Dec 16, 2014

Nokanro, a Long-awaited Item for Sake Lovers, Finally Commercialized

I am pleased to report readers of my blog that Nokanro, a commercialized product that has the same functionality as that of what is called kandouko, which I several times wrote about in past posts of this blog.

Sake lovers sometimes drink their sake warm. Actually, some types of sake are very nice when they are warmed. However, to enjoy warmed sake, it is very important that you warm your sake in a proper way to a proper temperature.

A microwave oven is a useful device for warming sake. However, it tends to happen that sake is warmed unevenly; some part of the sake becomes hot, and some part remains still cold.

An alternative to the microwave oven is to place a flask containing sake in hot water and leave it until the sake becomes hot. You put some water in the pan, place the pan on a gas stove, place the flask containing sake in the water in the pan, and then wait for the sake to become warm.

Otherwise, you can use a dedicated sake warmer. There are various types of sake warmer products. You can execute Google image search with the keywords "sake warmer" to view different sake warmers. Some products use electricity to warm sake, and some are designed to be used on a gas stove. There are those that are just containers made of thermal material to contain hot water; sake flasks are just placed in them and left until the sake becomes warm.

Among these various sake warmer types, there is one that uses charcoal fire. A sake warmer of this type is called kandouko (or nokanro).


The figure below shows the structure of the kandouko, which is a gadget usually made of copper, and is basically a water tank with an embedded brazier. As shown in the figure, the gadget holds some amount of water, warms the water with heat of charcoal fire burning in the brazier. Since the kandouko is not so large, you can use it on a table, where you drink sake.


You place a flask of sake in the heated water in the tank, to warm your sake. While you wait for your sake to become warm, you can cook some foods such as dried fish on the grill placed over the charcoal fire. So, the bottom line is, amazingly, the kandouko serves as not only a sake warmer but also a small tabletop cooker!

The microwave oven is handy, but you need to leave the table every time you make a helping of sake. The same thing can be said to using a pan containing water on a gas stove. Using a tabletop device like a kandouko eliminates the need to leave the table for helpings. Moreover, cooking some foods on a kandouko adds to pleasure of sake drinking.

The kandouko is not so large and heavy, so you can bring it to a deck or porch, or outdoors. You can enjoy sake with the kandouko when you go out for camping, fishing, or just relaxing in the nature.

Having read the above, if you are a great sake fan, you may have become wanting to own a kandouko. Kandoukos are sold in antique shops or in net auctions, and I have actually purchased some of them in net auctions. I think it was difficult for people living outside Japan to purchase one (these items are usually not exported). However, a new company named Jipang Works has lately been established and started selling a product named "Nokanro,"the very revival of kandouko.

The following is the link of the site of this product.


Before this product appeared in the market, brand-new kandoukos were hardly sold (I know there was one shop selling brand-new kandoukos but the price was far from affordable), and the only practical choice to own a kandouko was to make a successful bid in a net auction or find and buy one in an antique shop.

Now that Jipang Works started selling its Nokanro, it has become easier to own a kandouko because you can buy the Nokanro. The Nokanro is sold at a price of 31,000 yen (including 8% consumption tax). The product includes the main unit, a net grill, a lid for extinguishing charcoal fire, and a fire grate to be placed in the brazier.

If you live in Japan and you buy a kandouko in a net auction, you will pay 5,000 to 20 thousand yen or more for it. So, an antique item is still less expensive than a brand-new Nokanro, However, the new Nokanro looks beautiful and robust.

Lately, sake is gaining in popularity in markets outside Japan. Sake is a beverage that can be enjoyed at various temperatures, and some of the sake fans in foreign countries have noticed this fact and have found pleasure in drinking their sake cold, at a room temperature, lukewarm, warm, or hot, as they like. The more people recognize diverse pleasure of sake, the more people may want to enjoy sake in various ways and styles, including by using a gadget like the Nokanro. So, there must be a growing market of sake warmer like the Nokanro. Actually, when I posted a blog article about the kandouko before, a reader of my blog, inspired by my post, created a handmade kandouko and he wrote about his kandouko in his blog post. Very interesting. I think there must be some people overseas who are willing to buy a Nokanro, and I hope this Nokanro will sell well among not only people in Japan but also those outside the country.


Apr 21, 2014

Song of Kandouko Sake Warmer


The kandouko sake warmer is thought to have been used since the early Edo period in Japan. Apparently, people in those days brought these gadgets with them for outdoor activities such as cherry blossom viewing, and there they use them to enjoy warmed sake outdoors.

Several years ago, I found out about the kandouko sake warmer when I saw its advertisement on a Web page. It seemed that a sake-brewing-related company named Daikokuya had reproduced this old device from the Edo period and they were selling this gadget. Actually, it seemed to me a fascinating device, but too expensive to afford for me (it was priced at 126,000 yen).

The picture below shows the structure of the kandouko. The kandouko holds some amount of water in it, warms the water with heat of charcoal fire also burning inside this gadget, and warms sake with the warmed water. While you wait for your sake being warmed, you can cook some foods such as dried fish on the grill placed over the charcoal fire.


One of the problems when you enjoy warmed sake is that, when you finish the current helping, you need to leave the table for preparing another helping in the microwave etc. and your merry drinking time is interrupted by such work. I think the kandouko is a perfect solution to this problem, and moreover it even offers a bonus function for grilling some foods.

I was dying to own one of these gadgets, and so went on the Web to a net-auction site to see whether someone was selling one. There were some of these devices being sold. After one or two trials of bidding, I could finally purchase one. It cost around 6,000 yen. A good deal!


From then on, I often enjoy warmed sake with this kandouko. Also, I sometimes go net-shopping for those devices, and now I own five of them.

I treasure these gadgets so much that I made a song of kandouko. I make a movie of the kandouko using this song as BGM and uploaded it on the Youtube site. Please enjoy my movie, in which I sing the Song of Kandouko Sake Warmer, and it shows you how I enjoy warmed sake with my kandouko.




Jan 9, 2014

Celebrating New Year for the Emperor at the Imperial Palace

On January 2 of this year, I paid a visit to the Imperial Palace to celebrate New Year for the Emperor and other imperial families.

This was my first experience to enter the premises of the Imperial Palace, and I was impressed to see so many people with the same intention as mine gathering in the square in front of the palace (a total of over 80 thousand people paid a visit the Imperial Palace on this day).



Being one among those tens of thousands of visitors, I was waiting for the appearance of His Imperial Majesty and other imperial families. At around 11 o'clock, as soon as they appeared on the deck, the visitors started waving Japanese national flags and praising aloud His Imperial Majesty, wishing him health and longevity. Then, His Majesty and families responded by waving us.



At this time, I felt that all the visitors in that place were spiritually bound with each other as subjects of His Majesty, and realized that the Emperor makes our nation what it is now. Maybe, Japanese are unaware why Japan is what it is now, that Japan is what it is now because of His Majesty. Then, a thought came to me that whenever facing hardship, we can work as one to overcome it because of the fact that we have His Majesty.


Finally, let me add this: one of the greatest things about our Emperor is that the Emperor of Japan boasts the world's longest history of bloodline. Our Emperor is the 125'th generation of the bloodline that started from the first Emperor Jinmu.

Dec 14, 2013

Hot Sake in Hot Bath

I believe that the practice of enjoying warmed sake constitutes one of the most important parts of the sake culture.


I myself often enjoy warmed sake, and I usually use a kandouko (see "Finally got akandouko (sake warmer)!") to prepare warmed sake. However, if you want to sip sake in a hot bath, I can show you an easy way to prepare warmed sake. This method recently flashed on me. Prepare cup sake and use the following procedure.

1. Leave the cup sake in the bathtub in which hot water is filled.
2. Wait for a while until your warm sake becomes warm enough.
3. Bathe in the bathtub and enjoy warmed sake at the same time.

Usually, the bathtub in a Japanese house is connected with a boiler, which can be used to keep the water in the tub warm. So, you can stay bathing in warm bathtub long enough for having relaxing time over sips of warmed sake.



Dec 10, 2013

Bathing in a Yuzu Bath

Japanese people have a practice of taking a bath in a special way on the day of the winter solstice. They put some yuzu orange fruits in the bathtub and then bathe.


It is said that taking a yuzu bath helps prevent you from catching a cold. The rind of the fruit contains ingredients that are effective in blood circulation promotion and maintaining beautiful skin. Of course, the aroma of the yuzu fruit relaxes you. Then, there is no reason for me to take a yuzu bath.



Oct 24, 2013

Kandouko Cooking

Lately, we have quite cool autumn days here in Japan, and I have more chances to enjoy warmed sake than I did in summer time of course.

I chiefly use a kandouko for warming my sake. This is a copper-made gadget for warming sake. The kandouko holds some amount of water within it, and it has built-in brazier in which burning charcoal is placed. The heat from the charcoal warms the water and the warmed water in turn warms sake in a flask, tokkuri, chirori or whatever container placed in the water. While warming sake, you can also cook some foods such as dried fish on the grill placed over the charcoal fire.

So, with the kandouko, you can cook some food while drinking warm sake, and this is my favorite point about the kandouko.

Today, I'd like to introduce two easy canned food recipes using the kandouko.

Enoki-Saba-Misoni (Enokitake mushrooms and Saba mackerel boiled with miso-paste soup)


Ingredients:
One can of Saba-Misoni, 100 g of Enokitake, shredded cheese.

How to cook:
1. Make a small "pan" from aluminum foil, and place it on the brazier.
2. Place Saba-Misoni and Enokitake on the "pan." Adjust the amount of these ingredients so that they can be contained in the "pan."
3. Wait until the ingredients are boiled, then put some shredded cheese on them.
4. When the cheese is melted, the food is ready.

The food was a little bit salty from the miso-based soup, so you may want to add some vegetable, such as shredded cabbage, green pepper, etc.


I uploaded a video work demonstrating how to cook this. Then, I got a message from some one, recommending the following recipe:

Saba Flavored with Mayonnaise (boiled Saba mackerel flavored with mayonnaise)


This menu is also easy to prepare. Because I want to prepare food while preparing warm sake, my kandouko cooking menu must be cooked only on the small brazier of the kandouko and must be easy to prepare.

Ingredients:
One can of Saba Mizuni (plainly boiled Saba mackerel), mayonnaise, ground pepper, soy sauce, and green onion (green part)

How to cook:
1. Open the can of Saba Mizuni, and place the can on the brazier.
2. When the contents of the can are boiled, add mayonnaise, ground pepper, and soy sauce.
3. Then, add chopped green onion.
4. Crumble the blocks of Saba mackerel and mix the ingredients together.

I am not sure about the amount of each ingredient but if you use too much of each ingredient, they may overflow from the can. Maybe, you may want to use a small pan instead of just directly put the can on the brazier.

Sep 14, 2013

Hiyaoroshi Season


It is September now, and it is a special season for sake lovers, the season of hiyaoroshi.

Hiyaoroshi is a type of the sake that is pasteurized after being pressed in winter or early spring, then aged in a cool storage house until summer is over, and then bottled without undergoing the process of second-time pasteurization (many sake products are pasteurized twice).

Many of the breweries in Tokyo are now shipping their hiyaoroshi products. So, I called the liquor shop I patronize to bring me two bottle of hiyaoroshi. They are Kasen Tokubetsu Honjozo Hiyaoroshi and Sawanoi Hiyaoroshi.


We still have some hot summery days between series of autumnal fresh days, but regardless of its being hot or cool, I'm enjoying autumn flavor.

The owner of the liquor shop, when bringing me these bottles, told me that the Sawanoi Hiyaoroshi of this year was especially good and recommended me to have it lukewarm. Probably, my sake warmer kandouko will be busy from this September until next spring.


Movie -- "The Song of Kandouko"