Tokyo Jizake Strolling (All Nippon Product Fair)

By Ryuji Takahashi

“All Nippon Product Fair,” titled traveling through Japan in three days, was organized by the Central Federation of Societies of Commerce and Industry, and held over three days in the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo in the Sunshine City building complex from November 19-21.
This product fair held one day longer than last year after the state-of-emergency declaration was divided into three sections. The food court sold food products, Japanese sake and beer; the souvenir section like tourist spots sold crafts and processed foods, and the farm booth sold agricultural and processed products. Many products are sold only in their production region, thus visitors packed the exhibition booths. Approximately twenty sake breweries exhibited sake products at the food court, where the Ginjosai Ambassador Award 2021 was held concurrently to rank each sake product divided into Ginjo and Junmai categories. Each sake brewery invited customers passing by to sample their sake products for only 100 JPY per cup in a vigorous PR effort to compete for the Gold Prize.
As a result, the Gold Prize for the Junmai category was awarded to Tokubestu Junmai by Nanbu Bijin, the Silver Prize to Kimoto Junmai by Kunimare Brewery, and the Bronze Prize to Junmai Dry of Hananomai Brewery.
For the Ginjo Category, the Gold Prize was awarded to Junmai Daiginjo of Tada Tada (Takeuchi Brewery), the Silver Prize to Daiginjo of Nanbu Bijin, and the Bronze Prize to Junmai Ginjo of Kunimare Brewery.
In this manner, real-time feedback received onsite from real consumers was helpful to sake producers as well.
Most importantly, many booths in the food court served delicious foods enticing sake drinkers. Prices dropped on the last day with enthusiastic pitches to sell off the remaining food products, encouraging potential buyers to loosen their purse strings, another thrill of attending product fairs. Every few hundred meters, exhibitors offered fifty percent off, leaving no choice to shoppers but to buy. My paper bag was filled with spare ribs, chicken karaage (deep-fried), dim sum, etc. It was interesting to see booths advertising voluminous meat products on large posters, banner flags, and various other mediums lined with customers. Desserts were sold concurrently along with a project that ranked Japanese sweets from nationwide. Confectionaries exhibited products from nationwide in an effort to ignite the next new dessert boom.

The top ranking dessert for 2021 was the baked kolone from Okinawa prefecture. The “Okinawa Nama Kolone” is an original kolone pastry filled with a cream made from an Okinawan fruit. Other renowned confectionaries from each prefecture lined the booths with enticing confections, an impressive line-up that hinted at a possibility of a future boom. More visitors attended this lively product fair than the previous year. With the threat of the coronavirus completely eliminated, I anticipate a new boom based on this exhibition.


#beef #contest #covid19 #daiginjo #jizake #junmai #kura #master #paris #saga #sakagura #sake #tokyo #wagyu


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (A Journey of Sampling Delicious Foods from Saga Prefecture)

By Ryuji Takahashi

The state of emergency is now lifted nationwide, with sake and food events held in various regions.
Meanwhile, “Omi City’s Delicious Specialties and Quality Consumer Goods Fair” was held at the shopping center Viva City Heiwado in Hikone city, Shiga prefecture for twenty-five days starting October 20. This event (food fair) is where locals rediscover delicious foods and beverages of Saga prefecture, while visitors newly discover the local specialties of Saga prefecture, a fun food fair that showcase various food products.
Omi Beef (Japanese Black Wagyu Beef) raised in Saga prefecture is representative of Japan. Omi Beef is said to have sparked Naosuke Ii’s Sakuradamon Incident. One of the top three major Wagyu brands representative of Japan, Omi Beef not affordable for the general consumer’s dinner table is casually sold as processed food in croquettes (beef and mashed potato patties breaded and deep-fried), minced meat cutlet, and curry bread at this food fair. An opportunity to enjoy this beef brand is great news.
Saga prefecture offers essential flavors from Lake Biwa (“Mother Lake”) such as sweetfish, Biwa salmon, Funazushi (fermented sushi). Not to get off topic, funazushi is fermented sushi, significantly different from the general nigiri (hand-pressed) sushi or rolled sushi. Protein in the crucian carp turns into amino acid, releasing a distinct, cheese-like fermentation odor. A divisive food product that people either like or dislike, funazushi is one of the delicacies paired with sake that is representative of Japan.
Japanese sake is required to enjoy funazushi and other fish from Lake Biwa (“Mother Lake”). This year, Echi Shuzo introduced previously exhibited mainly their “ TOMITSURU Junmai-Daiginjo Pleasure Omen” awarded the Platinum Prize in Kura Master 2021 held in France; along with “TOMITSURU Tokubetsu-Junmai Chikurin” awarded the Grand Gold Prize.
I previously organized an event that paired culinary flavors from Lake Biwa (“Mother Lake”) in Saga prefecture with sake produced in Aichi prefecture. I recall both Funazushi (fermented sushi) and boiled sweet fish were very compatible with rich sake from Aichi prefecture, rare in Eastern Japan. Sake with fruity or subtle flavors may likely be overshadowed by the strong flavors from Lake Biwa (“Mother Lake”), full of vitality.
Since regional culture and local sake flavors are developed together over a long period of time, local foods are perhaps best rediscovered when consumed with local sake, another recommendation to enjoy food fairs. As the coronavirus pandemic mostly subsided, food fairs will resume in various regions. Since travel across prefectures is now permitted, visiting various regions is surely fun. On the other hand, why not search for delicious local specialties for the first time in a long time?


 緊急事態宣言が全国的に解除になり、各地で酒や食のイベントが開催されるようになってきた。そんな中、10月20日から25日の期間、滋賀県彦根市に有るショッピングセンタービバシティ平和堂にて「近江うまいもんええもん市」が開催された。このイベント(物産展)は、地元の人は滋賀県の美味しい食ベ物や飲み物を再発見出来、他県の人は滋賀県の魅力を新発見できる楽しさ満載の物産展である。まず、滋賀県と言えば近江牛である。近江牛とは黒毛和種の和牛が滋賀県内で飼育されたものであり、井伊直弼の桜田門外の変のきっかけになったという俗説があるくらいの日本を代表するブランド牛である。三大和牛の一つとも言われるくらいのブランド牛なので、なかなか庶民の食卓には並びにくいが、この物産展では、コロッケやメンチカツやカレーパンとして気軽に買える加工品として売られていた。少しでもこのブランド牛を味わえるのは嬉しい限りである。そして滋賀県と言えば琵琶湖の味覚である。小鮎・ビワマス・鮒寿司は滋賀県の味覚として欠かせないだろう。少し話が脱線するが、この鮒寿司とは、一般的な寿司屋の握りや巻物の寿司とは大きく違い、どちらかと言えば発酵食品の仲間である。鮒のたんぱく質がアミノ酸へと変化したチーズの様な独特の発酵臭があり、人によって好き嫌いは大きく分かれる食品だが、酒のつまみとしては日本の誇る珍味の一つである。鮒寿司に関わらず、琵琶湖の魚を味わうに必要なのが日本酒である。今回は、以前も紹介した愛知酒造が出店しており、フランスクラマスターのプラチナ賞を受賞した「富鶴 純米大吟醸紫雲」や、同じくフランスクラマスター、プラチナ賞受賞・スペイン国際酒類コンクール、グランドゴールド賞受賞の「富鶴 特別純米竹林」などをメインに販売が行われた。私は以前、滋賀県の琵琶湖の味覚と愛知酒造の酒を合わせるイベントをおこなった事があるが、東日本側には少ない重厚な愛知酒造の酒に鮒寿司や小鮎の甘露煮が非常に合うのを体験している。フルーティな酒や線の細い味わいの酒では琵琶湖の生命力あふれる力強い味覚には負けてしまうだろう。その土地の文化と酒の味わいは長年一緒に育ってきたのであるから、地の物は地の酒で飲むべきだと再認識出来るのも物産展の楽しみ方かもしれない。コロナ禍が収まりつつあり、今後も各地方で物産展が再開されるだろう。県をまたぐ移動が出来るようになり、各地に旅行も良いが、久々に地元のうまいもんええもんを探してみてはどうだろうか。

#beef #contest #covid19 #daiginjo #jizake #junmai #kura #master #paris #saga #sakagura #sake #tokyo #wagyu


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Kura Master 2021 Award Ceremony)

By Ryuji Takahashi

The Kura Master 2021 contest for Japanese sake, Shochu and Awamori was held at the Hôtel de Crillon in Paris on September 20.
Japan was under a state of emergency at the time due to the coronavirus pandemic, so fewer breweries from Japan attended the award ceremony compared to the previous year. However, the award ceremony was live-streamed on YouTube for anyone to view.
The Platinum Prize is awarded to each division, one President’s Prize, and five Jury Prizes are presented on the day of the award ceremony. The President’s Prize was awarded to Sawanoi Junmai Daiginjo by Ozawa Shuzo Co., Ltd. in Tokyo. Echi Shuzo in Saga prefecture, whom I serve as consultant, won the Platinum Award in both the Junmai-Daiginjo and Junmai Divisions and attended the award ceremony in France.
The Echi Shuzo garnered the Jury Prize, an impressive feat. I was proud a small brewery I’ve worked with for several years won a Jury Prize they can now use confidently as a powerful tool in their PR efforts. Echi Shuzo now stands at the starting line to compete on the global stage for the survival of Japanese sake. I’m very happy for Echi Shuzo, and hope this prize is an opportunity for the brewery to reveal a fresh new business concept in their upcoming sake products. On the other hand, the award ceremony held while Japan was under the state of emergency may have appeared odd to viewers who observed the careful precautions enacted during the Tokyo Olympics.
Participants attending the award ceremony were required to show proof of two COVID vaccinations. Award recipients removed their masks to receive their awards by hand with commemorative photos taken in close proximity. Not to say close proximity is bad, however, viewers were watching the award ceremony online. How viewers around the world perceived this award ceremony through their respective culture and way of thinking is unknown. Perhaps, the organizers might have considered the cautious approach taken by Japanese, and why some award recipients refrained from attending the award ceremony in France considering the timing (socio-political climate exercising caution against the coronavirus pandemic).
Some may claim confidence in the countermeasures enacted to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, while others may say the threat of infection to the coronavirus is behind us. However, quarantine is required upon returning to Japan. As the state of emergency declared across Japan was lifted, Japanese sake breweries upon their return from the award ceremony in France faced a delayed start to participate in Sake Day on October 1 and Autumn Sake Sale, etc., as restaurants resumed sales of alcoholic beverages. To ensure their timely start upon return to Japan, perhaps more thorough measures to prevent infection were necessary for the award ceremony in France.
Echi Shuzo, a brewery run by a married couple who attended the award ceremony together, also faced delays in their sales plans upon their return. Although some differences are observed between regions in their respective precautions against the coronavirus pandemic, perhaps, it was too soon to exercise minimal precautions during the award ceremony. Next year, I look forward to and pray the award ceremony will see attendees laugh out loud freely as they enjoy samples and discuss business together.



#awamori #contest #covid19 #daiginjo #jizake #junmai #kura #master #paris #sakagura #sake #tokyo


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Sake Brewed during the Coronavirus Pandemic)


By Ryuji Takahashi
At the time this article was being written, over half of the Japanese population had received the second COVID-19 shot. As the number of cases started to decline, the state of emergency declaration was soon to be lifted in various areas. Restaurants and liquor shops were looking forward to serving alcoholic beverages soon. The state of emergency declaration being lifted does not mean the number of customers returning will go back to pre-pandemic levels. The corporate year-end parties will not be as large-scale compared to the past. Therefore, liquor shop sales will not easily return to pre-pandemic levels either. However, customers can soon gather openly to enjoy sake together in small groups, perhaps even celebrate Sake Day on October 1. The “Hiya-oroshi, Autumn Edition of Draft Sake” should be delicious right now.
In addition to the summertime when Japanese sake does not typically sell much, the coronavirus further hindered Japanese sake sales. More than a few sake breweries had said they would not release limited summer edition sake in magnum bottles for this season. However, the limited fall edition sake “Hiya-oroshi” already released by various breweries were bottled in 720 ml and 1,800 ml (magnum) bottles. General consumers, liquor shops, and sake manufacturers are each feeling the impact from the coronavirus pandemic. In this issue, we introduce the sake “Kanemasu Red Label Draft Sake: Two Summers Over, Limited Autumn Edition Release,” gradually deepening in umami flavor over the last two years while awaiting release in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
In this series, we’ve written several times about “Kanemasu Brewery” in Niigata prefecture, characteristic for their expertise in aging sake deliciously. Their representative brand, Kanemasu Red Label, is brewed using the Hashira Shochu Brewing Method from the Edo Period (1603-1867). This shochu brewing method stipulates pouring rice shochu into sake to ensure the sake will not spoil over the ten or more days required for transportation from Kansai to Edo. The Hashira Shochu Brewing Method was officially invented when this practice was discovered to age the sake just right upon arrival in Edo. This is the first shochu brewing method that adds alcohol to sake, like Honjozo. Originally, Kanemasu Brewery distilled whiskey following World War II. Therefore, the pot still distiller in the brewery is still used today to distill rice and sweet potato shochu.
This shochu brewing method was used to add shochu and complete the Japanese sake Red Label. Even the regular sake is aged for a year before shipping. “Two Summers Over, Limited Autumn Edition” is released once very two years. The undiluted sake aged for nearly two years is thoroughly aged with a smooth aftertaste. Industries associated with the sake industry suffered greatly during the last two years. Unfortunately, some restaurants and liquor shops closed their doors and businesses. I look forward to enjoying this sake aged in the brewery during the coronavirus pandemic over the last two years, as I pray for the beginning of a new era for the sake industry and for my sake industry colleagues to resume their businesses.


この記事を書いている時は、日本は2回のワクチン接種完了者が国民の半数を超え、感染者数が下がり始め、各地の緊急事態宣言解除が目前となり、飲食店や酒販店は、間もなく訪れる酒類提供の時を今か今かと待ちわびている最中である。もし解除になっても全ての飲食店の客数が元に戻るわけではない。年末の忘年会も今まで見たいな大規模なものは行われないだろう。それに伴い、酒販店も簡単には売り上げは元に戻らないだろう。しかし、少人数なら堂々と飲食店で日本酒が飲めるようになり、10月1日の日本酒の日を迎えることが出来るかもしれない。そして、今最高にうまい酒は「ひやおろし」だろう。夏はただでさえ日本酒が売れない時期に加えコロナで、一層日本酒が売れなかった。今期の夏酒に関し一升瓶は出しませんという酒蔵も少なくなかった。しかし、既に各蔵で発売が始まっている秋の季節酒「ひやおろし」は皆、通常通りの4合瓶と1升瓶を発売している。一般消費者も酒販店もメーカーもコロナ禍の終了を感じているのである。今回は、この2年続いたコロナ禍の中、密かに旨味を蓄えながら発売を待っていた酒「金升 朱(あか)ラベル 二夏越え ひやおろし」を紹介したい。何度か、この場で紹介させていただいた新潟県の酒蔵「金升酒造」。この蔵の特徴は熟成の上手さであり、代表銘柄の金升朱ラベルは、江戸時代の製法である柱焼酎仕込みで造られている。柱焼酎仕込みとは、酒を腐らせない為に、日本酒の中に米焼酎を入れ関西から江戸に十数日かけ酒を運んだ際、江戸に到着したら程良く熟成し非常に美味しい酒に変化していたことをきっかけに生まれた製法である。いわゆる、本醸造の様なアルコール添加酒の最初の製法だ。元々、戦後ウイスキーも造っていた酒蔵なので、蔵内にポットスチルという蒸留器があり、上手い米焼酎や芋焼酎を現在も造っている。この焼酎醸造技術を生かし完成したのが、米焼酎添加の日本酒、朱ラベルである。この酒は、通常商品でも1年は熟成させてから出荷する。そして2年に一度、「二夏越え ひやおろし」が発売される。二年近く寝かした原酒は、しっかり熟成感が有り、まろやかで後味がスッキリしている。この2年で酒関係業界は非常に苦しんだ。残念ながら店を閉めた飲食店や酒販店もあった。廃業や休業に追い込まれた酒蔵もあった。コロナ禍の2年間を酒蔵で見続けてきたこの酒を新たな酒の時代の幕開けと沢山の酒関係の仲間の再起を祈り、この秋は飲みたいと私は思う。  

#contest #covid19 #jizake #kura #master #nigori #sakagura #sake #tokyo


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Kura Master 2021)

By Ryuji Takahashi
Recently, the Japanese sake contest “Kura Master” held annually in France for French competitors announced the 2021 winners of the “5th Kura Master.” The sake contest held annually in France since 2017 is judged by judges based in Europe consisting of members holding the prestigious title “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” (MOF) bestowed by the French government, top sommeliers and bar men of first-class hotels across France, members of the “Le Club Des Cavistes Du Japon” (an organization of independent liquor shops directly importing wine, champagne, and food products from foreign production regions without importers acting as a middleman), culinary school associates, and professionals from the hospitality and food industries.
Kura Master is a sake competition offering an opportunity to pair sake entries with various food products, to promote Japanese sake products to France and the European market through contests, sampling events, and various events; and for small sake breweries to find new sales routes. In pursuit of such opportunities, Echi Sake Brewery of Shiga prefecture (whose operation I help manage) submitted entries in the Junmai Daiginjo and Junmai categories. This brewery with hardly any brand recognition won the top platinum award in both categories with 5 entries selected, the highest number of entries selected in both categories. Echi Sake Brewery’s path to victory was not an easy one.
Echi Sake Brewery visited my sake shop approximately three years ago and consulted me about how to revitalize their business and what type of sake to produce to enhance their brand recognition despite not having any budget to develop new products or sufficient help. As I listened and sampled different categories of their sake products, I gradually started to wonder if the sake brewery was not aware of the high potential of their own sake products. Their sake products stored for years started to produce a sophisticated umami flavor they were not aware of. I suggested they rebrand and promote their sake products in storage and to verbalize their sake flavors, which took three whole years to accomplish.
Changing the brewery’s logo also took time. The brewery required some time to get on board with the decision to change their long-established logo. The brewery’s sake was resold as premium sake targeting their intended pinpoint demographic. Also, I convinced the Echi Sake Brewery interested in jumping on the fresh sake bandwagon to verbalize and promote their delicious aged sake flavor and their local long-established reputation, which took three years to accomplish. These efforts helped to sell their sake in storage and the brewery to win the highest recognition in 2 categories of this year’s Kura Master competition. I feel Echi Sake Brewery is finally standing at the start line. I wish for the brewery to please keep working hard to survive the market. As soon as one gives up on a challenge is when one’s dream ends in my opinion.


先日、毎年フランスで行われる日本酒のコンテスト「Kura Master」の2021年の受賞酒の発表があった。このクラマスター、2017年から開催されているフランスで行うフランス人の為の日本酒コンクールで、フランス人を中心としたヨーロッパ在住の審査員で行われる。フランス国家が最高職人の資格を証明するMOFの保有者をはじめ、フランスの一流ホテルのトップソムリエやバーマン、カービスト、またレストラン、ホテル、料理学校関係者など飲食業界のプロフェッショナルで運営されている。コンクールや試飲会、各種イベントを通して、マリアージュを体験する機会を創り、フランスをはじめとした欧州市場へ日本酒などをアピールする場を酒蔵などに提供してくれるので小さい酒蔵としては新たな販路を見出すチャンスを貰えるコンクールと言えるだろう。そんな、チャンスを求めて今回、純米大吟醸酒部門と純米酒部門に酒を出品したのが、私が運営を手伝っている滋賀県の愛知酒造である。お世辞にも日本で知名度があるとは言えないこの酒蔵がなんと今回、両部門で最高位のプラチナ賞を受賞し尚且つ、2部門とも最高の5本に選出された。この受賞に至るまでは簡単な道のりでは無かった。3年程前に、私が経営する酒販店に蔵元が訪れ、どうやったら酒蔵に活気が出るのか、どの様な酒を造って行けば認知度が上がるのか相談され、新商品を造る予算も無いし、人手も足りないとのことだった。サンプルを数種飲ませてもらい話を聞いていくうちに、蔵元自身が自分の蔵の酒のポテンシャルに気付いていないのではないかと思う様になった。売れていない数年在庫となっている酒に味が乗り始め複雑な旨味が生まれていることに気付いていなかったのだ。私からの提案は、在庫をリブランディングしてアピールする場所を変える事と、自社の酒の味を言語化出来るようにしましょうという事だった。それには丸3年かかった。蔵のロゴの変更にも時間がかかった。長年使ってきたロゴの変更には蔵元もなかなか決断が出来なかった。酒も特定名称の変更をして再販売し、ピイポイントで狙い撃ちの販売を行った。そして、フレッシュ酒の流行りに乗りたい蔵元を説得して蔵の熟成の上手さを売りにする事と昔からの地元評価を大事にしつつ、それをちゃんと言語化してPR出来るようになるまで3年かかったのだ。しかし、そのおかげで在庫として蔵に眠っていた酒は売れ、今回のクラマスター2部門で最高の評価を得ることとなった。やっとスタートラインに立つ事が出来たと私は思っている。生き残るには動き続けよ。挑戦を諦めた時点で、夢は終わるのだと私は思っている。
#contest #covid19 #jizake #kura #master #nigori #sakagura #sake #tokyo


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (State of Emergency Declaration)

By Ryuji Takahashi

A state of emergency was declared in Tokyo from July 12 to August 22, the fourth declared in Tokyo stopped the provision of alcohol and drove restaurants and liquor stores into yet another difficult situation. Izakaya restaurants of major restaurant chains closed one after another, significantly impacting the sales of commercial sake products sold by liquor stores.
Various speculations and postings online criticized the city of Tokyo and the Japanese government for hosting the Olympic Games, while other posts opposed such criticisms, an indication of mounting frustration and fatigue felt by the Japanese public. Eventually, a poster criticizing The Liberal Democratic Party of Japan and KOMEITO (New Clean Government Party) were created and distributed among restaurants. Small restaurants are compensated with cooperation money for distributing the posters, in some cases making more money with their restaurants closed than open. This difference in earnings also caused frustration, prompting the Japanese government and the city of Tokyo to change how cooperation money is divided. The liquor store I operate also saw a decrease in business transactions with restaurants. Business is slow at the moment due to the request from local government to reduce business hours.
However, I see life like a card game - we each strategize our win using the hand we’re dealt. When opening a restaurant for example, no one is guaranteed an ideal location, size, or rent. In fact, most of these factors will not go your way. However, we rack our brain and think hard despite our less-than-optimal conditions to create a renowned restaurant. Not only does changing cards not guarantee a better hand, it could even worsen your hand. However, we must try our luck anyway. Criticizing the dealer for dealing a bad hand doesn’t help. Similarly, no one knows the correct strategy to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Needless to say, no entrepreneur wants to end up having to close the door of his/her own restaurant or company. However, policies improved to prevent this outcome should not put off your consumers either. Every entrepreneur is trying hard to fight this unprecedented fight against the coronavirus. Atami city, Shizuoka prefecture suffered a notable decline in tourists due to a landslide on top of the coronavirus pandemic. Since there is no one to blame in this case, people have no where to direct their frustrations to, the most frustrating situation. Is politics to blame, the people who won’t comply with various requests from the local government, or the Tokyo Olympics?
What we can do for now is to set the groundwork and research various information to revitalize your business when the coronavirus pandemic ends. As I write this, now is the time and climate to “learn to be a hawk.*1”

*1 “Learning to be a hawk”: From May to June, hatched hawk chicks learn how to fly and hunt during this season and prepare to leave the nest to become independent (in other words, the timing for each entrepreneur to start preparing to “become independent”).


#Ginzan #Ichinomiya #Iwami #brewery #covid19 #jizake #nigori #sake #tokyo


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine sake and the owners)

By Ryuji Takahashi

Ichinomiya Sake Brewery is located at the entrance of the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine (Oda city, Shimane prefecture), registered as a World Heritage Site in 2007. Fastidious about their sake rice, Ichinomiya Sake Brewery uses underground water flowing from Mt. Sanbe to produce their Japanese sake brand “Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine,” the same name as the World Heritage Site. The brewery won the Gold Prize in The Annual Japan Sake Awards in 2020.

Winning the Gold Prize is a wonderful achievement. On the other hand, many brands also won the Gold Prize in past competitions. This report focuses on the Gold Prize won by the sake brand Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine because the sake by this brewery operating for 125 years since its foundation is produced by a young married couple in their twenties. Rika Asano is the wife and Master Sake Brewer. Born as the second of three daughters, Rika graduated high school and earned a degree from the Tokyo University of Agriculture, Department of Fermentation Science and Technology.

Rika went home after graduating from the university to inherit the family business, the sake brewery. She trained in how the Ichinomiya Sake Brewery produces sake under the previous “Toji” (Master Sake Brewer) before assuming the role in 2017. Her spouse Satoki Asano worked as a nurse after graduating from a university. He met and married his wife Rika after meeting her at a local izakaya, then quit his career as a nurse to embark on a new career in sake production. Just under four years into producing sake together, their second entry into a national new sake competition won them the Gold Prize for a definitive reason - Satoki’s passion to win the Gold Prize was immeasurable, says Rika. Satoki researched data and information on past sake entries that won the Gold Prize, thoroughly researched what was lacking in their own past sake entries, and implemented various efforts to reflect what he learned in their sake during the production period.

Master Sake Brewer Rika says she was a bit worried over her husband’s intense motivation. The impression of the couple is they’re humble and take their work seriously, openly sharing information about their brewery. Their passion for sake production is comparable to that of veteran brewers in my opinion. Quality sake is produced from quality water. The brewery’s website shows 80% of Japanese sake consists of water. However, their passion and diligent efforts such as continued learning, researching and analyzing data of competing sake brands considered to be of high quality, thoroughly understanding trends and measures to comply with these trends when submitting a sake entry into a competition are all reflected in their delicious sake flavor.

Although basic, some of these efforts are omitted by many sake breweries in their long-established production process. Perhaps, some sake breweries hitting a wall in their sake production may want to stop in their tracks and review their entire production process from the very beginning. I look forward to future sake produced by this young couple carefully adhere to traditions, study hard, and implement various efforts to produce delicious sake.




#Ginzan #Ichinomiya #Iwami #brewery #covid19 #jizake #nigori #sake #tokyo


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (State of Emergency)


By Ryuji Takahashi

As the coronavirus vaccination started in Japan, the light at the end of the tunnel signals an end to the coronavirus pandemic despite more people getting infected. Japan declared the third state of emergency for Tokyo, requested large facilities to suspend operations, and restaurants to stop serving alcohol and close after 08:00 PM. Telework became mainstream with less reasons for residents to venture outdoors. Compared to the initial state of emergency however, more people still crowd business districts and areas near train stations where young people gather. Since alcohol cannot be served in restaurants, young people drink alcohol purchased in convenience stores in the streets.
Assistance funds from Tokyo as compensation to businesses for cutting hours were delayed numerous times, leaving restaurants falling behind on rent and employee wages. Left with no choice but to ignore the suspension request, restaurants resumed serving alcohol and business operations late into the night. Due to this unprecedented development, restaurant owners unable to discern the right course of action had no time to wait for decisions by the city or government, gambling their survival at their own discretion. Under such trying times, it is often said “Japanese sake is increasing in demand, purchased by the general public drinking at home.” To be honest, the demand hasn’t changed. The state of emergency declared last April and May increased online drinking parties and TV programs featuring how to enjoy drinks at home.
However, sake selections are few. The frequency of purchases by regular customers slightly increased, while no new customers are coming in. Sake shops are struggling since no restaurants are placing orders. Sake breweries face the same predicament as more breweries are suspending or closing their businesses. To break through this crisis, Kanemasu Brewery of Niigata prefecture introduced a new seasonal sake product “Kamakiri-shouzu Junmai” to reaffirm the four seasons of Japan and warm the hearts of consumers. “Nomikiri” means to inspect the aging and flavor of sake produced by a brewery for bacteria, etc., that could cause the flavor to deteriorate.
Some breweries occasionally invite experts from the brewery inspection agency and regular clients to their Nomikiri, a term that originated from the act of cutting off the seal at the bottom of the brewery’s storage tank to release the sake. “Nijyuu-sisekki” (“Twenty-four Seasons”) refers to one year divided into four seasons (spring, summer, winter and fall), further divided into six micro-seasons. Because the timing overlapped with “Boushu” (June 6) at “Kamakiri-shouzu” (approximately June 5~20), the product was named “Kamakiri-shouzu Junmai.”
A gentle Ginjo aroma with a smooth palate, slightly high in alcohol content not detectable in its smooth texture. The risk of coronavirus infection must soon be eliminated for restaurants to be able to serve alcohol openly, or this seasonal sake will not be available for long, one more reason to pray the coronavirus pandemic will end very soon.

しかし、現在は酒類が悪者扱いである。常連様の買い物回数が少し増えただけで、新規の来店数は殆ど増えていない。しかも飲食店からの注文はゼロなので酒販店としては厳しい状況である。それは酒蔵も同じで、廃業・休造の酒蔵が増えている中、何とかこの状況を打開しようと、この殺伐とした中、日本の季節を再確認させてくれて、心豊かになる季節商品が発売された。それは新潟県の金升酒造の「蟷螂生(かまきりしょうず)呑み切り純米」である。呑み切りとは、酒蔵で貯蔵した酒の熟成や味わいを利き酒で把握し、劣化の原因となる菌などが発生していないか検査を行う事である。酒蔵によっては蔵内の人間だけでなく、指導機関の先生を招いたり、得意先を呼んで行う事が有る。酒蔵貯蔵タンクの下に有る栓の「呑み」を切って酒を出すことから名前が来ており、二十四節季「芒種(ぼうしゅ)」の初候七十二候の「蟷螂生(かまきりしょうず)」と時期が重なることから、「蟷螂生 呑み切り純米」としたそうだ。穏やかな吟醸香があり、角が取れまろやかで、アルコール度数が少し高めだが、それを感じさせない滑らかな味わいとなっている。コロナウイルスの脅威が去り、飲食店が酒類を堂々と提供できる時が早く来なければ本当に飲めなくなる季節酒なので、このコロナ過が早く収まることを願うばかりである。
#covid19 #daiginjo #emergency #jizake #junmai #nigori #sake #tokyo


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Sasaiwai Challenge)

By Ryuji Takahashi

Sasaiwai Sake Brewery is a locally cherished sake brewery in Niigata prefecture always taking on new challenges, boasting over 100 years of history since its foundation in 1899. This brewery is known for its “challenge brew” involving farmers, sake retail shops, and consumers to express new sake flavors from Niigata prefecture not limited to smooth and dry. Marketing strategies for cloudy sake, sake produced by kimoto method (rare in kimoto Niigata prefecture), and other innovative challenges are taken on vigorously. This fifth product was recently released.
The product name is “Sasaiwai Challenge Niten-Gonomaki.” For this challenge, two types of sake – Honjozo and Junmai – using the same sake rice and rice-polishing ratio were released at the same time. The label is illustrated with a pair of sweet pandas, reminiscent of Nio Guardians and guardian dogs. As many consumers reference the label to discern Junmai from sake with distilled alcohol added, the label seems to be asking, “Do you really dislike the flavor of Honjozo (Junmai)? Do you dislike the flavor without even sampling it? Why not sample and compare both to decide what flavor you like for yourself?
The controversy surrounding the essence of recent Japanese sake seems to evoke cult-like angry passion among some, liberal information cited by strangers, and vague opinions with some labels worded condescendingly by sake producers, etc. However, I felt this sake label with two adorable pandas show the Sasaguchi Brewery owner’s passion for the Japanese sake industry. I believe the brewery owner is suggesting customers sample sake they don’t normally drink and compare the flavor to sake they enjoy drinking and savor the difference with a smile. The sake leaflet shows the two adorable pandas, Honjozo is traditional for both sake. Those who don’t understand maybe a bit close-minded.
On the other hand, one argument reads Junmai is more popular, the same relationship between guardian dogs and Nio Guardians. This means read between the lines and understand mentally without an explanation. It’s not about distilled alcohol added sake, Junmai, or anything else explained in colorful words, but the essence of sake understood by the heart without any explanation.
It’s natural to have preferences for luxury sake brands. However, it’s such a waste to select sake simply because its junmai, Honjozo, or specifically designated sake. Also, it’s fun to take on the new challenge of discovering different flavors according to the region, sake brewery, or through this Sasaiwai Challenge. The Sasaiwai Sake Brewery’s panda, sure to continue evolving, will no doubt continue to captivate our attention.


 明治32年創業、新潟県で地元に愛される地酒中の地酒を造る笹祝酒造は100年以上の歴史を大事にしつつ、新たなチャレンジを常に行っている。笹祝酒造のチャレンジで有名なのは「challenge brew」
と題した酒造り。農家や酒販店や消費者を巻き込み淡麗辛口だけではない新潟の新たな酒を表現し続けている。にごり酒のマーケット戦略、新潟県では珍しい生酛(きもと)造りなど、革新的なチャレンジを精力的に行っている。その第五弾が先日発売された。「笹祝challenge brew 伍ノ巻」である。今回は、なんと同じ酒米・同じ精米歩合の本醸造と純米の2種類同時発売である。ラベルには、ほぼ同じ可愛いパンダのイラストが阿吽の一対になっており、仁王像や狛犬を連想させる。純米かアルコール添加かをラベル情報で判断して飲み分けている人が多い中、「本当に本醸造(純米)の味は嫌いですか?飲まず嫌いではないですか?2本飲み比べてもう一度判断しませんか。」というメッセージが込められている感じがする。昨今の日本酒の本質を巡る論争には、オカルティックな怒りとかリベラル的な他人の情報を間借りした答えの無いよく解らない意見や、メーカー側が飲み手を馬鹿にしたようなラベルが有ったりするのだが、私はこの可愛いパンダの2つのラベルに笹口蔵元の日本酒の世界に対する愛情を深く感じた。普段手を出さない酒と好きな酒を飲み比べ、その良さを笑顔で再認識出来る最善の策を蔵元は打ち出したと思っている。酒の案内書には、2頭のパンダが、互いの酒に対して、本醸造は伝統的だ。理解できない人は頭が固い。いややっぱり人気は純米だと議論をしていると書いてあった。しかしこのパンダ達は阿吽の関係である。狛犬や仁王像と同じ阿吽の関係にある。この阿吽、阿吽の呼吸などと使われる言葉だが、この意味の中には、心で感じるとか暗黙の理解といった意味が有る。アル添酒がどうとか、純米酒がどうかは、言葉で色々と語り合うものでは無い。この酒の本質である心の伝達や暗黙の理解であると思う。このパンダ達も、それを言葉で発しているわけではないのである。嗜好品の酒には好き嫌いが有って当然なのである。しかし、純米だからとか本醸造だからと特定名称で酒を選ぶのも勿体ないし、地方や酒蔵で味は全く違うのを知る事や、今回の笹祝酒造のチャレンジ酒の様に、新たな発見が出来る酒を飲み手側もチャレンジしてみるのも面白いと思う。今後も変化を続けるであろう笹祝酒造のパンダに今後も目が離せない。

#covid19 #daiginjo #jizake #junmai #nigori #sake #tokyo


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Yoshinoya’s Original Sake)

By Ryuji Takahashi

Any Japanese national is familiar with the beef bowl chain, Yoshinoya Co., Ltd. Founded in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district in 1899, Yoshinoya since relocated to the Tsukiji Market (currently closed since the market relocated to the Toyosu area). The restaurant chain was named after its founder Eikochi Matsuda from Yoshino town, Noda village, Nishinari district, Osaka prefecture (currently Yoshino town, Fukushima ward, Osaka prefecture). Renowned for low prices and speedy service competitive against other fast food restaurants, Yoshinoya is a popular restaurant chain representative of the economical and speedy fast food sector of today’s food service industry. A global restaurant chain, Yoshinoya serves its signature beef bowls in China, Malaysia, Singapore, U.S., etc.
Depending on the time of day and restaurant location, Yoshinoya serves sake like an izakaya restaurant, popular as a casual place to enjoy sake economically among young customers and businessmen. The beef bowl chain serves Honjozo sake from Hakuro Brewery in Nagaoka city, Niigata prefecture for over twenty-five years. Sake brewing rice “Gohyakumangoku” from Niigata prefecture is used to prepare koji rice, developed as nama-chozo (sake pasteurized only once), capitalizing on the flavor of draft sake to produce “Yoshinoya’s Honjozo Nama-Chozo.” Yoshinoya’s original sake is characteristic for its koji aroma, original umami flavor from rice, refreshing with a light palate, versatile sake compatible with beef and suitable for pairing with any menu selection.

Here is how sake connoisseurs can savor sake with beef bowl as recommended by a sake brewer:
① First, take a small sip of cold sake. The right level of acidity stimulates the appetite.

② Take a bite of beef
Savor the concentrated beef flavor, and then continue onto the next glass of sake. Repeat several times.

③ Sprinkle sliced red ginger pieces on the beef. Sliced ginger adds saltiness and acidity to the beef abundant in sweet and umami flavors.
Season with Hachimi Japanese peppers (Japanese chili pepper blended of eight spices) as needed.

④ Savor some beef, then chase with cold sake. Enjoy all five senses of the slightly bitter sake flavor left on the palate (sweetness, saltiness, sourness, bitterness, and savory flavors).
Pickled vegetables and kimchi are recommended in between.

“Yoshinoya’s Honjozo Nama-Chozo” will be released this spring. Since dining out is discouraged in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, Yoshinoya’s long-standing takeout service with short waiting time offers a competitive advantage. Some areas offer delivery services without the need to pick-up the food yourself, a service welcomed by female customers who may feel hesitant to enter a restaurant alone. Why not take advantage of this opportunity to order takeout, enjoy sake, and rediscover the delicious flavors of Yoshinoya beef bowls with sake?

 日本人なら誰でも知っている牛丼屋と言えば吉野家だろう。吉野家は、1899年(明治32年)に東京・日本橋で創業し、その後築地に移転(現在は市場の豊洲移転により閉店)。創業者・松田栄吉が大阪府西成郡野田村字吉野(現在の大阪市福島区吉野)の出身だったことから屋号が吉野家になったとのこと。低価格と他のファストフード店と比べても一線を画す提供スピードが話題になり、低価格路線の外食産業における代表的なチェーン店のひとつとして今も人気である。そして現在では、海外にも出店しており、中国やマレーシア、シンガポールやアメリカ等でも吉野家の牛丼を食べることが出来る。吉野家では店舗と時間によるが、居酒屋感覚で酒を飲むことが出来る。【吉呑み】などと言われ、気軽に安く飲めることもあり、若者やサラリーマンの間で人気である。そして吉野家で25年以上使われている日本酒が新潟県長岡市の柏露(はくろ)酒造の本醸造酒である。麹米には新潟県生まれの酒造好適米「五百万石」を使用し、ファストフードという業態を加味し、生酒の風味を生かせる生貯蔵で牛皿に合う日本酒として開発され完成したのが「吉野家 本醸造生貯蔵酒」である。この酒は、ふんわりと香る麹の香りと米本来の旨味、そしてキレの良い軽快な味わいが売りで、牛皿との相性は勿論こと、どんな料理にでも合わせられる万能酒である。酒蔵が勧める通の楽しみ方が、
この「吉野家 本醸造生貯蔵酒」が今春から一般販売されることになった。コロナ過で外食をしにくい昨今、吉野家は昔からテイクアウトをやっており、店内であまり待たされること無く、持ち帰りが出来るという利点がある。しかも地域によっては出前サイトに掲載されており、店舗まで行く必要が無いので、今まで一人で入店するのに足踏みしていた女性にも嬉しい話である。これを機に、牛丼・牛皿をテイクアウトして、この酒で楽しんで、吉野家の良さを再認識してみてはどうだろうか。

#covid19 #daiginjo #jizake #junmai #nigori #sake #tokyo


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