Jul 24, 2012

Shiromaru Dam Fish Pass--a nice summer resort

A fish pass is a construction built at a dam so that fish can swim upstream or downstream through it.

On a recent Saturday, I visited Shiromaru Dam Fish Pass. This is one of the Japan's largest fish passes, with the vertical interval of 27 meters and the allover length of about 330 meters. On the downstream side, the fish pass lies on the surface of the earth. However, as the fish pass goes upstream, it halfway goes into a tunnel underground.

When fish swim upstream along the fish pass, they first swim up in the part that is build as a series of close-spaced baffles placed along a long slope (I think this is something called a baffle fishway). Water flows through the space between the channel walls and each baffle. Each baffle of this structure slows down the water flow providing resting places for fish. Then, fish get in the tunnel and reach a relatively big pool. This pool provides a resting area for fish, and I saw trout swimming in the pool before although I didn't find any fish here this time. After leaving the pool, fish continue swimming upstream through another part which consists of a series of partition walls. Each of the walls has holes in the lower part of them so that fish can go through the holes.

(Baffle fishway part

(Partitioned part

By the way, visitors to this fish pass can go down underground through a big vertical shaft to see the underground part of the fish pass. A spiral staircase along the inside wall of the shaft leads you to the bottom of the hole, where you can easily come to the pool built in the middle point of the fish pass. You can also walk on the passage along the fish way.

I parked the car in the parking lot in front of the janitor building of the fish pass, and then enter the building, in which a janitor booth was found. Sometimes, there is someone in the booth, and sometimes there isn't. Anyway, visitors can see the fish pass free of charge. Inside the building, the big shaft was wide open, waiting visitors to come in.

Visitors circle down along the spiral staircase inside the big vertical hole. This hole seemed very deep. How deep is this hole? The vertical interval of this fish pass is 27 meters, which must be the difference between the water level at the entrance on the downstream side and the water level of the upstream Shiromaru Dam. I felt the hole was over 30 meters deep. Since the janitor building is placed at a place that is quite higher than the dam water level, I think my guess is not an exaggeration. Going down deep underground seemed somewhat thrilling.

Because of such a deep vertical hole, it is of course very cool inside even in midsummer. Shiromaru Dam Fish Pass is a nice place to visit on a sizzling day.

Today's Sake
Shiroyama-zakura and Sawane (しろやま桜 and さわ音)
Recently, I purchased Kisho Junmai-ginjo Namazake Shiroyama-zakura (喜正 純米吟醸 生酒 しろやま桜) and Sawanoi Junmai Namzake Sawane (澤乃井 純米生酒 さわ音) at a nearby liquor shop. I took the photo below long before, and it seems that this time I also purchased these bottles of Shiroyama-zakura and Sawane together. This means that I love the bold taste of Shiroyama-zakura while I want some airy refreshing factor like one Sawane exhibits in summer time?

Jul 13, 2012

Tokyo sake, Tamajiman Josen Honjozo

In my opinion, Tamajiman sake brewed by Ishikawa Brewery is on the full-bodied side among sake products made by breweries in Tokyo. Especially, the brewery's namazake is characterized by its boldness, bringing a strong impression home to me.

Of course, junmai sake and ginjo sake are nice for me, but for those who drink almost everyday, it is a fortune that there are sakes that are relatively low priced and tasty. Tamajiman Josen Honjozo is sake that fulfills this requirement.

The sake, made from rice milled down to 65 and in the yondanjikomi (四段仕込) method, exhibits a fully developed taste, and my impression of the first sip is "this is nice!" Moderate palatability without too much sweetness or dryness.

I drank this sake at room temperature, but I want to try this warmed next time.

By the way, Ishikawa Brewery is located at a distance of a 20-minute walk from JR Haijima Station. On the premises of the brewery, there are several old wooden buildings and thick-mud-walled buildings. Many of them have been registered as tangible cultural properties of Japan. There are also a Japanese restaurant and Italian restaurant run by the brewery, where you can drink Tamajiman sake or local beer Tama-no-Megumi, which is also brewed by this brewery. On the premises, where big keyaki trees offer visitors comfortable shade, there is a pleasant breeze in summer, and many people visit this place to have a holiday's relaxing time.

I shot the movie below when my friends and I visited Ishikawa Brewery about five years ago. Now, JR Haijima Station has been rebuilt, and the ticket gates are quite different in appearance from those you see at the beginning of the video.

Jul 9, 2012

Kanban-musume no longer on shelves?

Kanban-musume (燗番娘: missy in charge of sake warming, literally) from Fukumusume Shuzo is sake packaged in a can, and this can is a self-heating container allowing sake drinkers to easily enjoy drinking warmed sake without any special sake heating device anytime and anywhere.

This is an interesting product, and I wanted to introduce this sake worldwide by making and uploading the movie below. In spite of my effort, I don't lately see this product in liquor shops. Have they discontinued making and selling this product? Is the sake longer on shelves?

Jul 6, 2012

Two sakes from Tokyo

Junmai Ginjo Tamura (namazake) (純米吟醸田むら )
Tamura Syuzoujou based in Fussa City, Tokyo, started sake-brewing operation in 1822. The brewery has been making sake with the brand name of Kasen (嘉泉). In a recent year, the brewery started making junmai ginjo sake with the new brand name of Tamura (田むら).

According to articles in back numbers of the brewery's mail magazine, Tamura was first planned in collaboration of the brewery and Maishu Center in Hamamatsucho, Minato-ku, and it was first sold in November of 2004. Then, in June of the following year of 2005, it appeared on shelves of general liquor shops. The brewery was regularly issuing the booklet Hinerimochi for its sales promotion, and I remember that an issue of the booklet featured an article about how this sake was born. The article told that the brewery head, master brewer, and sale manager collaborated to realize "ultimate sake." The brewery, whose sake brewing had adopted techniques of Nambu tojis (master brewers of Iwate Prefecture), selected sake rice Ginginga (吟ぎんが) harvested in Iwate Prefecture, milled it down to 55%, and used sake making techniques equivalent to those for daiginjo sake making to produce Tamura.

The namazake (non-pasteurized sake) version of Tamura seems to be shipped two times in a year (in June and in November?), and a liquor shop in Fussa City recently tweeted in its twitter site that it carried Tamura namazake, so I went to the shop and purchased one bottle.

The soft uwadachika (orthonasal aroma) of this sake makes brings me an impression of sweetness of rice, and a sip of the sake enters the mouth very smoothly. Palatability spreads on the tongue and it turns seamlessly into moderate acidity. The taste gently fades out. This sake is not very brilliant sake but it leaves me an elegant impression as a whole.

Junmai Ginjo Kisho (純米吟醸喜正)
Itsukaichi-kaido Street ends at a point close to JR Musashi-itsukaichi Station. The road that runs westwards from here is called Akikawa-kaido Street, and it soon changes its name to Hinohara-kaido Street, further extending westward. If you go along this street to westward about ten minutes by car, you will get to the place called Tokura, where Nozaki Syuzou is located.

By the way, the district around the JR Musashi-itsukaichi Station including Tokura was formerly called Itsukaichi Town, which is now included in Akiruno City. Itsukaichi developed as a trading center of charcoal yielded in the nearby Hinohara village, and the town was also known for its cloth products named Kurohachijo. So, the place enjoyed its prosperity and I guess that people in this district have been drinking Kisho, which is made by Nozaki Syuzou since olden days.

Nozaki Syuzou seems to be a small brewery with relatively small sake production. You can find liquor shops selling sake from the brewery in Akiruno City and other towns, cities, and villages in the vicinity. However, it is difficult to find such shops in the urban area of Tokyo and in other prefectures.

Sake whose consumption is limited to its production place and nearby areas is surely influenced by the taste of people living there. So, such sake should probably be called jizake (local sake). Whenever I drink Kisho, I feel a yearning for something unsophisticated, unaffected, and ingenuous that is implied by the word jizake.

As to Kisho, usually, I prefer drinking junmai sake to more high class sake, but the other day, I got and drank Junmai Ginjo Kisho enjoying some luxury.

This Junmai Ginjo Kisho has a very gentle and mild taste. Most sake tastes better at room temperature rather than when chilled. The taste of this sake is also better at room temperature than when chilled. So, I warmed it up lukewarmly to make nuru-kan (ぬる燗: around 40 degrees C (104 degrees F)). Elegant sweetness and flavor and gentle aroma expanding in the mouth are well balanced wonderfully. A faint banana-like aroma is consistently harmonizing with the palatability of the sake as if moderate background music were playing.