Featured Brewery & Sake !!
Chiran Distillery Hotaru Sweet Potato Shochu (Fire Fly) !! Kagoshima, Japan
Honjozo Nigori Sake - Sacred Mist !!
For those of you familiar with Japanese geography, I will tell you what we covered in 9 days ?
Tokyo Fukushima Okayama Tottori Tokushima Nagoya Tokyo Nagoya Fukuoka Iki Island Kumamoto Osaka Niigata Hakone.
I know what you are saying . . . this is NOT possible . . . alas, here we are ! Tosh had a separate route that included more Northern Tohoku areas. Instead of going to Okayama, Tottori, and Tokushima, Tosh went North to Iwate to visit the Tsukinowa Brewery, and to Ibaraki to visit the Ishioka Brewery.
Thanks to all the breweries that so kindly hosted ME again . . . albeit it only for a few hours . . . Hakuyou Brewery (Hakuyou, Rising Dragon), Senkoma Brewery (Colt, Elements, Way of Sake, and White River), Itano Brewery (Mythic Goblin), Miyashita Brewery (Sunshine Country, Treasure Ship), Nakagawa Brewery (Field Crane, Six Circles, Pure Grain), Housui Brewery (Fragrant Water, Old Mountain), Iki Distillery (True Beauty, Island Dreams, and Ancient Greatness).
The welcome and the meals were UNBELIEVABLE !@$@! Please see the attached photos.
I would also like to extend a BIG thank you to some of the new breweries and distilleries we visited, especially the Kobayashi Family who runs the Fukugao Brewery in Niigata. Here is the picture of Director Kobayashi with his daughter Ellie. We hope to see them often at our Sake Events in the future !
A little side note. Ellie is a HUGE fan of the American pop-culture . . . I think she knows more about the fine details of the TV Show Desperate Housewives than most of us would like to admit. She has read somewhere that Christina Aguilera likes sake. She would like nothing more than to present Christina with a fine bottle of her own creation. Does anyone know how to make this happen ? If so, please contact us !
I leave for the Narita Airport in about 3 hours . . . it is 3:30 AM, and I have hardly slept in the last 49 hours . . . partying too hard in Fukuoka . . . our most sincerest gratitude to Koichi-san and Ike-chan for a yet another AMAZING run of endless partying in Hakata !
So we boarded our bus at the Hakata Terminal . . . $40 one way, cash only . . . dang . . . We were told 1.5 hours maximum to get there.
3.5 hours later, there we were in the Hitoyoshi Region of the Legendary Land of Higo - the Kumamoto Prefecture, the Domain of Lord Hosokawa and his folklorish wife, Gracia.
As many of you may already know, the Japanese REALLY do NOT like to use air conditioning . . . especially when it is not that hot outside. However, even when it is not that hot OUTSIDE, the INSIDES of vehicles can get QUITE HOT, with NO ventilation combined with brutal and constant sunlight . . .
Of course, none of this bothers the locals . . . but the entire time, we were drenched in our suits, sweating like 2 Georgia hogs kept prisoner in a moving animal pen, getting us ready for slaughter.
Background on the Region:
The tragic love story between Lord Hosokawa and Lady Gracia Hosokawa is ABSOLUTELY legendary . . . a true tear-jerker.
A Japanese woman herself, she was one of the early converts to Christianity, the fact that put much angst on her husband Lord Tadaoki Hosokawa. Back then, Christians were persecuted and simply killed because they were seen as the pawns of the Portuguese looking to colonize Japan. (Recent discoveries of letters from Portuguese missionaries in Japan at the time written to the Vatican give much credence to this.) It was only Lord Hosokawas legendary love for his wife, as well as his temper, loyalty to his masters, and fighting skills that kept the shifting authorities at bay and kept her safe.
When the time came for the ultimate battle between the forces of the Toyotomi Family and the Tokugawa Family, back in the early, early 1600s, Lord Hosokawa chose to be on the side of the Tokugawa Family ? a wise choice, since they went on to establish a dynasty lasting over 260 years.
Learning of Lord Hosokawas choice, the Toyotomi Forces took Lady Hosokawa as their prisoner and a hostage. So that her husband can fight without regrets and hesitation, she had one of her vassals kill her before the battle . . . she would have killed herself, but her Christian faith prohibited her from doing so.
As predicted, Lord Hosokawas fierce fights on behalf of the future shogun (and to avenge his wifes death) are legendary. Upon victory of the Tokugawa Forces, Lord Hosokawas stock rose considerably, eventually making him the Lord of the Kumamoto Region.
Kumamoto is also famous, as it turns out, for its RICE SHOCHU, or as they call it, KUMA SHOCHU. To make matters confusing, the KUMA on KUMAMOTO ? the name of the place ? is NOT the same as KUMA the SHOCHU.) Along with Scotch, Bordeaux, Satsuma, Champaign, and Iki, Kuma has received the WTO (World Food Organization)s geographical distinction ? that is, the goods produced in those regions are so unique and distinct that only the goods produced in that region can bear its name.
Meeting with the Director of the Takada Distillery:
Mr. Takada, the Director of the Takada Distillery came to greet us at the bus stop . . . it was a hut and a post where busses come and stop. A very nice, bi-spectacled man, a bit professorial. Unexpectedly, he drove a fancy Mercedes station wagon, decidedly NOT blending into the surrounding consisting of endless Kirishima Moutains to the south, Aso Mountains to the north, and rice fields and quaint streams everywhere in between.
When we got in the car, we noticed a HUGE, brown spider, about 3 inches in diameter. We thought to ourselves . . . that CANT be real . . .besides, the Japanese like to decorate the interiors of their cars with weird, random stuff . . . maybe Director Takada likes creepy decorations . . . ? Well, much to our surprise, it moved when I tapped the ceiling . . . we wet our pants, the Director just laughed and kept driving . . .
Now onto the reason why we were there. Director Takada, whos Distillery has only been brewing for a bit over hundred years, is known for creating some of the most unbelievably delicate and floral KUMA SHOCHU in all of Kumamoto, the only place in the world where you can get the stuff.
He sure did NOT disappoint. Savoring his KUMA SHOCHUS, created by the Master Distiller Aoki, is like drinking the finest Daiginjo Sake. The unbelievable fluorescent nose, the indescribably pleasant and divine sweetness, and the folklorish smooth finish is simply that . . . beyond words . . . at least beyond any that I can come up with.
Please see the attached pictures. We hope to have the product registered and available to you in the near future. Check back with us from time to time if you are interested !
PS . . .
Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto is also famous for its onsen, or hot springs. We did NOT get to savor it this time, but we sure will the next time, taking care NOT to drown in it after tasting too much of Director Takadas fine art!
Back on one of our "IMPOSSIBLE" sake/shochu/beer hunting trips in Japan, where we scour this Island Nation from the end-to-end in a little over week . . . tiresome ? Yes. Thrilling ? Yes!@#!
I am currently stuck in Okayama . . . because I missed my train to Tottori . . . because my ride got pulled over by the Cops !!!
Tottori, as it happens, is TRULY a middle of nowhere . . . I have to go on a 2 hour train ride from Okayama, which is at least a 4 hour Bullet Train ride away from Tokyo ! . . . and this train to Tottori only runs like 3 times a day . . . so here I am . . .
On a positive note, however, I hunted down some FANTASTIC down-home Plum Wine which I hope to have for your tasting pleasure shortly !
We also found a GREAT NIGORI in Fukushima . . . a NIGORI version of our favorite, Junmai Ginjo Hakuyou from the Hakuyou Brewery! . . . oh yeah, this one is going to be gooooood!
My 6 hour stay in Tottori (from 11 PM to 5 AM) began with a GREAT, thoughtful dinner with Director Nakagawa of the Nakagawa Brewery. All items were Tottori classics ? sweet shrimp, squid, shells of all types, Tottori-style ramen . . . oh, so good.
They we went to the Brewery Muro, a temperature and humidity controlled room where the koji-mold is left to do its magic on the rice. . . . it was 12 AM when the Director and I measured the temperatures in each basket of rice/koji mix, stirred it with our bare hands, and made sure that the conditions were ideal . . .
Got back to my hotel room at around 2 AM, slept for about 2 hours, then I was off to Tokushima to visit the Housui Brewery !
At SakeStory, we are interested in hearing your encounters with local sake and shochu.
Please share with us, "Your Stories".