Chizuko Niikawa – Helton was awarded with the prestigious title of Sake Samurai in 2012. She is today New York top sake sommelier. She is a certified Sake sommelier from the Sake Service Institute (SSI) and a board member as well as a teacher of the SSI International which has the mission to educate and promote Sake as a globally recognized product.
In 2008, she founded her own consulting company, Sake Discoveries, LLC. Focused on increasing sake fans in USA. As part of her job, she consults with restaurants across the country to develop unique Sake lists and staff training programs. From February 2015 to March 2017, she was running a late night pop-up Sake bar called Sake Cliente in Manhattan, New york. She is also the Co-founder of Sake journeys, a plateforme offering Sake tour in Japan, visiting Sake Breweries, Japanese restaurant and Sake expert.
Born in Akita, Japan,lived a few years in Tokyo, Chizuko has a Bachelor in Economics and studied Fashion. At first, Chizuko did not like Sake and thought it was a drink reserved to old men. However, over the years she started to like it more and more. In 2005, she moved to New York City where she worked 4 years at Sakagura, New York City’s prominent sake restaurant. Chizuko cultivated a selection of over 300 different sake labels, a collection rarely achieved even in Japan.
Today, she is currently running Sake Caliente in Kyoto and promoting all kind of Sake. She is still very involved with her own companies, planning and organising private Sake event, Branding for Sake Breweries, Staff training about Sake knowledge in Restaurant and coordinating Sake breweries tours. She is also writing about Sake for Magazine, Newspaper and website as well as new people through Sake communities.
The Sake Samurai Association
The Sake Samurai Association was established in 2004 as a junior council for the Japan Sake Brewers Association to protect sake and Japanese traditions at home and to promote them internationally. It has contributed to the increased popularity of sake and Japanese food overseas in recent years.