Hannyatou Chef Mutsuko Soma (right) and bartender, Kelsey (left)

Hannyatou owner Mutsuko Soma (right) and manager, Kelsey (left)


Meet Chef Mutsuko Soma, owner of Hannyatou in Fremont/Wallingford.

Chef Soma opened her sake bar, Hannyatou in May 2019 just two doors down from her award-winning soba restaurant, Kamonegi. The bar menu features a variety of sake, Japanese beer, and cocktails that showcase Japanese flavors like ume (plum) and yuzu. Her passion for Japanese fermentation is celebrated through bar snacks that incorporate her pickled creations.

Learn more about Chef Soma and her shop in this week’s Small Business Spotlight Q&A!


This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


Can you tell us about the name, Hannyatou, and what it means?

Hannyatou means “Wisdom Water.” So wisdom water, Hannyatou, is a Buddhist word. Because monks cannot drink sake, but where monks stay, like the top of the mountain, it’s very cold. So they have to drink sake. So they say, “This is not sake. This is wisdom water. Make us all smart.” So I thought that story was funny. So I named it Hannyatou.


What was your vision behind opening Hannyatou?

I opened this place in 2019, just before COVID started. I want to introduce Japanese culture, not only  sushi or ramen. So I have Kamonegi next door, and we are educating people how to eat soba noodles. And here, I want to educate people drinking sake. 

We carry over 50 kinds of sake from Japan and some from the U.S. And right now, we are featuring female brewers’ sake. We have four kinds.


What do you feel like people misunderstand about sake?

I think many people only experience cheap, large production sake. Like, they’re drinking the Budweiser of sake, but if you go look at small sake brewers, there’s so many different ways to drink, and different tastes. You can drink cold, hot, room temperature, different styles.


You’re not just a fan of sake, but you’re a Certified Sake Sommelier. Why did you decide to do that?

I like sake. and I like drinking in general. I’m like, why don’t I study while drinking? So I got a sake certification. It required lots of drinking and studying.  But I educated myself, and now I can educate my customers, too.


What is your favorite sake right now?

So, this is my favorite sake right now, Kaze no Mori (“Wind of the Woods”). Usually, sake is pasteurized twice, but this is not pasteurized, so it has effervescent inside. Super tasty. This is before dinner sake. Like you can drink on a patio or like morning times, too. Like Prosecco.


During the month of March, Hannyatou is celebrating with a sake flight featuring women sake brewers and women owners of sake companies. They also carry these featured sakes year-round. We hope you stop in to enjoy and learn about the wide world of sake with Chef Soma and her talented team.

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