Jan 27, 2009

Liquor Shops Carrying Tokyo Sake (1)

I am collecting information about liquor shops carrying Tokyo sake. Recently, I visited the liquor corners in Isetan and Takashimaya department stores in Tachikawa City. Both shops have quite good selections of Tokyo sake.

First, I visited the liquor corner in Isetan and found Kitaoka Honten, a sake brewery from Nara Prefecture, offering sample tasting and selling their products there. I tried some products of them. Among the sakes I tasted, "Yatagarasu Junmaiginjo Kameno-o Shikomi, one of their sake products, had been brewed from sake rice Kame-no-o and had a rich taste. I love such a type of sake. By the way, this liquor corner is carrying Tokyo sake from three breweries. They are Kasen, Tamajiman, and Sawanoi.

-- Sake corner in Tachikawa Isetan --

In the Takashimaya liquor corner, they had Sawanoi Daiginjo "Kaguya," a Tachikawa Takashimaya original merchandise item. In addition, there are some Takashimaya original items such as the box containing five 300-ml bottles of Kasen, Tamajiman, Sawanoi, Chiyozuru, and Kinkon.

-- Sawanoi Daiginjo Kaguya and Tokyo sake corner in Tachikawa Takashimaya --

On my way home after leaving Tachikawa, I also visited Nagatsuka Shoten close to JR Akishima Station. I am sure this shop is careful in handling their goods, because they were keeping sake and wine in a dark room to protect them from light. They have good selections of sake including Hiroki, Kubota, Hakkaisan, Oroku, etc. In addition, they carry unique products from Asahi Shuzo in Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture, including the Esshu series (brewed from Senshuraku, a rare rice variety), Senbatsu Asahiyama (brewed from Koshitanrei, a new-face rice variety of Niigata), and Tokugetsu (using rice polished down to 28% of the original weight!). I didn't intend to buy something in this shop, but San-no-Esshu was attractive and I bought one 720-ml bottle of it. Oops, I almost failed to mention about Tokyo sake sold in this shop. Of course, they sell Tokyo sake. They have separate racks for Tokyo sake, in which many types of products of Chiyozuru, Kasen, Tamajiman, and Sawanoi are placed.

-- Exterior of Nagatsuka Shoten and its Tokyo sake corner --

Today's Sake
Tokubetsujunmai San no Esshu (Asahi Shuzo)
This sake is brewed from the rice variety named Senshuraku. It has favorable fragrance and tastes dry and flinty, exhibiting modest impression on the whole. This may be drunk casually with any food.
Seimaibuai: 55%
Alcohol: 14-15%

Tokyo Sake Map
To locate sake breweries in Tokyo, see Breweries in Tokyo

Jan 23, 2009

Genuine Tokyo Sake

Tokyo sakes are not always made from rice harvested in Tokyo. In fact, 99.9% of Tokyo sakes are made from rice from other prefectures, for Tokyo, you know, is at the bottom of the rice acreage ranking among the prefectures of Japan.

As to sake made from rice harvested in another prefecture, I somehow hesitate to call it Tokyo sake, but if there is one made from Tokyo rice, I am pleased to recognize it as Tokyo sake without reserve.

-- "Haramine no Izumi (two bottles on the left) and Shiboritate Nama Genshu Kamekuchi" --

It is when I was thinking of Tokyo sake in that way that I encountered an article of the mail magazine issued by Ishikawa Brewery, which is brewing Tamajiman sake. The article said that they were selling sake named Haramine no Izumi at the sake shop on their premises.

The article read -- "To make this sake, they irrigate natural water springing from the Sekido area in Tama City, commonly known as "Haramine no Sato," into the paddies, and give ducks free run of the paddies to have them eat harmful insects instead of using agricultural chemicals. The rice harvested in this way is used to make koji rice (koji-mold cultivated rice). Meanwhile, they also grow another variety of rice in the Ichinomiya and Wada areas close to the Tama River. This rice is used as kake rice (steamed rice to be added in the fermentation tank during the moromi process). Both of the rice varieties are milled down to 50% of the original weight. Being made from these rice varieties, this sake is genuine 'Sake of the Tama Area (a western area of Tokyo).'"

According to the article, the sake shop was selling only the limited number of 200 bottles. I thought I had to go and get this sake by all means, and drove the car to the shop and bought two bottles Wednesday.

The sake, brewed from Tokyo rice and Tokyo water by Tokyo brewers, is genuine Tokyo sake. I could finally get it. The caps of these bottles are still intact. I am looking forward to the day I will open the caps and enjoy this sake with friends.

Today's Sake
Tamajiman Shiboritate Nama Genshu Kamekuchi (Ishikawa Brewery)
This sake is bottled each time a customer buys this sake in the liquor shop on the premises of Ishikawa Brewery. Only this shop sells this sake during a limited period of this season. I purchased one bottle of this sake (the rightmost bottle in the photo above) when I got Haramine no Izumi there. Being non-diluted sake, the sake contains relatively much alcohol, but it is difficult to stop drinking this sake because of the rich flavor and pleasant palate.
Alcohol: 19.5%
Sake meter value: (+)4
Acidity: 1.8
Amino acid: 1.4

Jan 21, 2009

I Love Namazake Very Much!

Sake that has a meaningful and slightly dry flavor and quite enjoyable to gulp down. When I drink such sake, I tremble with joy!
The sensation that it smoothly infiltrates into my body from the tongue and throat is the lures of namazake.

Delicious is the word as to muroka nama genshu! After all, winter is the season for enjoying muroka nama genshu.

So, my four Tokyo-sake drinking friends and I gathered to drink much muroka nama genshu (non-filtered non-pasteurized non-diluted sake) in Tachikawa City Monday.

I prepared all of the sake we drank. The sake included muroka nama genshu of Sawanoi, Kasen, Tamajiman, and Chiyozuru, which are all brewed in the Nishitama area (western part of Tokyo). In addition, I brought a limited namazake product of Tamura and Tokubetsujunmai Yamahai of Kasen, which is also a limited product (it is very unusual that the sake brewery of Kasen has made yamahai sake).

When I noticed, we had almost emptied six 4-go (720-ml) bottles.

All of the sakes I prepared this time were rare products, which were sold by prescription or quite limited in production amount. To obtain such types of sake, it is important that you maintain good communication with liquor shops or sake breweries in order to be provided with latest sake information.

Today's Sake
Kasen Tokubetsujunmai Yamahai (Tamura Shuzoujou)
Two-year aged amber-colored sake. The strong acidity of this sake is typical of the yamahai sake. In spite of the sake meter value of -1, this sake tastes rather dry. Warming this sake before drinking increases mildness of the flavor.
Rice used: Ginginga
Seimaibuai: 60%
Alcohol: 16 - 17%
Sake meter value: -1
Acidity: 2.3
Amino acid: 1.7
Yeast: Kyokai No. 7

Jan 20, 2009

Sake and Indian Food?

I saw a former izakaya restaurant (Japanese-style restaurant where you can drink various types of alcohol beverages) being refurbished in my neighborhood at the end of the last year. A new signboard had already placed above the entrance of the restaurant and it read "Indian Nepalese Restaurant Dhaulagiri." Dhaulagiri is a famous mountain in the Himalayas.

In front of the entrance, a seemingly Indian guy was looking up at the signboard. I said "Hello," and had a short talk with him. According to him, the restaurant would start operating on someday in the beginning of the new year. At this time, I was given a chance to have a look into the restaurant. There was a counter, and I could see a tatami-mat room in the inmost recesses. In a nutshell, they would use the former interior furnishings as they were.

Since I had been interested in this restaurant, I went in the restaurant for lunch last Saturday. A curry with nan bread or rice, salad, and a beverage cost only 708 yen, and additional servings of nan or rice were free of charge. I mean the prices there were reasonable.

There were bottles of Asahi beer, shochu spirits, Awamori, etc. on shelves behind the counter, and bottles of Sakura-masamune and Kiku-masamune on the refrigerator. An authentic Japanese-type lamp with a paper-made shade was hanging down from the ceiling in the neat tatami-mat room. These quite Japanese interior furnishings seemed to be suitable for an izakaya restaurant. However, on the other hand, I saw bottles of Indian, Thai, and other countries' beer on the shelves, and a picture of a mandala from Nepal and picture depicting Siva, Uma, Krishna, etc. from India on the wall. This was quite a mismatch, but, therefore, the restaurant was interesting.

In the evening hours, this place can make a good place for drinking. With eating seekh kabab or chicken tika, we can drink beer, shochu, and even sake! But ... , sake with Indian food? I wonder if they go well. I asked this question of some people, and they said maybe sweetish sake will go well with Indian food.

Everyone, what do you think of this question? What type of sake goes well with Indian food?

Today's Sake
Junmai Nama Muroka Kaiun (Doi Shuzojo)
Fresh flavor maybe derived from Yamadanishiki. I quite enjoyed gulping down this sake.
Rice used: Yamadanishiki
Seimaibuai: 55%
Alcohol: 17 - 18%

Jan 18, 2009

Now, Ichibay Is Making Tokyo Sake Map

I have made Tokyo Sake Map at Tokyo Sake Site. This map could be created easily; I just got together data of sake breweries in Tokyo and liquor shops carrying Tokyo sake and put in the Google map, and I placed a link to this map at my Web site. ( http://tokyojizake.web.fc2.com/Tokyo_sake_map_page.htm: This is the Japanese page, and the English page is partly completed, too.)

I just placed data including company names of sake breweries, addresses, telephone numbers, sake products of them, etc. at the site. So, the work was easily done as to sake brewery data. However, liquor shop data is difficult to collect. (Someone, help! Please, give me data about liquor shops carrying Tokyo sake.)

Yesterday, I visited a liquor shop in Tachikawa City, Tokyo. It was a liquor shop in Seijoishii LUMINE Tachikawa Store. To my delight, they had quite a large selection of Tokyo sake products; they had Sawanoi, Kasen, and Kisho. I talked about my intention of placing liquor shop data at my Web site to one of the staff there. Then, she showed an interest in the map and kindly told me about what they had in the shop. Off course, as soon as I got home, I added the data of this liquor shop to the map.

-- Tokyo sake products sold in the shop --

By the way, this staff was quite a cheerful lady, and it was nice that we could enjoy a chat about sake.

Today's Sake
Tamura (Tamura Shuzoujou)
Elegant flavor of this sake is quite similar to the one of Haru-no-yoi of the same brewery, which I mentioned in the previous article. However, Tamura is more impressive in the boldness of taste.
Rice used: Ginginga
Seimaibuai: 55%
Alcohol: 16 - 17%
Sake meter value: (+)1
Acidity: 1.7

-- Emptied bottles of Tamura (left) and Haru-no-yoi (right) --

Jan 15, 2009

Sawai Yakushi Hall Fair

January 1, I visited the Sawai Yakushi Hall in Ome City, which is located close to Japan Railway Sawai Station, to see the Sawai Yakushi Hall fair.

I started eastward from Sawai Station on the narrow road that extended along the rail track. The road then passed through under the rail track and I went to the south side of the track. This place is on the south slope of a mountain and is placed in sunlight in the daytime. So, I could walk comfortably around there. There were nandina trees with red leaves and red berries in the yard of someone's house.

Soon, I got to the entrance of a narrow slope which is flanked by many flags. On each of the flags are red kanji characters which read "Oblation, Yakushi-ruriko-nyorai." I climbed up the slope to the top, where there was the rail track. I walked across the railroad crossing, which has neither crossing bars nor alarm. Immediately beyond the track, there was a flight of stairs, I walked up the stairs and then I was in front of the Yakushi Hall building.

On the small premises, people were selling Bodhidharma idols in one place, keeping the fire so that people could warm themselves in another place. Some were selling dumplings and yakitori.

After offering players to Yakushi-sama, I was given a chance to draw a raffle for free on the premises. I drew a blank, but the generous-hearted old man at the lottery site gave me a sixth prize, which was a small bamboo rake embellished with a real coin and imitated old-time coins (a bamboo rake is usually used to collect trash, but this type of bamboo rake is believed to collect a lot of good fortune).

Also, I was given a cup of amazake (sweet drink made from sake lees), and I felt I was quite blessed.

I think such a fair is an event for people in the neighboring communities and, therefore, I, as a foreigner in that vicinity, felt diffident at first about benefiting too much from the event, for example, being given amazake and drawing a raffle for free. However, people there were quite easygoing and the old man who gave me the small bamboo rake was so nice to say, "Thank you for coming all the way to here. Come again next year, too!" I was very happy to hear these friendly and kind words, and it was a day that I could enjoy big hearts and hospitality of country folk.

Today's Sake
Kasen Junmaiginjo Tamagawa-josui Haru-no-yoi (Tamura Shuzoujou)
In this sake, fragrance and flavor is harmonized quite elegantly. Drinking this sake makes me happy, and I think this is a good sake.
Seimaibuai: 55%
Alcohol: 15 - 16%
Sake meter value: (+)1
Acidity: 1.5

Jan 12, 2009

See You in the Sake Event "Niigata Sake no Jin" in March!

Also this year, the annual sake event "Niigata Sake no Jin 2009" will be held at Toki Messe Niigata Convention Center (http://www.tokimesse.com/english/) on March 14 and 15. I believe many of you readers are sake fans and many plan to attend this event.

Last year, I attended the event "Niigata Sake no Jin 2008" for the first time. Today, I want to share some information about how to get prepared for this year's event with you based on what I learned from the experience last year. I list several points below.

-- Scene of the last year's event --

1. Early drinker gets a kikijoko. :-)
At the entrance, you are to be handed a bottle of shikomisui (mother water for making sake) and kikijoko (sake tasting cup) if you are among the first 10,000 visitors who enter the venue. The two-day event of the year before last gathered about 60,000 people and the event of the last year, about 76,000 people, attracting more and more people every year. Naturally, I guess people more than last year will appear in the Toki Messe this year. If you want to be assured that you will get a kikijoko, make sure to get to the venue before noon of 14.

2. Which sake will you drink?
There are 96 sake breweries in Niigata Prefecture, almost all of them will place their products on show, and each of the breweries will bring about five sakes. So, about 500 sakes in Niigata Prefecture will be brought in the venue. Unfortunately, however much you love sake, it is obvious that you, as just one person, cannot taste all of these products in two days. So, it may be wise of you to get the floor map of the venue at the entrance, check the map carefully, and decide which brewery's booths to visit in advance. It allows you to taste various sakes efficiently.

In the view above described, the tasting behavior of me last year is a bad example. Like a butterfly flying from one flower to another, I went just casually to one booth to spend some time for tasting sake and enjoying talking with staff there, and then went to another booth that just aroused my curiosity. Thus, I was wasting much time, and tasted sake from only 17 breweries. Let's behave according to a plan this year.

3. Keep on the alert for theft.
There are tables and chairs in the venue so that you can bring sake and food from various food stalls or sake booths and eat and drink there. If you leave your belongings there, they may disappear when you return there next time. In a nutshell they are stolen. Last year, one of my friends had her kikijoko stolen. If you have a lot of belongings, you may want to put them on a table for a while and leave there for something to eat or drink. Be careful!

4. Neck-hanging type tray
It is difficult to take photos and take a note about sake you drink while bringing a kikijoko in your hand. However, leaving some of your belongings on a table involves the risk of theft. So, I prepared a neck-hanging type tray for the last year event. This can be made in the following way:
1) Prepare a hard plastic tray.
2) Drill holes in the four corners of the tray.
3) Attach strings to the holes so that you can hang the tray down from your neck.
Placing my digital camera, ball-point pen, memo pad, and kikijoko on the tray, I could easily go around from booth to booth for various sakes in the last-year event.

-- Neck-hanging type tray --

Everyone, I will appear in this year's event also in kimono with the neck-hanging type tray. If you find me at Toki Messe, feel free to initiate a casual chat with me.
Well, see you at Toki Messe March 14.

Today's Sake
Kamekuchi-shu of Sawanoi Junmai Ginjo Soten (Ozawa Syuzou Co., Ltd.)
Since they were giving visitors sake from a taru (cask) free of charge as part of service for customers yesterday, I visited Sawanoien (Ome City in Tokyo), a brewery-run resting place where you can buy Sawanoi sake and eat some food and drink fresh sake. At this time, I went to the sake-tasting corner to taste some sakes.
Sawanoi Junmai Ginjo Soten is a popular product of this brewery, and they have kamekuch-shu (sake that has just been pressed) of this sake in this place. This sake has quite an enchanting flavor with refreshing fragrance.
I place the photo of tarus (casks) of sake and the sake tasting corner.

Jan 6, 2009

Rooting for Tokyo Sake

Happy New Year! How did you enjoy your New Year' Eve and holidays? I wish this year would be a good year for you all.

Two or three years ago, I personally began wanting to introduce Japanese tradition and culture to the world in English by using my translation skill, and I feel like this is my obligation. So, I think I myself should learn about Japan and understand it so that I can explain about my country well to people in the world.

Without deep thought, I started wearing kimono. Then, I changed my stance on sake. Before, I was simply drinking it like other alcoholic beverages, but, now, sake for me is something to taste with utmost care because I want to explain this amazing beverage to others and recommend some sake that I think is nice. From then on, I often went for various sake-related events with wearing kimono.

Last year, I started writing English blog articles that treated kimono and sake as keywords to steadily introduce Japanese culture and tradition to the world.

Recently, I have received a response from an overseas reader, thanks to my patient efforts. (He is a resident of New York and sake lover who has recently started learning how to wear kimono. We had exchanged some E-mail messages and have links to each other's blog sites. One of his blog articles shows a photo depicting him as a happy guy who was agitating a yeast starter tank in Asahi Shuzo in Nagaoka City of Niigata Prefecture at the URL: http://www.urbansake.com/sake-blog/japan-2008-asahi-shuzo.html

By the way, there is "Tokyo Jizake" community in the mixi SNS. This is a community for those who love Tokyo sake. The manager of the community is quite an enthusiast for Tokyo sake. Watch the video below to know how she is enthusiastic about Tokyo sake.

In a nutshell, she is complaining about the difficulty in buying Tokyo sake in the central area in Tokyo including the 23 wards. Actually, it is difficult to find liquor shops that carry Tokyo sake in the central and eastern areas in Tokyo while there are many such liquor shops in the western part, where most of the sake breweries of Tokyo are operating.

Being moved by her eagerness, I decided to work together with her to root for Tokyo sake and established the Tokyo Sake Site (http://tokyojizake.web.fc2.com/) in November of the last year. I received positive and favorable response about this Web site from many people. At the beginning of this year, one of like-minded friends contributed writing to this site (the translation is to be placed soon in an English page of the site). This year, I would like to use this site as a means of expressing opinions of sake consumers and recruit people who enjoy Tokyo sake through this site to root for Tokyo sake with them together.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you will enjoy my blog articles also this year.

Today's Sake
Nontaro (Sakuramasamune)
I was treated to a glass of this sake by the owner of the restaurant where I often drink sake. This was very dry sake with strong alcohol, and it tasted soft when it was drunk on the rocks.
By the way, the brewery of this sake is famous for Kyokai yeast No. 1 and the discovery of Miyamizu, reputed mother water of Hyogo Prefecture, by the Sixth head of the Sakuramasamune brewery.
Seimaibuai: 70%
Alcohol: 25 - 26%