Januray 30th, 2007, Shizuoka City
Having discovered Mr. Matsunaga’s Liquor Shop on the Internet through Eikun Brewery’s HP, I decided to use some free time to visit him as I knew he had on sale some bottles of sake produced by brewers who had ceased operations some time ago.
I found and bought a bottle by Shikon, which used to be in Fujieda City, until the last generation married into the family owning Sanwa Brewery in Shimizu Ku, as well as a bottle by Sogatsuru which was merged to Hagi No Kura Brewery in Kakegawa City.
I shall have to come back to tha liquor shop very soon as I learned that Mr. Matsunaga had other bottles, notably by Okinabenten which ceased operations this year, before working for another brewer. Mr. Matsunaga also sowed me an earthenware keg by Akebono Brewery which used to be located in Yaizu City and disappeared following events at the end of WWII!
Archive for January, 2007
Januray 30th, 2007, Shizuoka City
One way to appreciate sake at a reasonable price and start an original collection is to buy the “one-Cup Sake”!
Almost every brewer in Shizuoka has started the trend, producing regular labels and more exotic ones, including private labels made on order.
See above pics, all of Sake made in Shizuoka. Can you tell them all apart?
I suppose I have to justify my claim that Shizuoka produces some of the best, if not the best sake in Japan.
It was not always so. But the big change occured in the late eighties when a lot of research was done with the help of government funds, especially under the direction on Dembei Kawamura. It notably led to the “invention” of a new yeast at th e Kokkou Brewery in Fukuroi City called “Shizuoka Koubo” (“Shizuoka Yeast”) that the majority of Shizuoka Brewers use now.
Although the number of “kura” has declined from 56 in 1975 to 28 in 2013, it actually helped concentrate the quality in staff, methods and products to an unheard level.
The average national production of high quality sake, that is from “honjyozu” upwards is 33.4%, whereas no less than 83% of all sake made in Shizuoka is of high quality! Even the rest, that is, “futsushuu” (“normal sake”), could be considered as the highest quality sake used for “atsukan” (“hot sake”) in Japan!
Apart of all the research and the consequent improvement, the sheer abundance of superior water from Mount Fuji and the Southern Alps is the main factor. Moreover, Shizuoka water has a very low acidity level, thus contributing to sake brands that still keep the palate interested after many cups.
Next time you visit some friends, especially Japanese, in a far away Prefecture, offer them a bottle of sake from Shizuoka Prefecture and you will judge from their reactions. Do not forget that Shizuoka Sake is not only good, but rare and difficult to find, even in Tokyo!
The more you learned, the less you know…
The adage was driven home on me last Saturday, when some old students of mine, piqued by my questions on the great beverage, came up with all kind of information I will have to study and memorize very quickly if I don’t want to become the laughing matter of sake specialists!
Apart of the written (in Japanese) information, they made interesting remarks on the etimology of the word “sake”:
“Sa” (from “satsuki”) actually means the “God of Rice”.
“Ke”(from “yuuge” or “asage”) means “food”.
“Sake”, the “Food of the God of Rice”! I might be tempted away from my agnotsicism!
Another interesting word is “sakana” (not fish!): made from “saka” (sake) and “na” (vessel/dish): a “sake cup”!
-“Making sake from black rice? Common, you are pulling our leg! Or is it just a gimmick?” I was asked even by my Japanese friends.
I do not know if this is confined to Shizuoka Prefecture, although they make Red Sake in Niigata Pefecture, but I can assure you it exixts and is worth trying!
To answer this question in more detail:
Depending on the sake and cheese, there surely are many ways of enjoying them together. Like for wine, you will have to “marry” their characteristics:
-dry and subtle sake for lightly flavoured cheese such as simple cottage cheeses, yoghurt-bases mixtures or vey fresh immature cheese
-semi-dry sake for light immature Brie, Camembert, cooked Cheeses like Emmental, Basque Ewe Cheeses
-very sweet sake with strongly flavoured cheeses such as a Blue Stilton from England or an Epoisses from France.
It is a question of combining sake and cheese that do notkill each other.
Of course, this is entirely open to personal tastes and likes and subject to some personal experiment!
A good expat friend of mine living in the same City of Shizuoka City asked me if one should drink sake on its own or accompanied by a snack.
Well, if you only wish to drink sake for the sake (no pun!) of tasting it, I would advise you to forget any food as the “flavour” will linger inside your palate for quite a while.
On the other hand, drinking sake, like any other alcoholic beverage, on an empty stomach might turn into a quick way to get tipsy, if not outright drunk.
As a matter of course, I either drink my sake at the very beginning or the very end of a meal. Sake goes very well with light food such as asparaguses, raw seafood salad (as long as it is not added with a spicy sauce). It goes down very well with very strong-flavoured foods such as chocolate and foie gras, which tend to “kill” wine or beer. In that case, choose a very sweet sake (unfortunately, sake in Shizuoka tends to be on the dry side). Of course, Japanese food is best for enjoying sake. Finally avoid “mixing” sake with other alcoholic beverages. It a sure way to get dead drunk!
I have decided that it was about time I contributed the information and the experience garnered on sake made in Shizuoka Prefecture for the benefit of all sake lovers here and everywhere!
I am blessed to live in one of the best sake making regions of Japan. There is little argument about it, and ‘m confident that John Gauntner , the world-renown authority on Japan Sake will concur.
It will take some time to compile, so please indulge the old man and come regularly to read the pages where I shall have the pleasure to introduce all the brewers of my adopted homeland!
I would also be most grateful for any information I have failed to supply!