A little break from NEXT5 Tour report...
I will talk about the time Mari chan of Shinjuku Moto Sake bar and I went to Oomori.
The day was coincidentally "Tori no Ichi" and so clouded!
(Bird Day Fair, held at Otori Shrine on each "Day of the Bird" in November)
I finally got to meet Mr. Kensuke Shichida,
who I have been following on twitter for long time!
I loved its Junmai Muroka.
For our encounter, I asked Sano san of Ottimo to take a photo of us together...
Mr. Shichida's face was cut in half!!!
Out of focus...lol
Apologies Mr. Shichida... but I was glad to finally meet you!
I am hungry. Let's go inside.
the left is Nakata san, the owner of Ottimo and Sano san.
They are so friendly and easy to talk to,
and all the regular customers seemed to be very nice people.
I think I will go there at least once every week if I live Japan...
This is Miyoshikiku, Tokubetsu Junmai Akiagari.
The label is designed by Mari chan!
Their Sake is like a girl's pop band. so much mangos, passion fruits, lychees...
And I do not define it as Sake, I do define it as a "drink named Miyoshikiku".
If you don't understand me, try it. You will do.
AND this is the Sake I probably believe to be the best one I had tasted on this trip to Japan.
"Konna Yoru ni..." (means "This kind of night...") Deer Label
pasteurized Junmai year 2008 brewed by Kuromatsu Senjo in Nagano prefecture.
Shinshuu Hitogokochi rice, 60% polished ratio (means 40% polished away). Senjo Brewery itself is quite large brewery which produces
2,000 Koku (= 200,000 magnum bottles) per year, however
this series of "Konna Yoru ni..." started only 4 years ago and produces only
30 Koku (= 3,000 magnum bottles) per year. tiny tiny production.
This Deer label specifically, is aged in -5 degree fro 2 years, then pasteurized and
matured another one year before shipping.
With its distinctive nutty / caramel Aged Sake aromas and intense creamy thickness,
it still has fresh exploding nectarines lingers and disappears with silky and velvety remains.
So new, and so eye-opening.
I also loved the label with so much blank space with tiny fonts
as well as the poem on the back label saying
"This kind of night, The voice if deer is howling of the string".
I don't know which to choose...out of sake from NEXT5 breweries.
"Shiro Yamamoto", the sake made with the Akita Sakekomachi rice
which is grown with beautiful spring water from Shirakamisanchi,
within pesticide-free, chemical fertilizer-free environment.
This sake soaks in my heart...i wish to bring this back to London...
Second place. Yakataya. (I didn't remember. Koei san told me later on)
Yamamoto san started to grill meat. even though we ate so much at Tanaka...
keep our night wtih great Sake,
I do not remember anything around this point.
third place. we finished pizza and red wine.
what a fun night. that's all I remembered.
or that's all I could see from this photo. um.
Even though my great NEXT5 tour ended like this,
On my way home, I was nodding to the reason of NEXT5's popularity.
It is about each brewery's unique & charming personality,
It is about their consistent daily efforts,
and It is about their free & open-mind spirit that leads new ideas and directions.
for my older 5 brothers in Akira, I would like to do my best to support NEXT5,
And finally we are at Yuki no Bijin in Akita city!
Akita Jozo locates on the first floor of a big apartment complex.
Nobody would realize there is Sake producing inside of this building!
The brewery is established in 1919, yet they had been subcontracted to produce Sake
for larger breweries (it was very common back then, called "Oke-Uri") till 10-11 years ago.
(Once they produced 2,000 Koku, 200,000 magnum bottles per year)
10 years ago, they built apartment on the original site and reestablished
660 square meter sized brewery on the first floor.
As a brand named "Yuki no Bojin" (means "Beauty in the snow"),
they currently produce 210 Koku (=21,000 magnum bottles) with small tank production
less than 800 kg, common in Daiginjo making.
100% production for Junmai, and their modern facilities
make it possible to brew Sake throughout the year.
This is mobile company DoCoMo's advertisement with
stars from each Tohoku prefecture and Keisuke Kuwata, the biggest musician in Japan.
NEXT5 represented Akita prefecture version! I am so proud...
This is the president Tadahiko Kobayashi, even though he is the oldest in the team Next5,
his abundance of passion and curiosity never stopped him from talking about his love in wine and Sake,
and made me want to listen his stories and thought all day long.
Recently, Sake world has been in trend to use the "local rice" for Sake-making
instead of using high brand Sake rice Yamadanishiki.
However, President Kobayashi's orientation is similar to Australian wine;
not too tangled by terrior philosophy, buying the rice from anywhere in Japan if good Sake rice.
Like Super Tuscan producers in Italy brought the movement to create the best table wine
without relying on name recognition of the Chianti region or D.O.C. laws.
"I rather take seriously about the balance between being 'real' and being 'delicious'."
says Mr. Kobayashi. Even though I haven't looked any in the brewery,
already one and a half hour had passed then. I wish he is my collage professor.
He mainly uses Yamadanishiki, and Aiyama and Omachi for most of the Koji rice.
and Akita Sakekomachi for Kake rice,
His new collection of Sake rice this year is: Ginpuu from Hokkaido,
Dewa no Sato from Yamagata, and Hattannishiki of Hiroshima prefecture.
He uses 100% Futa-koji for koji-making.
This is day 8 Moromi mash of Yamadanishiki and Sakekomachi rice, using Kanazawa yeast.
Its fermatation takes slowly and gently to higher the acidity,
with the help of super soft water from Iwami Sannai region.
Another aspect of Yuki no Bijin sake is that only one fourth of their Sake is pasteurized.
Mostly Nama-zake (un-pasteurized), and they produce Sake throughout the year.
that means: we can drink Nama-zake all year long!
Sorry that I didn't take many photos here, I was too interested in listening his stories...
President Komayashi wishes "Sake should be studied and systematized
more of the unknown elements like University of Bordeaux."
But he also told me with excitement that recently Akita Research Institute of Brewing started
to study the difference between the un-pasteurized Sake which become off ("Nama-Hine")
after the certain length of time and the one does not lose the quality.
I got to have lunch after this and really enjoyed Mr. Kobayashi's world.
Thank you very much!
Finally, off to Aramasa, the last destination of Next5 tour!
No, it wasn't.
This is Yamamoto Gomei Co., the brewer of Shirataki.
Behind the brewery, there is Shirakami-Sanchi, registered mountainous area by
UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.
Today the brewery produces 820 Koku (82,000 magnum bottles) per year.
there are pipes above tanks running 3 degree water.
Blue tanks are for the Junmai Sake, 1-1.5t in size,
and green ones in the back is for Junmai Ginjo and Daiginjo class, 600-800kg in size.
My first time to see the tool to close magnum bottle caps.
Mr. Yamamoto studied Mechanical Engineering at university in the USA,
and then worked in music production company in Tokyo
to manage artists like Risa Ono and THE BOOM.
However he had to take over the business by family's issues 10 years ago,
and used his experiences in different back ground and his creativity to rebuild the Shirataki brand.
For example, he created a un-pasteurized Nigori (= cloudy) Sake named "Do"
because his employee had to stay in the rice production until December and
still have sell some products in January.
So he just filtered still fermenting Moromi mush with strainer and bottled without pasteurization.
At beginning it exploded at restaurant and homes (because the sake was still alive!)
and he received enormous amount of complains from the customers.
but many of them said that "it tasted good". he continued to improve the safety and
made it to the super popular brand.
living in London, loves yummies + beauties of the planet.
founder of Museum of Sake, an invisible museum which provides sake education & tasting experiences. ex-Zuma&Roka sake sommelier.
英国ロンドンZUMA&ROKAレストランのサケソムリエを経て、欧州での日本酒振興を目指したPR事業Museum of Sakeを展開中。