Dec 31, 2008

Yearend Party for Tokyo Sake Fans

A yearend party was held in the restaurant called Kaoriya Sunday (December 28) in Tachikawa City, Tokyo. The party was hosted by the Tokyo Jizake Community, a community in the mixi SNS. The party attendees were all lovers of sake brewed in Tokyo.

We enjoyed 12 Tokyo sakes prepared by one of the attendees who is the owner of the restaurant Kaoriya. These sakes are all new brews of this season, having fresh flavors and enchanting aromas. Also, the attendees included one guy who was a chief sake brewer brought two bottles of Juemon, a sake brewed by him. Juemon was just marvelous sake with a bold and rich taste. I myself also brought an unfinished kijoshu (see "Today's Sake" at

So, the amount of sake added up to about 60 go (10,800 ml). Since we were 17 people, so 3.5 go (630 ml) per capita. This is the average amount and I probably drank more than the average. I may have been drunk about 4 go (720 ml) or more. I must also take into account the fact that most of them were genshu (sake not diluted), with higher alcohol percentage than usual sake. So, the amount I drank was equivalent to about 5 go (900 ml) of usual diluted sake in terms of alcohol amount. In a nutshell, this amount is too much for me.

So, naturally, I got quite drunk. However, it is quite good to enjoy merry inebriety with friends, isn't it?

Today's Sake
Nakadori Nama Genshu Junmai Muroka Juemon (Toshimaya Shuzo)
Whether it is non-pasteurized or pasteurized, I love the rich and meaningful flavor of Juemon.
People should know that there is the amazing sake named "Juemon" in Tokyo.

Dec 29, 2008

Kimono Chirstmas Party

On December 23, a kimono-wearing party called "Kimono DE Christmas" was held in Chez Daigo Yaesu, a restaurant near JR Tokyo Station.

Around 50 people attended this buffet-style party. Almost all the attendees were wearing kimono because of the dress code of this event.

My acquaintance Shino Hagio, a jazz singer sang some songs for us accompanied by the guitar by Osamu Jimba.

Please play back the video to listen to their music and see how the party was.

Incidentally, we cracked a sake cask open and drank sake from the cask. This sake was futsu-shu (regular sake), but, having absorbed the scent of the cask that was made of Japanese cedar wood, the sake tasted quite fresh and good.

Today's Sake
Kasen Funeshibori Muroka Nama Genshu Honjozo (Tamura Shuzoujo)
This sake is brewed in a sake brewery in Fussa City, Tokyo. This sale-by-subscription sake is quite rare, and I had to ordered it in advance.
The first sip was impressive and I soon discerned the characteristic taste of a sake by this brewery quite impressively and felt this was the taste of Kasen. Elegant and meaningful.
Seimaibuai: 60%
Alcohol: 19 - 20%

Dec 11, 2008

Complicated Sake Name

Lately, I feel a kind of gap between sake breweries and sake consumers.

There are many types of sake. Fore example, sakes called tokuteimeishoshu (sake with a special name) actually includes eight different types of sake. They are honjozo, tokubetsu-honjozo, ginjoshu, and daiginjoshu (alcohol-added sakes), and junmaishu, tokubetsu-junmaishu, junmai-ginjoshu, and junmai-daiginjoshu (sakes to which no alcohol has been added). Each of these names of tokuteimeishoshu is defined according to whether brewing alcohol has been added to the sake, the value of seimaibuai (to what degree the rice used has been polished down), and other criteria, and there is a law to define the criteria to specify these names.

Also, there are other ways to classify sake. Usually, pasteurization process is applied to sake twice during its production process. However, Namazake is a sake to which no pasteurization process is applied through its entire production process while namachozoshu is pasteurized immediately before it is shipped and namazumeshu is pasteurized immediately before it is stored for aging process. Unlike usual sake, which has been diluted with water to make it easier to drink, a sake called genshu has not been diluted. Another classification method divides sake into three categories according to in what stage of the sake-pressing process the sake has been pressed. If sake is pressed in the beginning state, it is called arabashiri. Sake pressed in the middle stage is called nakadori, and one pressed in the final stage is called seme.

Since some of the terms described above are concurrently used to form a sake name, a sake can have a name like "nakadori fukuroshibori junmai-ginjo yamahai muroka nama genshu" (fukuroshibori: a pressing method using cloth bags, yamahai: a method for preparing a yeast starter, and muroka: unfiltered). Such a name is quite complicated and it is difficult for general sake consumers to correctly understand the meaning. Such a name indicates how the sake has been made and only those who have a knowledge about sake brewing process can decipher the meaning. However, first of all, is it necessary for a sake drinker to understand how the sake she/he is drinking has been made?

It seems that sake brewers are directing their attention only to sake reviewers, sake enthusiasts, sake connoisseurs, and appraisers from the National Tax Agency. I think they should view their products from the viewpoint of general sake consumers.

Now, it is Christmas season, and towns are illuminated by many small lights in the nighttime. The kimono circle I belongs to will hold an annual Christmas party, in which everyone must wear kimono. For this year, we plan to bring a sake cask to the party for a toast although Christmas and sake sound somehow mismatched. I hope that people enjoy sake more freely in various situations like we will do in our Christmas party.

Today's Sake
Ipponjime Koshinohakugan (Nakagawa Shuzo)
Honjozo Ipponjime Koshinohakugan
Again, I was attracted by the name "Ipponjime," which is the name of a rice variety, and I purchased this sake because of this name. Since I heard this rice variety had decreased in crop yields recently, I wondered what type of variety this was and became interested in it.
The sake exhibits elegant balance between various sensations of flavors while possessing keen dryness.
The rice used has been polished down to 57%, which is low enough to be called ginjoshu in terms of seimaibuai. So, I can say this is a posh sake.
Rice used: Ipponjime
Seimaibuai: 57%
Alcohol: 15 -16%

Dec 5, 2008

Niigata Sake Masters' Gathering

Niigata Seishu Tatsujin Kentei (Niigata Sake Master Certification Test), which assesses testees' knowledge of Niigata sake, was held for the first time in Niigata City in March this year. The successful testees have been certified as do no tatsujin (bronze masters). This certification test is planned to be held every year. Next year, they will certify gin no tatsujin (silver masters).

On the second day of this month, a party named "Niigata Seishu Tatsujin no Tsudoi" (Niigata Sake Masters' Gathering) was held in Niigata City for all the bronze masters, and I participated the party because I have also been certified as a bronze master. I needed to pay 5,000 yen as a membership fee and the trip to Niigata cost me quite a lot of expenditure, but I determined to participate the gathering because I have good acquaintances in Niigata and foods of Niigata in winter are quite attractive.

In addition, if I can get translation jobs concerning sake-making industry in Niigata, such a situation will also be favorable for me. I thought I could probably have some talks and make myself known to some key persons in the Niigata sake business.

Since I am a tall guy (188 cm) and, in addition, I was wearing kimono during the party, I seemed to attract attention from those in the venue. I was even interviewed and filmed by some local TV staff. If you are a show-off, it is a good idea to wear kimono when appearing in public.

Although I am not sure whether my kimono helped people get interested in me, I could talk with some persons from sake breweries in Niigata Prefecture and a person from the prefectural municipality, and we exchanged business cards. So, the gathering was worth participating to me. They told that they were preparing a guidebook of Niigata sake in English, and I expect they will actively promote Niigata sake in the global market in near future. I believe that a person like me who enjoys sake and have ability of language translation will be useful for them. If I can have a translation job regarding sake and can introduce sake to people in the world, it would be quite an enjoyable job for me as a sake lover.

Niigata sake was formerly not as popular as it is now. In the time when sake brewing technology was not so advanced, fermentation control of sake was very difficult if soft waters were used because soft waters did not help yeast and other microbes work very well. And waters in Niigata Prefecture were soft waters. As a result, they could not make good sake with Niigata waters.

In recent years, sake brewing technology has advanced, and now they can well brew sake relatively easily even with soft waters by the method of long-period low-temperature fermentation. Also, change in tastes of people has helped Niigata sake, which has a clear flavor with a crispy aftertaste, gain in popularity. Now, Niigata Prefecture boasts of the third place in the country in the shipping amount of sake next to that of Hyogo Prefecture and Kyoto Prefecture. Of course, I am sure that people concerned in the prefecture have been making efforts continuously.

My first visit to Niigata City in this year was in March, when Niigata Sake no Jin (Niigata Sake Festa) was held, and I visited this time to participate this gathering. So, this was the second time in this year to visit the city. In both times, I felt the enthusiasm for promoting Niigata sake from breweries in the prefecture, Niigata Prefectural Brewing Experimental Station, Niigata Prefectural Brewers' Association, and other staff concerned.

For example, they have developed their original sake rice, Koshitanrei, they are frequently setting up opportunities for education and technology exchange in the brewing industry, and they have established the Niigata Original Sake Brand Control Association to protect and promote Niigata sake brand. I was much impressed by their continued efforts. The Niigata Sake Masters' Gathering at this time must also be a part of such efforts.

When they knew that I came from Tokyo to participate the gathering, each person on the organizer side expressed their gratitude from the heart saying, "Thank you for coming such a long way." I really felt their true and earnest heart. I am not a very big Niigata-sake lover, but, being so much thanked, I would like to yell for Niigata sake.

By the way, I regret that I could not enjoy good foods and sakes prepared that evening because I was busy in talking and exchanging cards with many people. When I noticed, there were only few foods. In spite of the fact that seafood is really good in Niigata, I found only some sandwiches, cakes, fruit, etc. However, I was given a bottle of Niigata sake as a souvenir. So, I must be satisfied.

Today's Sake
"Shinmai Shinshu Funaguchi Kikusui Ichibanshibori" and "Jukusei Funaguchi Kikusui Ichibanshibori" (Kikusui Sake Co., Ltd.)
These are canned sakes. I drank them in the Shinkansen train when coming back from Niigata.One of the pleasures of travel is enjoying uncommon and delicious foods or drinks of different places.

In a train, having box lunches and beverages sold in the train or at a station is also enjoyable.

In such a case, canned sake or cup sake is quite handy. They are usually cheap sake, but these canned sakes are quite good! "Shinmai Shinshu Funaguchi Kikusui Ichibanshibori" (green can) is a nama genshu of the honjozo type, and "Jukusei Funaguchi Kikusui Ichibanshibori" (red can) is a nama genshu of the ginjo type. Both have rich and bold flavors, and the latter has more fragrant because it is a ginjo type sake.

Dec 1, 2008

Autum leaves, Waterfall, and a Sake in Niigata

On Sunday (November 30), I and my hiking company went for a hike for seeing autumn leaves in the western Tanzawa Area in Kanagawa Prefecture. We parked the car in the parking lot of the Nishitanzawa Shizen Kyoshitsu (literally translated into "Nishitanzawa Nature School"). The destination peak was Azegamaru.

First, we walked up along a creek. Although there were several erosion-control dams we needed to climb over, the walk along the stream was quite enjoyable. The water seemed clear and pure and even the entire ravine looked bright, which was maybe because of the white sediments of quarts diorite sands on the riverbed under the clear blue sky of the late autumn.

After about 50 minutes along the creek, we came to the point where the path to the peak left the creek, but before we left the creek we saw a waterfall named Hondana no Taki. We needed to walk up along the creed for a few minute to the waterfall, but I must declare that this waterfall is well worth seeing. This about 60-m high waterfall drops almost vertically, and the fall crest looks like a knife that is cutting the hard rock into two.

After seeing the waterfall, we continued walking along the mountain trail which was getting steeper. When we got close to the mountain ridge, we saw many Japanese andromeda trees. Each of theses evergreen trees looked getting ready for the next spring by preparing many small flower buds on their branches. When we reached the ridge, colorful autumn leaves were replaced with dry and dead leaves; winter was already more dominant than autumn on the ridge.

We continue walking along the trail on the ridge repeating several times of uphill and downhill walk. Since we could have a clear view of mountains around because of the fine weather, the walk on the ridge was a merry experience. In addition, there was very little breeze, so we did not feel coldness in spite of this late autumn season. Finally we reached the summit after needing about two-hour walk on the ridge. We had late lunch there, and went back the same trail to the car.

Today's Sake
Junmaishu Koshinotsukasa (Imayotsukasa Shuzo)
Junmai Koshinotsukasa was my most favorite sake of the five sakes I tasted when I visited Imayotsukasa Shuzo in Niigata City, Niigata Prefecture.
At this time, I tasted a junmai, junmaiginjo, junmaidaiginjo, junmai shiboritate nama-nama, and junmai karakuchi types.
Among these sakes, Junmai Koshinotsukasa had an excellent fragrance and is gentle but rich in flavor. It first tasted like a junmaiginjo sake rather than a junmai sake. Actually, it is said this sake was brewed in the method for making junmaiginjo sake using rice polished down to 65%, which is a little bit higher percentage value for making junmaiginjo sake.
After tasting this sake I purchased a bottle of this, and I plan to try drinking it warmed next time.
Rice used: Gohyakumangoku
Seimaibuai: 65%
Alcohol: 15 - 16%