Dec 3, 2009

Canadian Enjoys Sake to Her Heart's Content

Ms. Rosina Lau, a citizen of Toronto, Canada, owns a company that sells useful Takui bags.

At the beginning of October, I received an E-mail message from her. She said she read my blog and got interested in sake. She had had rare chances to enjoy sake in Canada, and wanted to visit Japan to experience and learn about the sake world.

As early as 12 of November, she was already in an inn in Kyoto! Then, she visited Fushimi, Saijo city, and Takayama city, which are all famous for their sake. On 21 of November, she arrived at her hotel in Tokyo. She makes her decision and moves really quickly!

I met her on 25 of November. She had come to Japan long way from Canada, and I of course wanted to welcome her. So, I asked Mr. Shimizu, sales manager of Ishikawa Brewery, to show us their brewery and he did so. Then, I took her to an izakaya restaurant, "Shutoan," in Yotsuya in the evening. "Shutoan" carries a lot of sake and it offers good dried fish and oyster.

Ishikawa Brewery started its sake brewing as early as 1863 boasting a history of over 140 years. Measuring 25.2 meters in width, 13.25 meters in height, and 28 meters in depth, the Hongura building, where fermentation process of sake takes place, is the hugest as an existing wooden kura building in the Kanto region. The Ishikawa family, the owner of the brewery, has its house on the premises. In front of the house, stands an old gate with wings on each side. This gate was built about 240 years ago and both wings were used as living spaces for gatekeepers. Many of the building and architecture on the premises, as well as the two mentioned above, have been registered as tangible cultural properties of Japan. So, I wanted visitors from abroad such as Rosina san to visit and see this brewery, and I am happy that I could actually take her to this place.

Then, we were headed from Ishikawa Brewery to Shutoan, which I had wanted to visit for enjoying part of its great selection of sake. This izakaya restaurant is reputed to offer a lot of types of sake (actually it carries 450 types of sake) and good foods especially oyster from different places inside and outside Japan, having been enjoying popularity among sake lovers since its inauguration in September. I decided to go to this izakaya restaurant on my own judgment, but I was sure Rosina san would like it.

In addition to its wide selection of sake, one of the sales points of Shutoan are oysters; they are brought from various places including Iwate prefecture, Miyagi prefecture, and some are from Canada or the United States. The menu shows a list of producing districts of oysters that are available on the current day. Since oyster contains ingredients that are good for the liver such as taurine, it seems to be paired well with sake.

On this day, I couldn't decide what we should drink because there were so many bottles in the refrigerator in the restaurant (they displayed sake bottles in the refrigerator). So, I asked Mr. Takeguchi, owner of the restaurant, to select some bottles for us. We enjoyed as many as abut 10 different types of sake, including Kunpai (君盃), Eikun (英君), Waruno-Daikan (悪の代官), Azumamine (吾妻嶺), Kaze-no-Mori (風の森), Kame-no-Umi (亀の海), Nanbu-Bijin (南部美人), Okunokami (屋守). Personally, I liked Kame-no-Umi, which, I feel, is rich in taste.

Rosina san said, "I drank about 10 types of sake today, and still I have 440 types to try. So, I must come back here." She was very eager to come back to Japan and told me she would go to Niigata next time in March for Niigata Sake Festival 2010 (にいがた酒の陣2010). I, as a sake lover, am very happy to have such an enthusiastic sake friend abroad.


Anonymous said...

Floral aroma?
It's pure grain alcohol, no?
Calm. Yes. After 2 glasses certainly calm.

いちべー said...

Thank you for the comment.
Some sake, especially ginjo sake, has a floral or fruity aroma. Such an aroma is called ginjoka, which derives from saturated fatty acid included in rice grains. No perfumery is added.

Timothy said...

I am coming to Japan in the springtime!! I hope you can also take me to Shutoan. I think this place is heaven for me. You tried Kunpai sake? from Shizuoka??? I can't believe if it's true! I was there at their brewery!

is this the place?

hope to meet you in 2010!
tim from

mata ne!

いちべー said...

Hi Tim-san,

Pleased to know you will come to Japan in the spring. No problem, I will take you to this izakaya when you come to Japan next time.

This izakaya just started last summer, but, carrying so many selected brands of sake, it seems to become a Mecaa for sake lovers.

Yes, Kunpai is from Shizuoka. I have never visit this brewery and it was the first time to taste it.

Let me know when you can go this izakaya after you fix your itinerary.

Looking forward to seeing you in the spring

Ichibay (Ichiro Nakano)