Apr 22, 2008

Again, Enjoying Cherry Blossoms

April 13, we had another cherry blossom viewing party in a mountain, the ridge west to Mt. Takao.

Being given a three-star listing in the guidebook on Japan by French tire company Michelin last year and standing about 600 meters high above sea level, Mt. Takao, is gaining attracting more and more visitors. Mountain trails are well maintained than I visited this place last year. It has become easier to walk. This day unfortunately, it was drizzling from in the morning. However, we went out after deciding to believe the weather report telling that it would have stopped raining by around the noon. Although it is a good warm season already, in a mountain, it can be as cold as in winter when it rains. So, we need good outfit for rain and cold weather.

We took a bus JR Takao station, which left the station at 9:12 for Kobotoke bus stop. There are a lot of hikers waiting at the bus stop at Takao station. How can a bus really let this many people on? No problem! There are two buses at the same time.

About 20 to 30-minute bus ride on a narrow road in a valley took us to Kobotoke bus stop, the terminal. The rain was so slight that we almost didn't care.

From the bus stop, we walked for about an hour to reach the Kobotoke Pass. This trail begins as a paved road but it later in the middle point turns into a dirt pass in a wood, however, this tail is well trod down and comfortable to walk. Why is the trail so? Because, this trail is the old Koshu Kaido Highway. From ancient days, people have been traveling on this trail. An old way exhibits the presence in its silence. Unlike a road that has recently and artificially been constructed, this trail looks like a perfect component of the surrounding nature.

Leaving the Kobotoke Pass, we walked for about 30 minutes southeastward and reached Mt. Shiroyama, namely the mountain of a castle. In Japan, there are many shiroyama mountains. This name suggests that a fortress was built on the summit in the Age of Civil Wars. On the summit, there was a kiosk. In the open space in front of the kiosk, there were tables and benches for visitors. Cherry blossoms are in 50 to 60 percent of their florescence. It was a pity that thick fog hid the view of far and middle distance.

Summit of Mt. Shiroyama

We walked further eastward from Mt. Shiroyama. After 20 minutes or so, we got to the place called Icchodaira. Here, underbrush had neatly been trimmed and cherry trees were sparsely planted. There were benches and tables here and there. In other words, this place was quite suitable for a cherry blossom viewing party.

Yes, this was the place I had in mind for the party this time. Actually, I happened to see some people enjoying cherry blossom viewing party here when I hiked around here two years ago. Since then, I had been thinking of a plan to enjoy a cherry blossom viewing party here. Today, I could finally hold a party here with my hiking friends.

Each of us took sake and appetizers. Blossoms were not seen very clearly due to the fog and it was quite cold (probably around 5 degrees centigrade). but we had quite a nice time, anyway.

Around Icchodaira. If weather is all right, this place looks like this. (photo taken in April, 2006.)

Today's Sake
Tamanohikari reizoshu 450-ml carton (Tamanohikari Sake Brewing Co., Ltd.)
Since this sake is contained in a carton, it is convenient to bring it to a mountain.
Rice used: Yamadanishiki etc. harvested in Hyogo pref. (shubo and koji)
Nihonbare harvested in Kyoto pref. (kakemai)
Seimaibuai: 60% (shubo and koji)
55% (kakemai)

Apr 18, 2008

400-year Old Shiroyamazakura

Shiroyamazakura is reportedly a 400-year-old cherry tree growing in Akiruno City in Tokyo.

Also, Shiroyamazakura is a name of sake brewed by a sake brewery in Akiruno City in Tokyo.

We had a drinking party to drink Shiroyamazakura while admiring Shiroyamazakura blossom. It was on April 12.

When I got to the Musashi-itsukaichi station by the JR Ituskaichi line, there were florescent cherry trees here and there. Weather? Passably! In this place, the florescence is maybe one week later than the center of Tokyo since a little bit colder. The tree is a wild mountain cherry and its culmination seems to be later than Someiyoshiho, a variety widely planted and enjoyed.

Kimono ladies! You're enjoying your beautiful dressing, aren't you? However, once the party started, no one seems to be interested in the blossom.

--Today's Kimono--
This lady was wearing cherry blossoms. She got even her ears pierced with cherry blossoms! Women can enjoy wearing various types of 's patterns on kimono. It's good!

--Today's Sake--
Okunokami (Toshimaya shuzo)
Junmai-nakadori-muchousei (muchousei: non adjustment)
Rice used: Hattannishiki
Seimaibuai: 50% (koji)
       55% (kake)
Alcohol: 16.8%
Rich and meaningful

Tamura (Tamura shuzo)
Rice used: Ginginga
Seimaibuai: 55%
Alcohol: 16 to 17%
Sake meter value: (+)1.0
Acidity: 1.7
Wonderful balance of taste and aroma

Shiroyamazakura (Nozaki shuzo)
Rice used: Gohyakumangoku
Seimaibuai: 50%
Alcohol: 16 to 17%
Sake meter value: (+)7
Acidity: 1.6

Apr 8, 2008

How I Have Got Familiar with Sake

In the beginning, I was not very sensitive to the flavor of sake, at least knowing that there were several excellent types of sake such as ginjoshu and daiginjoshu, which are premium sake, taste excellent, and have a fragrant smell, and can be drunk smoothly.

One day, I visited a sake brewery with my friends and tasted several types of sake produced in this brewery. I noticed that these sake types tasted and smelled differently from each other in spite of the fact that they were produced in the same brewery. I think I took interest in sake at this time for the first time. Since then, I gradually have been getting interested in sake.

Later on another day, I tasted several types of sake at a sake-tasting and shopping stand set up in a department store. Then, I found a peculiar sensation in taste in one of the items sold there. I told about this sensation to the seller and he guessed and explained that it was a savor peculiar to the junmaishu, which derives from ingredient rice. From that time, I try to be aware of this distinctive savor of the junmaishu to distinguish it from other types of sake when drinking a junmaishu.

Again later, I learned that sake produced by the yamahai-jikomi method, a preparation method of a yeast starter (moto or shubo), has a complex but attractive flavor. From that time, I try to find opportunities to taste sake made by the yamahai-jikomi method. Thus, I became conscious of the method of sake by which it had been brewed when enjoying sake.

As I learn little by little such aspects of sake as described above, I get more and more interested in drinking sake and want to try more and more different types of sake. Now, I enjoy guessing what flavor and aroma specific sake has from its production place, production method, ingredient rice, and other factors.

-- Today's Sake --
Ginjoshu Shiroyamazakura from Nozakishuzo Co., Ltd (left in the photo)
This sake has a delicate aroma of ginjoshu and a flinty flavor.

Sake meter value: +5
Acidity: 1.5
Alcohol: 15 to 16%
Seimaibuai *: 50%

Kenbishi from Kenbishishuzo Co., Ltd (right in the photo)
Generally, I prefer sake produced in Nada region in Kobe City. The taste of this sake is bold.

Sake meter value: +0.5
Acidity: 1.6
Alcohol: 15.8%
Rice used: Yamada-nishiki harvested in Hyogo Pref.
Seimaibuai*: 70%

* Degree to which the rice used in brewing has been milled

Apr 6, 2008

Shitamachi Museum Annex

Shitamachi is a term that denotes a specific part of an urban area. In old Tokyo in the Edo period, a town where commoners (typically merchants and artisans) lived started to be called a shitamachi. Present-day people also refer to such a town as a shitamachi. Many of the shitamachi towns sit in areas along Tokyo bay and rivers.

The Shitamachi Museum Annex on the Shinobazunoike Pond in Taito Ward exhibits the atmosphere of a shitamachi, where the imitated exteriors and interiors of a merchant house, row house, public bath entrance hall, cafe, etc. are displayed. You can imagine how the daily life of people in a shitamachi was in old days.

The unique point of this museum is that you can touch exhibited articles and take photos of them. You can take off your shoes to go up in an exhibited room where old furniture and fixtures are placed and tatami mats are laid. Also, you can climb up the fee collector's stand in the public bath entrance hall. If you pretend to be a person who lived in a shitamashi when sitting in front of a low dining table, you are given vicarious feeling of those who once lived in a shitamachi.

A head clerk is using an abacus for an accounting job at the shop front. The white object on the right in the picture is a pottery cat figurine, which is believed to attract many customers and bring good fortune.

This time, this guy has climbed up on the fee collector's stand in the public bath entrance hall. Is he working or peeping in the women's changing room?

This TV set does not get good reception. Usually, her blow works well.

In the cafe, there are some wooden puzzles for time killing of customers. The trumpet-shaped object on the counter is the speaker of the record player.
This is a hibachi for heating. It is also used for warming sake. This copper container contains water, which is heated by charcoal fire placed under the container. The hot water warms the sake in a sake liquor bottle.

Apr 4, 2008

Sakura along Tamagawa Water Supply in Hamura

It seems that the culmination of sakura bloom is already over in the center of Tokyo, but you can still enjoy sakura along Tamagawa Water Supply in Hamura City at least until Sunday.

To visit the cherry-blossom viewing site in Hamura, you can use JR Ome line from the JR Tachikawa Station. Get off the train at the Hamura station. About 10 to 15-miniute walk brings you to the site.

Before reaching the site, you will find a liquor shop, where I often buy some of my favorite brand sake products. It is a good idea to buy a bottle of sake in this store, bring it to the cherry-blossom viewing site, and drink it there.

Tamagawa Water Supply originates in this place, where the Diversion Weir of Hamura takes water from the Tama River and supplies it to the water supply.

It is not so crowded because today is a weekday.
There are may food stands, where you can buy some snacks to eat and beer or other beverages to drink. They also provide tables and chairs for eating.

This kebab is wonderful; delicious and stuffed with a lot of chicken.

A footbath has tentatively been set up to offer hot spring service to visitors for free, and a monkey showman and his companion provide fun time.

This wooden frame is called Ushiwaku, which is sunk in a river and fixed on the riverbed for the purpose of flood control.

This is the Diversion Weir of Hamura.

These statues are the Tamagawa brothers, who were greatly contributed in supervising the construction of Tamagawa Water Supply.

Apr 3, 2008

Enjoying Sakura and Sake in Showa Kinen Park

On April 2, my kimono friend Kisa and I went to Showa Kinen Park. The purpose was again to see sakura blossoms. Of course, I brought a bottle of sake.
The weather of Tokyo at this time of year is somehow fluctuant. About a week ago, there were warm and comfortable days and sakura blossoms came into bloom at once in Tokyo. However, today, it was windy and cold and we had to stand the coldness while drinking sake. I only hoped this coldness would extend the period of the inflorescence so that we could enjoy the beauty of these blossoms longer.
Anyway, there were many people in the park in spite of a weekday, and I thought so many people loved admiring these blossoms. In the park, there was a temporay sake-selling stand, where we could buy additional bottle of sake for today, and also there were other several stands in which they were selling some snacks to eat with sake.
Now, we got sufficient sake and food. All we needed to do was to find a good place to sit down and drink the sake and eat food. Fortunately, the park was big enough and we can easily find a good place.

-- Today's Sake --
Tenranzan Edozukuri from Igarashi Shuzo in Han-nou City, Saitama Pref.

Sake meter value: -20 (extraordinary sweet!)
Amino acid: 2.4
Acidity: 3.0
Alcohol: 17%
Koji buai*: 35%
Rice used: Yamada-nishiki harvested in Han-nou City, Saitama Pref.
Seimai buai**: 90%

Hinodeyama from Nakajima Shuzo from Hachioji City, Tokyo

Details unknown

* Use rate of Koji-rice, on which koji mold has been cultivated
** Degree to which the rice used in brewing has been milled

Vying in Beauty under Sakura Blossoms

On March 29, only two days later than the day when we enjoyed ume blossoms, we had an opportunity to enjoy another beautiful flower, sakura (cherry blossom), one of the typical flowers representing the spring of Japan.
There are many places you can enjoy admiring sakura blossoms, and one of the most famous places is Ueno Onshi Koen, in Taito ward, Tokyo.
In the area, there is a good Japanese restaurant named Inshotei. This time, our kimono group gathered at this restaurant. After enjoying a decent lunch, we went out to the terrace of the restaurant and took some pictures. Look! The kimono ladies are vying in beauty under sakura blossoms.

Visiting Ume Blossom Park

In Ome-shi Umeno Koen (Ome City Ume Blossom Park) located in Ome city in Tokyo, you can enjoy seeing beautiful ume blossoms (Japanese plum blossoms) in spring.

On March 27, my friend and I went to see ume blossoms in this park. The park boasts its abundance of ume trees. A total of about 1,500 trees and 120 varieties are planted.

The friend of mine was wearing kimono at this time. Look! The coordinates of her kimono is wonderful. Her ornamental hairpin represents ume blossoms, which are not ordinal ume blossoms but bluish ones. The city, where the park is located, has the name of Ome, and the meaning of Ome is a blue Japanese plum.

This time, we brought a bottle of Sake to drink under blossoms. We also brought some food. Drinking sake under sakura or ume blossom trees is an outdoor activity that are loved by a lot of Japanese people. It is great fun to enjoy the flavor of sake and scent of ume blossoms at a time.

-- Today's Sake --
Fujisan Yusuijikomi Tokubetsujunmai Shuzenjionsen Koshin from Fujinishiki Sake Brewer Co., Ltd in Shizuoka Pref.