Jul 31, 2010

Banzairaku Jin was nice

Our aikido master recently suggested that we get together for a meal once in a while, and we went to an izakaya Uotami last Thursday. The master kindly paid the bill for us.

We were five guys including one grade school boy. Only two of use, the master and I, drank alcohol beverages.

I don't frequent chain izakaya restaurants of this type lately. However, foods of this izakaya were not bad, and the interior layout was nicely designed with many cozy private rooms, and we could have relaxing time there. I guess such chain restaurants are also making efforts in improving customer satisfaction.

After having had beer to quench our thirst, we of course ordered sake. The sake we drank were Kita no Homare (北の誉), Tomio (富翁) and Banzairaku Jin (萬歳楽の甚). All sakes were contained 300-ml bottles, which were good quantity for the two drinkers.

Jin, a junmai sake, particularly had a rich taste and was my favorite one.

Shaved ice with sweet sake: This is shaved ice with thick sweet sake (beverage made from sake lees and sugar) and is sold at Sawanoi-en rest station run by Ozawa Syuzou. If you have too much sweet drink, you tend to suffer summer weariness. However, sweet sake is rich in nourishment, so I think it does some good for your health.

Jul 29, 2010

Coolness in front of the basin of a waterfall

A friend of mine, who is an employee of a sake brewery, said that she wanted to take some pictures of their sake against a background of a waterfall. According to her, they will use the pictures for advertisement. I was interested in this photo shoot, and I accompanied her.

We went westward on Route 411, which ran along the north lakeside of Okutama Lake, and entered Tabayama Village of Yamanashi Prefecture. On that day, 25 of July, a summer festival was being held in Tabayama Village. There was a parking control guy deployed in front of a large parking lot. This place was close to the destination where the waterfalls we wanted to visit existed. Usually, we can pass by this parking lot and get closer to the waterfalls, but it was a festival day, some control was applied to traffic, and we couldn't drive farther. So, as the guy in front of the parking lot instructed, we drove into the lot and parked the car. Not interested very much in what were going on in the festival, we started walking for the waterfalls.

Leaving the car, we walked across a scorching tennis court, and then waddled up along an asphalt-paved slope. We walked down on stone steps to the stream, but the path was somehow damp and seemed to be a favorite haunt of pit vipers. I carefully went down to the bottom of the valley. On the riverbed, it was wonderfully cool.

And, we went upstream along the valley, and found two stages of waterfalls.

The employee of the brewery took out two bottles of sake, placed them on the rock that formed a small dam of the basin of the lower waterfall, and took some pictures of the bottles. And as to the sake she brought there, I drank it from the bottle after the photo shoot as you can see in the video below.

Drinking nice sake in front of the basin while being cooled by the waterfall was certainly a pleasant experience.

Jul 28, 2010

Barely surviving a scorching summer

Last week, we had torturous intense heat here in Japan, and it was very hard to survive the week.

In order to cool off myself, I ate watermelon ...,

Went to a river for a cool evening breeze and had some beer ...,

Took a cold water bath ...,

But, I couldn't find definitively effective measures to cool myself. Anyway, at last, I drank chilled namazake.

Muroka Nama Genshu Tokubetsu Junmai Yamahai "Kaze no Mama"

This sake has fresh bouquet and savor distinctive of namazake, substantial acidity, and slight astringent taste of fruit.

In the movie above, I am gnawing fresh ginger sticks simply because I like them with sake. I don't mean to convey any special suggestion such as this sake is well paired with ginger. I often eat fresh ginger when drinking sake.

Jul 22, 2010

A nice izakaya to drink in

Sunday, I visited izakaya Ukou close to JR Shimbashi Station to attend a small drinking event.

Shimbashi is very far from my place and I don't usually go there only for the purpose of drinking. However, one of the organizers of this event eagerly and frequently invited me to the party. So, I finally accepted her invitation.

After just a two-minute walk or so from the Karasumori Exit of Shimbashi Station, I found a signboard of Ukou displayed on a two-story building. There was an opening on a building wall and the opening was the start point of a steep flight of stairs that lead to the upper floor, where this cozy little izakaya was operating. The izakaya had about 10 counter seats and a small tatami room.

Although being a sake lover, since I went there through the sizzling air of summer, I wanted to quench my parched throat with beer. The beer contained in this very thin glass was very drinkable, and I felt like I was drinking a cool breeze.

This nice otoshi appetizer made me want to drink some sake soon.

When I wanted sake, the izakaya manager displayed these bottles of sake on the counter top in front of me. Wow! It was very nice to see these bottles. The participants of the party could drink any sake they wanted, and I of course wanted to taste all of these sakes. And, so did I.

As being introduced by a gourmet information Web-site as a sake-centered izakaya, foods they offered seemed to be well-paired with sake. Look these photos. If you drink sake with these foods, they, both sake and foods, are nice. This is a synergistic effect.

And now, for something different, I am lately suffering heat of summer and I feel like I am in the hell. Are you all right in these sizzling days? When it is hot, eating watermelon really cools you down.

Jul 20, 2010

Drinking with ladies is fun

Last Friday, I attended a party at izakaya Oumi in Tachikawa City for its repeat customers.

The party organizers, after obtaining the understanding from the manager of this izakaya, made this party such a wonderful event that we could drink all the sake stored in the big refrigerator at this izakaya. However, the time was limited to two hours and it was virtually impossible for us (we were about 15 people) to empty all of the several tens of 1,800-ml bottles.

Nevertheless, after paying only 4,000 yen as the entrance fee to this event, we could drink our favorite sake to our heart's content. So, this event seemed like a heaven on earth for sake lovers. They had probably more non-pasteurized sake than pasteurized sake. I was happy since I normally prefer non-pasteurized sake.

The most favorite sake I drink this day was Tokubetsujunmai Kitajima Muroka Nama Genshu (特別純米北島無濾過生原酒). The rice variety named "Wataribune" is used to make this sake.

And, just as usual, a drunken Ichibay happily enjoyed drinking with pretty women, a ha ha ha ha.

Jul 17, 2010

Finally, went out for drinking Saturday

Last Saturday, I first intended not to go out for drinking. Instead, I planned to stay at home and work on my jobs.

Friends who went to Asakusa for drinking called me and tried hard to make me go to join them. But, I turned down their invitation. It was thought that I was to drink no alcohol that day.

However, I finally went out for dinking to Fussa, the next town.

The izakaya we visited was formerly called "Aguraya" and is now called "Lucky Sakaba." All the sake this izakaya carries are those with the brand names of "Kasen" or "Tamura," which are from Tamura Syuzoujou, a local sake brewery in Fussa City.

The woman who first became interested in going to this Lucky Sakaba was Employee A (she calls herself by this name in her blog) working for Ozawa Syuzou. "Is it all right for an employee who is working for Ozawa Syuzou to benefit Tamura Syuzoujou?" mischievously I asked her. "It is important to know what sake our competitor is making" was her reply. Well, it seemed to make sense.

After being seated at the counter, we first ordered "Kasen Tokubetsu Honjozo Nama" (嘉泉特別本醸造生), and fresh young ginger sticks and some skewers of yakitori to be paired. It is quite a refreshing experience to drink summer nama sake while gnawing on a ginger stick.

After the nama sake, we ordered Tamura (田むら). There are two types of Tamura from Tamura Syuzoujou. The difference is the rice to be used. This time, we ordered the Tamura made from Yamasake No.4 rice (山酒4号). This sake looked a bit cloudy and I believe ordinary Tamura is not cloudy. So, I wondered if this was a special version of Tamura, and asked a waiter why the sake was cloudy. According to his explanation, the glass that was quite chilled, and the chilled glass made the sake look cloudy. But actually, the sake was obviously cloudy. Anyway, it was good sake.

Then, we had Kiwametsuke Karakuchi (極め付け辛口). It was apparently regular sake. Low-priced sake from this brewery is also nice. A rich and complex taste often found in low-priced sake is difficult to find in high-end ginjo sake. Lately, I often have experiences in which I really think regular sake is better than ginjo sake.

When we drank Honjozo Maboroshi-no-sake (本醸造幻の酒), I felt I was quite drunken. So, we quitted drinking and went home.

This Lucky Sakaba seems to offer skewered foods such as yakitori as main selling menus, and their foods and sake are reasonably priced and nice. For example, 300-ml bottle of Kasen Honjozo Nama was 900 yen.

Finally, at the end of this post, I present the movie of the Tamura Syuzoujou. This movie was taken in October of 2009.

Jul 5, 2010

Smoked tofu of Mamagotoya

I was given Smoked Tofu, a new piece of merchandise from Sawanoi Mamagotoya.

I tasted it, of course, with Sawanoi sake.

They say the smoked tofu tastes like cream cheese. However, it feels somehow gritty, which tells you that this is not cheese but tofu. Well-balanced flavoring with soy sauce and miso paste, as well as use of sake lees as an ingredient, has made this food a nice companion of sake.

The sake I drank with this smoked tofu was Sawanoi Honjo Nama.

Jul 1, 2010

Yakumo Shrine and Gyokudo Museum

Yesterday, I suddenly went out to Yakumo Shrine in Kawai, Okutama Town. There was no special event at the shrine yesterday. In the spring, I visited this shrine to see shishimai lion dances, local performing arts in this vicinity, and then, I was impressed by the atmosphere of the shrine and I liked being there.

When leaving home yesterday, it was not raining, but it began to drizzle around the time I got to the shrine. There was not a soul on the premises of the shrine, and I could only hear the quiet rainfall. This place has such a quiet and nice atmosphere that I want to visit this place from time to time.

After leaving the shrine, I visited Gykudo Museum close to Mitake Station, which is the next to Kawai Station. This museum was built after the famous Japanese-style painter Gyokudo Kawai passed away, owning and exhibiting many of his works.

Until I visited the museum I did not know the fact the day of my visit falls on the deathday of the painter. In commemoration of his deathday, I was given two postcards, on which his works were printed. One of these works was "Natsu-kawa" (or "Summer river"), which I liked very much. This painting was actually exhibited in the museum.

"Postcard of Natsu-kawa"

In the picture, five anglers are fishing in the river occupying their favorite points. Maybe, they are fishing sweetfish?

All what have been painted are a dry riverbed blindingly shining in the summer sun, clear water, and the anglers.

In my childhood, I used to go to the river for bathing and fishing. This picture reminded me such old days. The river in my town was just like that in this picture.

Sitting on the riverside, I used to watch the water flowing absent-mindedly. Then, I often felt unsure whether the river was flowing or the ground where I was sitting on was being drifted. It seemed that this picture could reproduce even such dizzy feeling.

Well, when I fully satisfied my eyes with paintings of Gyokudo, my tongue, in turn, demanded to be satisfied.

The Japanese restaurant Imoutoya (http://www.sawanoi-sake.com/imoutoya/index.html) is just next door to Gykudo Museum. It is run by Ozawa Syuzou, a sake brewery known for its brand name Sawanoi. I ordered the sake tasting set Ki Sho Ten Ketsu (起承転結), which included four sakes from the brewery: Sawane (さわ音), Honjozo Nama (本醸造生), Soten (蒼天), and Daiginjo (大吟醸), and I also had a lunch set.

Of the four sakes, I like Sawane best. Its high acidity makes the sake refreshing in this time of year (Sawane is limited to the summer season, though).