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 for Japanese sake 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, the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), and JAPAN Sommelier Association (J.S.A.).

SSI International WEB


Noritoshi Kanai

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

Noritoshi Kanai was 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 1970, he imported the very first genuine Junmai Shu from Japan paving the way for the eventual growth of Jizake popularity in the 90s. As former 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 fostered a passion for 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, Toji Candidate, 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
Certified Sake Educator Level 3, Wine & Spirit Education Trust
JSA Sake Diploma, Japan Sommelier Association
International Kikisakeshi, Sake Service Institute International
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.

Instructor: Sara Guterbock

CBS, ISS, ASP, CS, CWE, DipWSET, JSA Sake Diploma
Certified Sake Educator Level 3, Wine & Spirit Education Trust
Advanced Sake Professional, Sake Education Council
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: Chizuko Niikawa-Helton

Founder: Sake Discoveries – The first sake PR company based in NYC
2012 Sake Samurai, Japan Sake Brewer’s Association
Certified Sake Sommelier (Kikisake-shi), Sake Service Institute
Certified Sake Educator Level 3, Wine & Spirit Education Trust
Co-founder, SakeJourneys.com
Founder, Sake Caliente – Pop-up Kanzake (Hot Sake) bar project

Chizuko has an unique background. She grew up at the 400 year-old Buddhist temple in a small snow town in Akita, then moved to Tokyo to work in the fashion business. She moved to New York in 2004 with a Kikisake-shi certification, then she became a top sake sommelier at NYC’s preeminent sake restaurant Sakagura. Chizuko cultivated a selection of over 300 different sake labels, a collection size rarely achieved, even in Japan.

In 2008, focused on developing independent sake events and on sake sales techniques designed to make sake more fun, delicious, and entertaining, she founded her own consulting company, Sake Discoveries, LLC. Focused on increasing sake fans nationwide, she consults with restaurants to develop unique sake lists and staff training programs. Also, she is a founder of Sake Caliente, a pop-up Kanzake – hot sake bar project. She has promoted her love of Kanzake culture in this fun way. She was awarded the prestigious title of Sake Samurai by the Japan Sake Brewers Association.

Instructor: Stephen Lyman

Official Cool Japan Ambassador for Honkaku Shochu
1st graduate of the SSA Certified Shochu Adviser’s Course (2015)
Certified Sake Adviser, Sake Service Institute
Production Assistant, Yamatozakura Shuzo, Kagoshima, Japan
Founder & Editor, www.kampai.us
Founder & Partner, Honkaku, LLC

Stephen discovered shochu at an izakaya in New York City before he’d ever been to Japan. Less than a decade later he’d become America’s leading expert on this traditional Japanese spirit, establishing the largest English language website for shochu information, Kampai.US. Since 2013 he’s worked every autumn at Yamatozakura, a handmade sweet potato shochu distillery in rural Kagoshima. In 2015 he became the first graduate of the Sake School of America’s Certified Shochu Adviser’s course, which he now teaches. He was subsequently tapped by the Japanese Sake and Shochu Makers Association (JSS) as their shochu consultant in New York City and on their behalf he’s spoken at venues ranging from the Consulate General of Japan to Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans to Japan Society in Manhattan. In 2016 he was named an official Cool Japan ambassador for honkaku (authentic) shochu. He’s also the co-founder of Honkaku, LLC, a full service shochu consulting service focused on assisting shochu makers with export and distribution worldwide. Stephen is a university professor in his spare time.


Instructor: Sachiko Miyagi

Master Sake Sommelier, Sake Service Institute
Certified Sake Educator Level 3, Wine & Spirit Education Trust 
JSA Sake Diploma, Japan Sommelier Association
International Kikisake-shi, Sake Service Institute International
Advanced Sake Professional, Sake Education Council
Sake Adviser, Sake Service Institute
Shochu Adviser, Sake School of America

Born in the U.S. and raised in Japan, Sachiko is a bi-cultural and bilingual Sake and Shochu instructor at Sake School of America. Her passion in the beverage industry lead to her previous position as director of marketing at Cedar River Brewing Company, a craft sake brewery in Seattle. Since then she has spoken at educational opportunities nationwide such as an online seminar at Master Brewers Association of the Americas, at the Japanese Consulate in Seattle for JSS (Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association) and JETRO (The Japan External Trade Organization), workshops, sake pairings, and many more. She loves breaking down the barriers in understanding Sake and Shochu – highly complex beverages with deep traditions in the Japanese culture.