Apr 29, 2009

Manners for Drinking Sake and Eating Japanese Cuisine (1)

Hello everyone. Thank you for reading my blog.

Short time ago, I attended an event to learn about sake and table manners for Japanese cuisine held in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo.

In the event, how sake is made, what types of sake there are, as well as table manners for drinking sake and eating Japanese cuisine are explained.

The lesson about sake was nothing new for me. However, I think the lesson of table manners we should observe when drinking sake and eating Japanese foods was useful for me, and I would like to share what I learned with my blog readers.

Manners at a sake drinking party

Do not contact your sake cup directly with others to prevent the cups to be damaged. Instead, wrap your fingers around the cup so that your fingers touch others.

Use both hands
Hold the cup with your right hand and support the bottom with your left hand when raising a cup for a toast or when someone superior pouring sake for you.
Do not leave your cup on the table when someone is pouring sake for you.
(Use both hands)

At least a sip
When your cup is not empty but someone is about to pour sake for you, you must drink at least a sip of the sake in your cup before she/he pours sake.

Bring your cup toward you
When drinking sake, do not bring your mouth to the cup, bring your cup toward you place it in front of your chest once and then raise your cup to your mouth. Actually, this way of drinking straightens your back and you will look elegant.
(Left: bad example, Right: Good example)

Mouse tail, horse tail, mouse tail?
When pouring sake, hold the sake bottle with your right hand, and keep the back of your hand turned up, while supporting the bottle with the left hand. Holding the sake bottle on your right hand palm and placing the palm in the face-up position is a "backhanded manner."
Pour sake thinly like a mouse tail at the beginning, then, thickly like a horse tail, and again, thinly like a mouse tail at the end.
(Left: bad example, Right: Good example)

(To be continued.)

Today's Sake
Kamotsuru Junmaishu (Kamotsuru Sake Brewing Company)
This sake is quite dry but has a good taste of rice.
Seimaibuai: 69%
Alcohol: 14 - 15%
Sake meter value: (+)4

Apr 19, 2009

Hiochi Sake Tastes Good?

"Hiochi" is a phenomenon in which alcohol-resistant bacteria turns sake cloudy and make sake bad, and, of course, such a phenomenon is not wanted by brewers. I hear hiochi caused bad brew in many breweries, not a few of which in turn went into bankruptcy in olden days.

Yesterday, I drank at the home of my acquaintance and happened to have a chance to drink sake damaged by hiochi.

This sake was a yamahai-junmai sake. The sake tasted quite strong in lactic acid on the first palate, and I guessed this was because of the strong yamahai yeast starter. And, actually I liked the sake.

Then, a woman said admiringly, "Look, this sake is a bit cloudy!" A guy, who was working for a sake brewery as the brewery master, noticed, "This is a perfect example of hiochi! I have never seen such a wonderful example before."

The brewery master told, "I have had some chances to observe hiochi phenomena before and hiochi lactic acid bacteria in late years do not affect the flavor of sake very often." He continued, "Sake itself turns cloudy but some people like the sake, saying the sake become milder." According the brewery master, hiochi bacteria that fermented so perfectly as one in this case were quite rare recently. He told us that he wants to bring this bacterium to his company and keep it as a good sample, but he, regrettably could not do so because it was dangerous to bring such a strong bacterium into a brewery.

Today's Kimono
One of my acquaintances made me a kimono, which was made from ordinary cloth instead of tanmono, genuine kimono cloth. First, I liked purplish color kimono, but purple-based cloth is rare as material for men's kimono and it was difficult to find good cloth. However, finally she found cloth with a striped pattern.
This kimono looks purplish as a whole, but actually no purple color is used. From a close look at the striped pattern, you will find various colors, including red, yellow, green, white, black, and brown.

Apr 15, 2009

Let's Enjoy Sake with the Brewer Master from Toshimaya Syuzou!

We will hold a drinking party to enjoy Toshimaya Sake with the brewer master of Toshimaya. I have had several opportunities to drink sake with this brewer master and have learned that he is quite a friendly person and loves drinking merrily with friends.

Yesterday, my friends and I visited the brewery master at the brewery to have a meeting. In the meeting, we talked about how to organize the sake drinking party, what types of sake to be served, and in what sequence they would be served.

After the meeting, we were invited to a short brewery tour.

In the photo below, sake mash is fermenting in the tank. The alcoholic gas smelled pungent, when I placed my head half inside the opening of the tank.

The next photo below depicts my friend who is listening to the master brewer explaining that this room is used for daiginjo fermentation. Notice the cautionary statement, which says, "Carbon dioxide gas is generated! Be careful for asphyxiation!"

Well, as to the next drinking party, through the talk with the master brewer, we concluded that we would serve sakes centering on those that were brought to sake contests and long-aged sakes while serving Toshimaya's flagship product Juemon. Why don't you join us to enjoy rare sakes from Toshimaya Syuzou with nice cuisine of the izakaya restaurant Nanoka in Tachikawa City while listening to the talk of the brewery master?

Where: At the izakaya restaurant "Nanoka" in Tachikawa City
When: 6:00 p.m. on May 24
Fee: 4000 yen
Application: You can use the following form for inquiry about the party:

Apr 13, 2009

Hanami in the Center of Tokyo

Hello, everybody!

Also, yesterday, I had a hanami-party (party under cherry blossoms) with friends. However, it was too late to see somei-yoshino cherry blossoms because almost of blossoms had fallen.

First, we intended to have the party in front of Yasukuni Shrine, but the shrine allows people to have picnic parties on its premises only during the limited hamani period, which has ended on April 8. So, we moved to a park beside the moat of the Imperial Palace.

I bought Kisho Junmaishu, which I found really nice in another hamani-party held the day before yesterday, at a liquor shop and brought it to the party. I was pleased that all the friends who drank this sake liked it.

Almost of the somei-yoshino blossoms had fallen, but it seemed we could still enjoy this variety for some more time.

By the way, are sakes dedicated to the Yasukuni Shrine from only Hyogo Prefecture and Kyoto Prefecture? Where is Tokyo sake? The Yasukuni Shrine is in Tokyo!

Apr 12, 2009

Shiroyama-zakura and Kisho Sake

Yesterday, we held a gathering to see Shiroyama-zakura cherry blossoms while drinking Kisho sake. Shiroyama-zakura is a huge cherry tree in Akiruno City, Tokyo.

Kisho is a sake brand brewed by Nozakishuzo Co., Ltd., which is operating in a place near Shiroyama-zaura. Incidentally, this brewery is shipping sake named "Shiroyama-zakura." The brewery is a small company, and is carefully making its sake with relatively low production output, but its sake is attracting sake connoisseurs quietly without being known very widely. The sake of this brewery is sold only in the limited areas including Akiruno City and its surrounding municipalities.

Before going to see blossoms, we dropped in the sake shop in Nozakishuzo, and bought sake.

The chimney of the brewery was seen from the slope way leading to the Shiroyamazakura tree. The village in a mountain valley was bang in the middle of spring with beautiful burgeoning trees and flowering trees.

The Shiroyamazakura tree is a natural treasure designated by Tokyo and is a huge yamazakura cherry tree, measuring 533 centimeters in girth, spreading its branches 25 meters east and west and 18 meters north and south, and standing 17.34 meters high. Its estimated age is about 400 years. We held this drinking event one week earlier than the similar event last year, so I was first afraid that we came here too earlier for seeing blossoms, but the Shiroyamazakura tree showed us good blooms also this year.

We almost emptied these bottles in three and a half hours. (Notice Ginsetsu Junmaiginjo Edozukuri among these bottles! Sadly, this sake is no longer sold since the brewery has closed its business.)

Walking down the slope from the Shiroyamazakura tree, I found a fountain (you can get water by paying 100 yen or more). The water tasted soft, seeming to be the best for drinking after a lot of sake. I filled some water in a PET bottle and brought it home. Now, I am drinking coffee made with this water. It's a nice coffee.

Today's Sake
Kisho Junmaishu (Nozakishuzo Co., Ltd.)
I could drink many different types of Kisho sake today, and I thought this junmaishu was the best. I also drank the namazake version of this sake, but this pasteurized version was better. Other sakes I drank today included junmaiginjo sake and junmaishu brewed from highly valued sake rice Yamadanishiki, but this junmaishu was better than any of the others. Also, I liked hojozo sake. This means that, in terms of Kisho sakes, the cheaper, the better! What a nice brewery!
Rice used: Miyamanishiki
Seimaibuai: 60%
Alcohol: 15 - 16%
Sake meter value: (+)2
Acidity: 1.6

Apr 9, 2009

Enjoying Cloudy Sake While Eating Indian Food

I wrote about the Indian restaurant that recently opened in my vicinity in a past article.
As it was used as an izakaya restaurant before, the restaurant has a few tatami-mat rooms, in which low dining tables are placed.

Tatami-rooms and low dining tables make a good setting for a Japanese style drinking party, and sake is, I think, a must for such a party! So, I began wondering what kind of sake is good to enjoy with Indian food, and I wrote an article titled "Sake and Indian Food?"

Today, when I passed by in front of the restaurant, I noticed the announcement telling that bringing in food and drink was allowed. So, I bought two bottles of nigorizake (cloudy sake) and brought them in the restaurant. I ordered a curry lunch and enjoyed it with my sake.

Dearie me! The sake tasted like Lassi Indian lactic acid beverage with alcohol. It was quite nice with the curry.

A bit eccentric Indian, Nepalese restaurant with tatami-mat rooms located in a one-minute walk from the West exit of the JR Hamura Station (Phone: 042-554-6108)


Today's Sake
Gekkeikan Nigorizake (Gekkeikan Co., Ltd.)
One of the two Nigorizakes I mentioned in the article above. Its alcohol content is lower than usual sake, and it is easy to drink. I think it goes well with curry food.
Alcohol: 10 - 11%

Junmai Shirakawago Nigorizake (MiwaShuzo Co., Ltd.)
One of the two Nigorizakes I mentioned in the article above. This one also tastes good, but it contains much residue (sake lees), and feels a bit sticky on the tongue. So, it may be too thick to enjoy with curry.
Seimaibuai: 70%
Alcohol: 14 - 15%
Sake meter value: -25
Acidity: 2.0

Apr 7, 2009

Eating Lunch While Admiring Cherry Blossoms

Last Sunday, a lunch party was held by our kimono circle. The venue was in a cafe in Happo-en, an establishment intended chiefly for marriage ceremonies and bridal dinners. The Japanese garden here was beautifully maintained and we could enjoy seeing cherry blossoms.
I walked around in the garden before lunch.

Several bonsai trees were exhibited and some of these trees very old. Actually, the tree in the photo below was about 500 years old. It is amazing that this tiny tree has been alive in this world since the beginning of the 16'th century!

In the cafe, I had some beer and enjoyed the meal with other members of the kimono circle in a relaxing mood.

Pausing with kimono ladies

Today's Sake
Honjozo Shiboritate Genshu (Sasaichi Shuzo)
Dry and rich-bodied sake. Now that ginjo-shu and clean, crispy sake have gained in popularity, I am happy to find this sake, whose taste is kind of unsophisticated. I had it at ambient temperature, but want to try having it warmed next time.
Seimaibuai: 70%
Alcohol: 18 - 19%
Sake meter value: (+)8

Apr 5, 2009

Drinking in a Park

On April 3, my friend and I drank in a park.

Cherry blossoms were about 50% of their culmination, maybe. My tiny sake cup also bore the sakura blossom.

A flock of dove approaches us. Are they seeking food?

You, have a sip of sake? ... No way?

Today's Sake
Junmaiginjo Kuradashi Namazake Haramine no Izumi (Ishikawa Brewery)
The namazake version of the sake I introduced as the Genuine Tokyo Sake before.
This as a relatively refreshing sake, seeming to be a nice companion for admiring cherry blossoms.
Seimaibuai: 50%
Alcohol: 17 - 18%