrigue set in for him to enter the world of wine stewardship and research.

Toshio Ueno is currently Manager of Business Development in marketing Japanese foods and liquor to the mainstream American market. With his unique knowledge and expertise in both eastern and western liquors, Jizake and Shochu of the east, and wine and beer from the west, he aims to further promote Japanese food and liquor cultures to new, international audiences.


Ami Nakanishi Picture2

Instructor: Ami Nakanishi

Vice President, New York Mutual Trading, Inc.
Master Sake Sommelier, Sake Service Institute
Certified Sake Educator Level 3, Wine & Spirit Education Trust
Sake Sommelier & Shochu Sommelier, Sake Service Institute



Instructor: Timothy Sullivan

Founder, UrbanSake.com, America’s foremost sake website
2007 Sake Samurai, Japan Sake Brewer’s Association
International Sake Sommelier, Sake Service Institute
Certified Sake Educator Level 3, Wine & Spirit Education Trust

Co-founder, SakeJourneys.com
Official Brand Ambassador, Hakkaisan Sake Brewery

With his first sip in 2005, Timothy Sullivan simply fell in love with premium Japanese sake.  This inspired him to start the first sake blog in the United States: UrbanSake.com, America’s most popular sake blog & education website. His passion for sake has grown this site into America’s leading resource for sake related news, events and education.  In 2007, the Japanese Sake Brewer’s Association awarded Sullivan the title of “Sake Samurai” in recognition of his work to promote sake outside of Japan.



Instructor: Takao Matsukawa

International Sake Sommelier, Sake Service Institute
Advanced Sake Professional, Sake Education Council
Manager of International Sales Division, Mutual Trading Co., Inc.

Born in Peru, Takao Matsukawa is a third generation Japanese from Okinawa Prefecture. Takao joined Mutual Trading Company’s sales team (1998) and became attracted to the idea of expanding the Sake sales business and culture in Latin countries.


Sara Guterbock











Instructor: Sara Guterbock

Certified Sake Educator Level 3, Wine & Spirit Education Trust
Fine Wine & Sales Education Director
International Sake Sommelier, Sake Service Institute
Japanese Portfolio Manager at Mutual Distributing Company, North Carolina

Sara spent a year living in Japan as a high school student and grew up in a family that placed great emphasis on learning and experiencing the Japanese language and culture.  Becoming proficient in Sake has brought together Sara’s passion for the beverage industry with her life-long love of Japan, its people, traditions, and cuisine.

Sara devotes a tremendous amount of energy introducing people to the complexities and beauties of Sake and its unmatched ability to pair with food.  She has developed a growing portfolio of 135 sakes, the largest in North Carolina, which she helps to distribute, market, and educate about throughout the state and beyond.













Instructor: Aya Nomoto

International Sake Sommelier, Sake Service Institute
Certified Sake Educator Level 3, Wine & Spirit Education Trust

Advanced Sake Professional, Sake Education Council
Certified Specialist of Wine, The Society of Wine Educators
Advanced Sommelier, The Court of Master Sommelier
Semi-finalist of World Sake Sommelier (Kikizake-shi) Competition 2014

Aya Nomoto is the Business Development Manager at Breakthru Beverage Nevada.  She oversees a portfolio of more than 500 Japanese sake, shochu, whiskies, and craft beer. With over 20 years of experience in Restaurant and Hospitality, including 9 years of sales and marketing in the Beverage Industry, Aya Nomoto is a highly driven manager and sales guide with an exceptional reputation for customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Aya Nomoto is an accomplished and dedicated Advanced Sake Professional with the Sake Education Council, Certified Specialist of Wine with the Society of Wine Educators, and Certified Beer Server for the Cicerone Program. She recently earned her Advanced Sommelier certification from the Court of Master Sommelier in 2016, and is currently working towards her Master Sommelier Diploma.  Having experience in hospitality and a Master’s degrees in Music Composition and Theory, Aya is a creative and outside of the box thinker.













Instructor: Eric Imamura

International Sake Sommelier, Sake Service Institute
Level 3 Award in Sake, Wine & Spirit Education Trust
Certified Sake Educator Level 3, Wine & Spirit Education Trust
Sake Specialist, Mutual Trading Company, Inc.

Eric’s Sake journey began in 2012 on a trip to Japan with his father. While travelling in Kobe, he was enamored by the history, simplicity, and elegance of Japans national beverage. This sparked a desire in Eric to spread the joys of Sake back home to people in the States.  Eric studied with Sake School of America and the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, before getting a job with Mutual Trading Company and finally Sake School of America. Join Eric as he shares his passion for Sake with any and every one that’s willing to lend an ear.