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.

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