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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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Tokyo Jizake Strolling (New Initiative)

By Ryuji Takahashi

When Japanese sake is introduced overseas, sake is often explained in terms of wine. When I’m requested to organize a sake seminar overseas, I also explain sake in terms of wine. However, not all aspects of sake could be explained in the same terms as wine, as there are many differences. Needless to say, the ingredients are different, and while is produced by simple fermentation, while sake is produced by multiple sequential fermentation. The difference is evident in the ingredients and brand classification method. If sake is produced from rice, only the production region and variant is recognized; while wine produced from the same variant and production region are classified by the altitudes of the vineyard.
Citing the high-end wine producer Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC) as an example, wine produced from grapes of the same pinot noir variant in the same region is still labeled as different wine brands due to the difference in high/low altitudes of the vineyard. Since the difference in altitude can generate differences in soil components, etc., wine produced at a lower altitude than the vineyard producing the high-end DRC will be priced slightly lower as the brand Romanee St. Vivant to distinguish the brand by the altitude of the vineyard. In DRC’s vineyard, the plot used to produce Romanée-conti constitutes only ten percent of the vineyard.
In this way, Yasuhiro Shibuya, sommelier and CEO of the Grand Cru Wine Company Tokyo took on the challenge to produce the highest quality of sake from the same rice variant in the same region by selecting only one rice field with the terroir in mind in terms of wine terminology. Shibuya recruited master sake brewer Iwao Takahashi from the Kanemasu Brewery (Shibata city, Niigata prefecture), a renowned local sake producer whom he hit it off with and agreed to help revitalize the local economy together by producing their sake brand “Domaine Takahashi.” The term Domaine refers to a small-scale winery using grapes carefully grown by a producer with thorough consideration of the weather, climate, growing conditions, etc., to produce wine.
In that sense, master sake brewer Takahashi also produces Kanemasu Brewery’s original brand of sake “Koshi-tanrei” from sake rice grown in Niigata prefecture with his thorough knowledge of regional characteristics, close attention to the quality of ingredients, and brews sake with a stoic attitude. Therefore, Kanemasu Brewery could be considered the Domaine of Japan. Shibuya chose his sake rice field for its slope offering good scenery, similar to a vineyard. “Domaine Takahashi” was completed by crowd funding and delivered to participants. Would the first sip deliver the beautiful rice fields of Shibata city in the eyes of the consumer? I won’t know until I taste it myself. However, this branding method deserves attention as a new test case to revitalize the local economy and rebuild sake breweries in my opinion.



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

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Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Blue Note TOKYO)

By Ryuji Takahashi

Celebrating the New Year, Tokyo is still in the middle of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. I finished my work for 2020 on January 1, and started my New Years holiday on January 2. However, drinking at home is nothing different from the ordinary, so I attended a live jazz performance by Hiromi Uehara at the jazz club Blue Note Tokyo.
At the live performance titled “Save Live Music Returns Hiromi Piano Quintet,” jazz club Blue Note was thorough in their measures to prevent the coronavirus from spreading. Temperatures were taken, sterilization and social-distancing were practiced thoroughly. Cheering was prohibited during the live performance, which allowed only clapping instead. While meals are normally permitted, masks were required, which prohibited meals from being served, with only beverages served instead.
This was a live performance to celebrate the New Year, of course I wanted to enjoy sake. Staff at Blue Note must’ve been aware, as cask sake by Kikusui Sake Co., Ltd. (Shibata, Niigata) was placed right beside the entrance.
Funaguchi cup sake and Kikusui Gorohachi Nigori Sake are familiar brands. I’m sure many of our readers have seen the Funaguchi cup sake at the local grocery store. Needless to say, the sake menu listed only three sake selections by Kikusui Brewery: “Kikusui Organic Junmai Ginjo,” “Funaguchi Namagenshu,” and “Mukantei.” My recommendation is the cocktail “HARMONY,” combining Kikusui sake and plum wine with yuzu and apple juice, a beverage that reflects the live piano quintet. I wanted to try a beverage unique to Blue Note, rather than the usual Kikusui sake I could drink anytime, so I ordered the cocktail “HARMONY.” As I imagined, the cocktail was low in alcohol content, sweet, and easy to drink.
The sake flavor was detectable in the sake cocktail. Drinking since the evening of January 1, this was the perfect cocktail for me. On the other hand, the live piano performance by Hiromi Uehara was arranged with violins (1st and 2nd), a viola, and cello for the first time; a spectacular performance I couldn't take my eyes off of from beginning to end. Uehara changes the arrangement (quintet, solo, duo) on her long-running concert spanning eighteen days. However, the concert after the New Years was postponed mid-January, when Tokyo issued a state of emergency declaration on January 18. I look forward to the day we can cheer on a world-renowned jazz performance without hesitation, without wearing a mask.

「Save Live Music Returns Hiromi Piano Quintet」と題されたライブでコロナ対策は、さすがブルーノート。検温・消毒・ソーシャルディスタンスに関しては、完璧でライブ中歓声はNG、拍手のみといった徹底ぶりだった。通常食事も出来るのだが、基本はマスク着用になるので食事等は中止でドリンクだけが注文出来る様になっていた。

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

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Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Kanemasu Brewery, Year End Blowout Sale)

By Ryuji Takahashi

Tokyo is facing the end of this year very different from the previous year due to the coronavirus increasingly spreading and restaurants requested to shorten business hours since November. Corporations are prohibited from hosting large banquets, while restaurants close at 22:00 with half the rotations of the previous year. When that happens, sake shops are forced to face challenges due to reduced sake orders from restaurants. To overcome these challenges, we must sell sake directly to families. Therefore, Kanemasu Brewery in Niigata prefecture held a storefront blowout sale in mid-December. Kanemasu Brewery sold their specialty sake brands【Hatsuhana, Junmai Daiginjo】sold only once every few years as their featured sake products for the end of the year and the upcoming New Year.  
The sake labels are old, special to consumers who know the long history of Kanemasu Brewery. The first store opened in Nagatoro, Okagata in Niigata prefecture (currently Niigata city) in 1822. The brewery relocated to Nametoko, Nigori-kawamura (currently in Niigata city) in 1883. The third generation owner is said to have relocated the warehouse to the former Shibata feudal lord Mizoguchi’s personal vegetable garden site (currently the city of Shibata)(vegetable garden refers to an herb garden). After World War II ended in 1945, the fourth generation owner foresaw expanded demand for western alcoholic beverages due to the occupying forces, acquired a whiskey distillery permit, and launched the original brand of malt, producing and selling whiskey until relinquishing the production permit in 2010.
The management structure was renewed in 2010 with classic sake brands “Blue Label” and “Red Label” consolidated as the sake brand “Hatsuhana.” Capitalizing on the regional advantage of being a “rice production region with abundant water,” the brewery joined with a local farmer and founded the Knau Company in 2017. Since then, the company started focusing their efforts growing its own brand of sake rice and brewing sake consistent with local production. Thanks to the brewery’s long history, the company’s footwork is light, posting fliers throughout the neighborhood before the year-end blowout sale.
As expected, the high-end Junmai Daiginjo aged three years sold in large quantities along with new sake brewed from new rice. I felt the outdoor dining restrictions this year are forcing people to drink at home, thus many people are seeking higher quality sake to consume at home. This year, many sake breweries closed their doors or reduced their business scale due to the coronavirus. To keep renowned breweries and their long-established history alive, I recommend readers to enjoy quality sake at home.


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

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Tokyo Jizake Strolling: (Nippon National Products Exhibition 2020) 

By Ryuji Takahashi

As nationwide restrictions imposed on events, etc., throughout Japan due to the Coronavirus pandemic relaxed in November, we covered the “Nippon National Products Exhibition 2020,” held over two days inside the Sunshine City Shopping Mall in Ikebukuro district, Tokyo. The event was cut short to 2 days instead of 3 days the previous year, with only half of the number of restaurant exhibitors compared to the previous year to prevent the Coronavirus from spreading. The venue implemented thorough countermeasures to prevent the spread of infection with a thorough ventilation system in full operation, a large fan on, and doors and windows open at all times. Only attendees and even vendors registered beforehand were allowed entry with hand sanitizers readily available to ensure a safe environment to prevent infection.
The event was reduced in scale, yet over 100 corporate exhibitors showcased over 1,000 regional specialty products, divided into 2 floors with each prefecture exhibiting a souvenir booth, a food court, and a jizake (regional sake) section offering samples starting from only 100 JPY, bustling with many customers. Of course, the booth attracting the most attention was the jizake section.
Approximately 100 jizake selections from 17 regions total (2 regions each from Tokyo, Fukui and Saga prefectures, along with Aomori, Akita, Fukushima, Tochigi, Niigata, Shizuoka, Gifu, Ishikawa, Kyoto, Nara, and Hiroshima prefectures) lined the booths with samples available starting from 100 JPY per cup, an irresistible section for sake fans. Each booth sold regional snacks, etc., a sure bet to compliment any sake. Recommendation booths with a kikisake-shi in attendance were available for customers not sure which sake to sample due to the vast selections available, along with various canned food products. Needless to say, sake can be sampled with various regional specialty snacks purchased from one of the souvenir floors.
This event could be a great opportunity for sake breweries to meet other breweries from various regions with whom they normally have few opportunities to interact. Strolling past the souvenir section on the evening of the second day, attendees can witness bargain sales starting for food products, another event to look forward to in the souvenir exhibit. I also strolled past booths for various regions, where I found smoked octopus for a discounted price at a booth by Hokkaido prefecture. I hesitated trying to decide how many packs to buy when the exhibitor gave me another discount, so I purchased 3 packs. The exhibitor pushed further saying this was the last day, so I received another discount to purchase 1 more pack.
I had an enjoyable day, receiving leftover regional snacks from sake brewery booths for free. I pray joyous events like this that brings smiles back to consumers, producers, and vendors will revive in various regions once the coronavirus pandemic ends, hopefully soon.



#ikebukuro #jizake #sake #sakefair #tokyo

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Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Restaurant Karibetei, Shimokitazawa District)

By Ryuji Takahashi

I am a Japanese sake expert and owner of a sake shop in Tokyo. However, that doesn’t mean I enjoy only sake. In fact, I’m a fan of Italian wine and drink as much wine as I do sake. Sometimes, I drink even more wine than I do sake. In this issue, I’d like to introduce an Italian restaurant I frequent once or twice a month.
Italian Restaurant “Karibetei” opened approximately 10 years ago in the Shimokitazawa district of Tokyo, bustling with young professionals and consumers. Karibetei is a simple restaurant serving Italian home cooking, opened by owner and chef Katsuichi Karibe, a former colleague and superior to me at an Italian restaurant we worked at. Originally from Tochigi prefecture, Karibe is a skilled Japanese calligrapher in addition to chef, a charismatic individual featured in many newspaper and magazine articles. His restaurant is clean with no flashy Italian décor, a comfortable restaurant that reminded me of a simple Italian eatery I patronized when I traveled to Italy. The wine list consists of carefully hand-picked selections chosen by Karibe himself, priced reasonably around 3,000 JPY per bottle, great news for wine fans like myself.
Since I visited in the fall, the menu consisted of Squash Gnocchi, Taro and Bacon Fritters, Pacific Saury Confit Spaghetti, and other seasonal fall menu selections. The Shimokitazawa district happened to be in the middle of the “Shimokitazawa Curry Festival” held lavishly once a year where Karibetei also exhibited a booth among many visitors attending to enjoy the very popular squid ink curry.
The taro fritters arrived first. The chewy taro texture is highly compatible with the egg flavor. Finishing off the beer, I switched right over to red wine. Next, I ordered Mozzarella cheese with anchovy crostini. The term crostini apparently means small toast. The bread highly compliments the Mozzarella cheese, and before I knew it, my wine bottle was empty.
I ordered another bottle of wine, Grilled Sardine and Tomato Layers, and Horse Meat Carpaccio. Sardine was highly compatible with tomato, while the horsemeat carpaccio was refreshing and enticed more wine. Lastly, I ordered the Black Wagyu Beef Tagliata. The simple flavoring and exquisite grilling surely compliment the red wine. Before I knew it, I opened my third bottle of wine. Afterwards, I enjoyed a conversation with the chef and his wife over a few delightful bowls of spumoni and concluded the meal. I visit the restaurant monthly, yet I still discover new flavors every visit, a restaurant that never tires. Karibetei is truly one of the leading restaurants among the various Italian restaurants operating in Tokyo.

東京地酒散歩(下北沢 かりべ亭)

#jizake #sake #shimokitazawa #tokyo

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Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Business Trip back to Niigata Prefecture)

By Ryuji Takahashi

I write a monthly column for a publication specializing in Japanese sake. One day, I received a phone call from the owner of Shiokawa Sake Brewery Co., Ltd. in Niigata prefecture, who read my column and invited me to their brewery to sample their sake products.
Simply put, my column is best described by a statement made by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, “Better know nothing than half-know many things. Rather be a fool on one’s own account than a wise man in the opinion of others.” As the Japanese sake industry appears to sway in today’s information age, his statement perhaps best describes the sentiment of pure sake fans and shops alike.
The owner of Shiokawa Brewery said, “Our brewery is truly self-reliant in shamelessly treading our own path to brew sake our way.” The sake I sampled were each one of a kind with surprising fragrance, color, and flavor, peaking my interest in Shiokawa Brewery. I had to pay a visit. I took a day trip and drove to Niigata prefecture. Just like last time, I stopped over to savor local Niigata ramen at “Anpukutei-Kandaten” in Kandamachi (Kanda town), Nagaoka city on the way.
I ordered soy sauce flavored ramen prepared from boiled/dried Tsubame-sanjo sardine broth with back fat floating on the soup surface. The usual bottomless green onions were not available during this trip. The boiled/dried sardine broth in ramen served in Tokyo tends to taste too strong. However, the back fat neutralizes the exquisite sardine-flavored broth combined with concentrated soy sauce flavor into a delicious, flavorful finish.
Afterwards, I headed to the Shiokawa Brewery in Nishi ward, Niigata city to meet the brewery owner Kazuhiro Shiokawa and Professor Ito of Niigata University’s Faculty of Agriculture. Shiokawa Brewery’s most recognized sake products are the “NOPA” developed in Bali, and the “Kimotokei KODAI” brewed from ancient rice with a red, wine-like hue; winner of the Gold Prize at the Milano Sake Challenge 2019.
Both are low in alcohol content with acidic flavor and aroma, no doubt interesting to chefs serving Italian cuisine. Other sake products include “COWBOY YAMAHAI,” notable for its acidic flavor from the Yamahai brewing method, highly suitable for export overseas due to its high compatibility with meat dishes; and “FISHERMAN SOKUJO,” notable for its rich flavor in no way inferior to white wine when served with fish dishes, also compatible with seafood dishes strong in umami flavors like crab and shrimp dishes, etc.
What further captivated my interest and impressed me about Shiokawa Brewery is their determination NOT to create Japanese sake compatible with western cuisine like wine, but their steadfast resolve to brew sake in every way competitive against wine. To say Shiokawa Brewery broke the mold of Japanese sake production with their original concept that could conquer the world would not be an exaggeration.
However, Shiokawa Brewery also holds steadfast to guarding traditional sake brands, a brewery not in anyway eccentric, but a unique brewery like no other that stands out in their vision and approach to developing new brands and overcoming challenges. When it comes to sake, I’m often called a freak. However, Shiokawa Brewery is one brewery I would like to express my utmost admiration by respectfully referring to them as a sake freak.

お会いし話す事が出来た。塩川酒造の酒の中で特徴的な物は、新潟大学の協力の中、バリ島で造った「のぱ」やイタリアのミラノ酒チャレンジ2019で金賞を受賞した古代米を使い赤ワインの様な色の「生酛系古代」である。両方とも低アルコールで酸味と香りが特徴。イタリアンの料理人なら絶対興味を持ってしまう酒である。その他にも海外輸出を意識し肉に合わせる為にしっかりとした山廃仕込みの酸を感じさせている酒「COWBOY YAMAHAI」や魚料理で白ワインにも引けをとらないコクと風味で蟹や海老の様な旨味の強い魚介系にも合わせられる「FISHERMAN SOKUJO」などが有る。私が塩川蔵元に興味をより一層持ち、凄さを感じたのは、洋食に合わせられるワインの様な日本酒では無く、ワインに負けない日本酒を造ろうとしていることである。塩川酒造は、日本酒造りの概念の殻を打ち破り世界征服が出来るくらいの発想で酒造りを行っていると言っても良いだろう。しかし、伝統的な銘柄もしっかり守り通しており、決して奇抜な酒蔵というわけでは無く、新たなブランド作りやチャレンジの部分が見据える先が他の酒蔵と違うのだろう。私は日本酒の事になると、よく変態と言われる。しかし私など足元にも及ばぬ日本酒の最上級の尊敬をもって変態と呼ばせていただきたい酒蔵である。

#jizake #nigata #sake #tokyo

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Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Trip to Niigata Prefecture Part 3)

By Ryuji Takahashi
This report is a continuation of our trip to Niigata prefecture since the issue before last. Our final destination was Hakuro Shuzo Brewery in Nagaoka city, Niigata prefecture.
To touch on the history of the sake industry, the four-step preparation of fermentation mash was popularized throughout Japan from Nagaoka city, Niigata prefecture, home to approximately 16 sake breweries. The Hakuro Shuzo Brewery we visited is so prestigious, an entire book can be written on their history of various hardships the brand was protected from and survived.
The Hakuro brand was named with the character ‘oak,’ derived from three oaks forming the Makino family crest of the Nagaoka clan. Matahichi Yamazaki saved the Makino family from financial ruins and inherited the Hakuro brand. Stories of the Makino family and Yamazaki family are the most important part of discussing the history of the Hakuro brand.
On the day of our visit to the sake brewery, the Japanese gargoyle roof tile happened to be delivered, which we were permitted to view. I believe this tile would be interesting to anyone knowledgeable about the history of Niigata prefecture. I recommend a visit to the Hakuro Shuzo Brewery to review this roof tile to learn more about the history of the brewery. Our group happened to be very interested in how the brewery underwent changes in modern times. We visited looking forward to hearing from President, Shigeru Osaka how his concept of managing a “sake brewery” changed with the times since the brewery owner changed over time.
Of course, I am fully aware how delicious the sake is produced by Hakuro Shuzo Brewery. Slight seasonal changes in the brewing method and flavors are detectable in the “Sanzui series.” Their classic sake brands are “Hakuro” and “Three Oak.” The brewery also released sparkling sake and a collaborative brand NIIGATA ALBIREX BB. Sake produced by the Hakuro Shuzo Brewery is refreshing to the palate, consistent with sake brewed in Niigata prefecture; yet characteristic for it’s full-bodied flavor, rare for sake brewed in Niigata prefecture. In addition, the “Sanzui series” can differ significantly in flavor, depending on the production year. This is because the “Sanzui series” is still undergoing experimentation and evolving as a series. Already delicious as is, we can’t help but anticipate how much more flavorful the “Sanzui series” will become.
We toured the Hakuro Shuzo Brewery led by Master Sake Brewer, Mitsuaki Shirahara. The brewery was clean and spacious with many young sake brewers working on site. It’s wonderful to see Hakuro Shuzo Brewery raise the next generation of young sake brewers to take on sake production for the next generation. Workers appeared to be cleaning up after the day’s work at the time of our visit, yet we were permitted to tour the koji making room, storage tank, filtration machine and pasteurizer (a device that sterilizes sake with heat). Hakuro Shuzo Brewery seemed modern than most breweries we’ve visited so far. One advantage of sake brewed in a modern brewery is reliable quality.
Especially because of this day and age, sake by Hakuro Shuzo Brewery is enjoyable for its reliable, delicious flavors. Nagaoka city, Niigata prefecture is also known for their spectacular fireworks. The firework display, a summer highlight of Nagaoka city, was unfortunately cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. A longstanding tradition since the Meiji Era (1868 - 1912), the firework display was held as an ongoing festival to celebrate the city’s post-war recovery. Once the coronavirus pandemic is over, I look forward to seeing the firework display resume in Nagaoka city.


酒の専門的な話になるが、四段仕込法を試醸し全国的に普及させたのは新潟長岡である。そんな長岡には日本酒蔵が16蔵程ある。今回訪れた柏露酒造とは、蔵の歴史を辿れば1冊の社会科の教科書が造れる程、名門でありその反面、沢山の苦労の中で銘柄を守ってきた酒蔵である。この柏露という銘柄は、長岡藩牧野家の家紋「三つ柏」の「柏」の字を取って誕生したとのこと。その牧野家の経営の窮地を救い柏露を譲り受けたのが山崎又七という人で牧野家と山崎家の話が柏露の歴史を語る上で最も重要な部分となる。当日、山崎家の鬼瓦が偶然にも酒蔵に届いたとの事で見せてもらった。新潟の歴史に詳しい人からすると非常に興味のある資料だと思う。是非酒蔵に行って鬼瓦を見て柏露酒造の歴史に触れていただきたいと思う。私自身は、蔵の現代の移り変わりに非常に興味があり、時代の流れの中、経営者が幾度か変わっていく事で「蔵元」という概念とは違う酒蔵運営を、尾坂 茂社長から直接聞けるのを楽しみにしていたのである。勿論、酒の美味さは充分解っている。季節で微妙に製法と味わいが変わる「さんずい」シリーズ。定番「柏露」「三つ柏」。スパークリングや新潟アルビレックスとのコラボ商品も出ている。柏露酒造の特徴としては、新潟らしいスッキリ感の中に新潟では珍しい深いコクがあることだ。しかも、「さんずい」シリーズは年によって味わいが大きく変わる場合がある。なぜなら「さんずい」シリーズは、まだまだ模索中で進化途中とのこと。今でも十分美味い「さんずい」が今後、どう美味くなるのかは期待しないわけにはいかないだろう。そんな酒造りを行っている酒蔵を白原光明大杜氏の案内で見せてもらったのだが、清潔感のある広い酒蔵で、比較的年齢の若い蔵人の姿も多く見うけられた。次世代の酒造りの世界を背負って立つ若者を育てられる酒蔵は本当に素晴らしいと思う。時間的に、片付けを行っている様子だったが、麹室や貯蔵タンク、濾過機やパストライザー(お酒の加熱殺菌をする機械)を見せてもらった。私が今回見てきた酒蔵の中ではかなり近代的な蔵に入る。近代的な酒蔵の造る酒のメリットは、品質に対する安心感だろう。こんな時だからこそ、柏露酒造の酒は安心して美味しく飲める酒であると言える。そして新潟県長岡市で有名なのは、やっぱり花火大会である。夏の風物詩である長岡の花火大会は今年、残念ながらコロナウイルスの影響で中止になってしまった。明治時代から続く、この長岡の花火は戦後の復興のお祭りとしても行なわれる様になったそうだ。コロナウイルスが終息し、その狼煙としてもう一度長岡の花火が打ち上がるのを私は楽しみにしている。

#jizake #nigata #sake #tokyo

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Enjoy Jizake at Tokyo Station Underground Shopping Center

By Kosuke Kuji

Tokyo Station that is located in Tokyo which is also the center of Japan.

Tokyo Station has been newly born and changed with a large scale renovation construction in recent years and Japanese sake is being offered at different locations so there are more opportunities to try Japanese sakes.

With the increase of foreign visitors in the last few years, many foreigners can be seen even at Tokyo Station also. One place where a foreigner will definitely visit when they come to Japan is Tokyo Station.

Within the station, after you go thru the ticket gates and go underground there is a shopping area that spreads in front of you called “Gransta.”

Once you go thru the ticket gates of the station in the past, there were only a few souvenir, convenience or station bento stores, and a small ‘tachigui soba’ (eat noodles while standing) restaurant, but that image has greatly changed after the opening of Gransta.

Gransta has many specialty and unique stores from restaurants that have all kinds of Japanese/foreign/Chinese bentos, special restaurants from resort specialty chains, cakes or Japanese-style confectionery stores, or gift stores with brand name items, there is so much delight just from looking around.

Would like to share that there is a store here where you can enjoy Japanese sake by the glass for reasonable prices. It is Hasegawasaketen Tokyo Station Gransta operated by Hasegawa Shoten which we introduced to you in a previous column.
This bar only has about 10 seats at the counter but there is always a line of customers waiting outside in the evening and is such a popular bar where you can see customers savoring Japanese sake even in the early morning hours.

There is no other ideal bar-style pub that can used during the short time you are waiting for the Shinkansen (Japanese high-speed rail) or express trains and it couldn’t be a better place for the people that like sake.

All of you in the U.S. coming home or for your sightseeing trip to Japan, I think you will have a good time if you stop by Tokyo Station and have a drink at the bar where you can enjoy a glass of Jizake (regional sake) before you leave. Another pleasure is you can certainly buy a bottle of the sake you enjoyed there.








#alljapannews #japan #jizake #sake #station #tokyo

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