Archive for February, 2007

Shizuoka Sake Brewery: Yoshiya Brewery

February 27, 2007

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Mssrs. Tomoo Hashimoto & Harushu Nakashima

On a beautiful Tuesday February 27th I entered Chuumasa/Yoshiya Brewery at 15:00.
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As I had arranged the interview long in advance, the 16th generation in the person of owner Tomoo Hashimoto was expecting me and kindly waiting for me in the front shop.
I had done my homework beforehand as this time I conducted the report by myself. I went as far as visiting the nearby Sengen Shrine where I took a pic of Chuumasa Sake Barrel (top shelf on pic below).
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With the minimum of fuss, Mr. Hashimoto guided me to the “kura”. On the way, I ascertained that they were still using the same well which had been dug by Chuubei Hashimoto in 1751. It is fed by water from the nearby Shizuhata Mountains and the Abe River.
The Toji/Master Brewer, Mr. Harushu Nakashima, of the Nanbu School, from Iwate Prefecture was waiting for us.
A smiling quiet diminutive man, he actually seemed to enjoy explaining the arcane secrets of his trade to that strange foreigner and quickly warmed up to the conversation. He was just checking the ginjo when we had entered his lair and I was offered a primeur tasting.
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Mr. Nakashimasa has brewed Chuumasa Sake since 1985. I had previously had the experience to look at a toji’s hands. I am small, but Mr. Nakashima is even smaller than me by a head. Nevertheless, his hands were longer than mine by a good 3 cm and the skin looked and felt like a pink piece of wrinkled leather! I was also surprised by his mastery of the Japanese language. This gentleman is not a layman. He is an craftsman whose politeness would put quite a few people to shame…
Mr. Nakashima uses only Yamada Nishiki and Goyakumangoku rice exclusively from Hyogo Prefecture and Ginginga Rice from Iwate Prefecture for Dai Ginjo. Otherwise he uses Shizuoka Koubo as yeast.
20% of the total sake brewed consists of junmai and yamahai sake.
As from 2007, no futsuushyu (normal sake) is brewed. Thank goodness!
Before I took my leave, he honoured me by inviting me to witness a very select tasting test, conducted by toji only, on March 6th, and advised me with a smile to make sure I came with a clean skin and no aftershave or perfume! I stood corrected. The gentleman has a fine nose. No need to say that I bowed and apologized!
Before I left, I went back to the shop with Mr. Hashimoto to select a bottle for Melinda to taste.
Another surprise was waiting for me in the person of the owner’s daughter who greeted me in French! I immediately recognized her. Why in the world didn’t I know for what she was? Shizuoka City is such a small world!
Unfortunately she is the Hashimoto’s only sibling. Who is going to take over the Brewery?
Before I left, Mr. Hashimoto, who is a bit golf-mad, offered me another bottle labelled “Hole In One” in commemoration of a very real feat!

Chuumasa/Yoshiya Brewery
Shizuoka Shi, Aoi Ku, Zaimoku, 6
Tel.: 054-2710005
Fax: 054-2710006
No business on Sundays

Liquor Shops: Nagashima Saketen

February 26, 2007

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Nagashima Saketen was founded in 1969
The second generation, Takahiro Nagashima (39 in 2007), took over the management in 1994 after 2 years spent in Bordeaux, France where he successfully graduated from the Oenology Faculty.
Takahiro Nagashima offers not only great and equal service whatever your budget, but will gracefully keep you informed on his blog or by direct e-mail upon request.
Apart of overhauling his father’s business, notably introducing credit-card payment (not always available in other shops), he has been actively promoting local products over the years through tatsing parties, breweries and cellar visits and restaurants/bars recommendations.
As for Shizuoka Sake, just read his listing:
Hakuin Masamune, Takasago, Eikun, Shosetsu, Garyuubai, Chuumasa, Haginishiki, Masuichi, Hatsukame, Isojiman, Suginishiki, Kikuyoi, Shisaizumi, Wakatake, Sayogoromo (which I visited in his company!) & Han no Mai! Almost half of the Shizuoka Breweries represented!
Apart of of wine (great rack prices!), sake, shochu, beers, spirits, he also offers someinteresting fresh cheeses and even bread cooked by local French Chef friends!

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Nagashima Saketen
Address: 420-0804 Shizuoka Shi, Aoi-Ku, Ryuunan, 1-12-7
Tel.: 054-2459260
Fax: 054-2459252
Open every day: 11:00~21:00
Credit Cards ok

Restaurant 1: Tomii

February 24, 2007

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Tomii has been my favourite for sashimi in Shizuoka for many years!
The present “oyakata” is Kazuya Tomii who came back to his parents establishment in April 2006 after spending 6 years honing his craft in Kyoto and work under the tutelage of experienced chefs for a couple more years in Shizuoka.
The cuisine served there is intensely Kyoto-style making a great use of the fish and vegetables available in the Prefecture land and sea. Whenever possible, Mr. Tomii uses only Shizuoka products, but will be more than agreeable to prepare cuisine from other Japanese regions.

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Last night (February 23rd) being “my” weekly night out, I visited the establishment and ordered sashimi first as usual. I never specify what I want as Mr. Tomii knows me well enough to know what I fancy.
The plate above contains toro (fat tuna), akami (lean tuna) hirame & hirame engawa (sole and sole filet fringe), fresh uni (urchin) on yuba (“tofu skin”) at the front and shime saba (pickled Mackerel at the back decorated with slices of kinkan (kumquat), live torigai (large cockle) in its shell, and freshly grated wasabi!

Now to the subject of this blog, the following Shizuoka sake are on offer along with other parts of Japan:
Kaiun junmai, Kaiun ginjo, Masuichi junmai ginjo, Kokkou junmai, Kikuyoi junmai, Isojiman tokubetsu honjozou, Takasago Karakuchi junmai for jizake. As for atsukan (hot sake) they offer Kaiun
I sampled the followin in that order:

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Masuichi, Isojiman, Kikuyoi and Kokko.

As I was in a bit of a hurry, I ordered kani chyawan mushi (Japanese salted custard pudding with crab)
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And then I was off outside in the night….

TOMII
Address: Shizuoka Shi, Aoi Ku, Tokiwacho, 1-2-7, Tomii Bldg 1F
Tel.: 054-2740666
Fax: 054-2730033
Busines hours: 11:00~13:30 (Reservations only); 17:00~22:00 (reservations advisable)
Lunch set: 1,500 yen
Dinner: 3,000 yen~
Private tatami room available
Credit cards OK

The Last Bottles? 2

February 22, 2007

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Okinabenten & Hasshou
February 18 30th, 2007, Shizuoka City
I visited again Mr. Matsunaga’s Liquor Shop to check on those other “last bottles”
He had a bottle by Okinabenten, which ceased brewing in 2006. Unfortunately He had only the 1,8 l bottles left. I had to get satisfied with a pic and some notes.
But he also had bottle brewed by Hasshou which used to be in Hamana Gun, now part of Hamamatsu City.
I had a good day again drinking history!

Shizuoka Sake Tasting 1: Morimoto Brwery-Sayogoromo by Melinda Joe

February 21, 2007

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My good (new) friend Melinda Joe has kindly agreed with the blind tasting of a bottle I sent her on February 19th. I obtained the bottle at Morimoto Brewery in Kikugawa City, Shizuoka Prefecture when I interviewed Mr. Hitoshi Morimoto (see February 17th post).
The only pointer I gave Melinda was that it had been brewed by Mr. Morimoto.
The sake was Nama junmai ginjo. One-year old. Yamada Nishiki Rice 50%, Kojima Rice 40%, Goyakumangoku Rice 10%. Koubo/Yeast N0 1401 from Kanazawa.
Name: Sayogoromo Nama Junmai Ginjo made by Hitoshi Morimoto of Morimoto Brewery/Kikugawa City in 2006. Bottle to be put on sale Spring 2007.

Here is Melinda’s tasting notes:

Color: Light amber tint
Clarity: Perfectly clear
Aroma: Bright, highly aromatic, green skinned fruit, yeast, nama!
Texture: Initially grainy then smooth
Body: Light to medium
Flavor: Green apple, pear, melon; slightly lactic, ricey notes in midpalate, but fruity overall; mild bitterness in the finish that hangs on the back of the throat
General impressions: soft and clean, elegant, sawayaka, hanayaka, nigiyaka, kirei, complex

These are the collective opinions of 3 tasters. This sake changed many times during the course of our evaluation, moving from rather sweet to generally dry and yielding a myriad of flavors. One of my friends had never had namazake before and was completely blown away by the vibrant nuances we discovered. An impressive, intriguing sake – my compliments to Morimoto-san!

Not much I can say about that, can I?
I’ve decided to let all tasting in their hands from now on!

Please visit Melinda’s blog for more excellent tasting tips!

Fuuki 2: The Rogue?

February 20, 2007

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(Fuuki is on top shelf, middle between haginishiki & Hana No Mai.
Picture taken at Sengen Shrine, Shizuoka City, 20-02-2007)

Kampai!

The story with Fuuki continues, but with some more evaluation.
Investigating the history of Sake in Shizuoka is akin to a hard-boiled story sometimes. You do have to talk to a lot of people in different spheres to fish out the true story lying behind some practices…
Now the role of Fuuki in Shizuoka Prefecture (and other Prefectures I dare say) has been determined. It sells its alcohol not only to other Prefectures, but to most breweries in Shizuoka. Until there, no problem.
But some nasty rumours have reached my small ears as recently as yesterday (no, I’m not going to divulge my source. Take it at face value, or else). Fuuki apparently tries to impose its way of making Sake to local Brewers. Otherwise no alcohol (fetch it somewhere else with according transport costs)!
I mentioned in the first part of this saga that many, if not all Brewers made sake on order for the big brothers. I was assured that the practice has completed stopped.
Bad luck, one brewer, a BIG one, still sells its brew on order. The fact is mitigated by a sort of “give-and-take” agreed with a Nada Brewer which helped that Big Brewer when it was still a struggling SMALL one 20 years ago and before. Understandable. But why do some people try to hide the fact, and why do the same people still include Fuuki as the “33rd kura” (shall I say member) of the Shizuoka Sake Brewers Association?
Addenda: Found out today (February 20th) that Tancho, which ceased operations in the early 1990’s in Shimada, brewed for the benefit of Fuuki…

Honour Roll Call

February 19, 2007

Kampai and kampai again!

When did sake brewed in Shizuoka Prefecture finally come to the fore in Japan?
As far as as 1972!
Here is the roll call when a sake brewed in Shizuoka Prefecture was given the highest accolade by the Association of Master Brewers:

1972: Doi Brewery (Eikun/Kakegawa City)
1973: Doi Brewery (Eikun/Kakegawa City)
1974: Omuraya Brewery (Wakatake/Shimada City)
1982: Doi Brewery (Eikun/Kakegawa City)
1985: Doi Brewery (Eikun/Kakegawa City)
1991: Doi Brewery (Eikun/Kakegawa City)
1995: Hatsukame (Okabe Cho)
1997: Hatsukame (Okabe Cho)
1999: Doi Brewery (Eikun/Kakegawa City)
2001: Doi Brewery (Eikun/Kakegawa City)
2004: Hatsukame (Okabe Cho)
2005: Fuji Takasago Brewery (Numazu City)

Not bad, eh?

Incidentally, Shizuoka Prefecture got 12 nominations between 1972 and 2005, Ishikawa Prefecture 18, Toyama Prefecture 5, Shiga Prefecture 1, and Kyoto Fu 1!
Between 1995 and 2005, Shizuoka Prefecture got 6, Ishikawa Prefecture 4 and Kyoto Fu 1!

Shizuoka Sake Brewer: Hitoshi Morimoto

February 17, 2007

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At long last, on February 16th, 2007, I had my first opportunity to “properly” visit a brewery!
I met Mr. Takhiro Nagashima, onwer of Nagashima Liquor Shop in Shizuoka City and Mr. Ryuuji Mayuzumi, a hygienist at a local hospital who is also a certifed taster, at 1306 at Shizuoka Station. 40 minutes later, we got off at Kikugawa City Station.
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The brewery is only 5 minutes away on foot. I got miffed when I belatedly realized that I had paased it at least 200 times when I used to teach at a local Women’s College in the same city without ever noticing it!
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We found Mr.Morimoto at work, washing milled rice with water from his own well. He allowed us to taste the water… and savour it! Soft, pure water, natural water I have no recollection of. The water comes from the Oi River, which cuts the Prefecture between Fujieda City and Kakegawa City, two other great centres of prime quality sake.
Mr. Morimoto was grumbling under his thick moustache at the this year’s rice, “definitely improper for truly great sake, whatever its source!” He was washing “Goyakumangoku” ( a shizuoka stain of Yamada Nishiki) milled down to 60% in Fukuroi City. He showed us grains cracked sideways and lengthwise. I was impressed by the blunt honesty and pride of the gentleman, I can assure you!
Mr. Morimoto is a very unusual Japanese man who looks straight in your eyes when he speaks to you, does not bow, and peppers his comments with truculent jokes. He is not one you can fool around with or flatter, but if he decides that you are a person worth to confer with, he will soon offer you his gruffy friendship and share a good talk. He is not afraid to tell you what he thinks is the bare truth. Upon being asked whether he considered making Jyunmai a chore, a tendency shown by many brewers, he curtly replied that he had to make jyunmai first before mixing alcohol in, so what is the problem? 35% of the sake he brews consists of jyunmai. He brews nothing under honjyozo. Period.
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Morimoto Brewery was founded about 100 years ago and adopted the name of Sayogoromo for its sake just before WWII. Hitoshi Morimoto is the 5th Generation. Unfortunately he does not have any family, and apart of occasional part-timers, he does all the brewing and bottling himself! That is about 20,000 bottles a year, using Yamada Nishiki or Goyakumangaku rice.
When I asked him about hiring an apprentice, he replied: “Would you be interested?” I laughed it off as we are exactly the same age. More soberly, he thinks it would be a good time for an apprentice to come on his own to work under his tutelage. If no-one comes, he will probably sell his Brewery, but certainly not now, nor in the near future, as he intends to brew until his last breath!
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(Mssrs. Nagashima, Morimoto & Mayuzumi)
He invited us to taste a couple of his sake he was particularly proud of: an aged sake he had been maturing since 2002 and another one I cannot reveal as I sent a bottle as a quiz for Melinda!
Timothy, I promise you will be the next recipient when I visit the next Brewery!
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Mr. Matsumoto follows an interesting tradition of his by producing a limited edition every year with a distinct label designed by a friend of his, a welcome addition for label collectors!
Mr. Morimoto also brews 2 “private labels”:
Kojyo for Hamasaku Liquor Shop in Hamamatsu City and Aeru No Sato for liquor shops in Kikugawa City.
Last, but not least, Mr. Nagashima, who after all had come for business, was gratified to hear Mr. Morimoto agree to his buying his sake directly from his Brewey!
Mission accomplie!

Morimoto Brewery
439-0006 Shizuoka Ken, Kikugawa Shi, Horinouchi, 103-3
Tel.: 0537-352067
Fax: 0537-351384

Sake Recipes 1: Shallots Chutney

February 13, 2007

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Kampai!

Got some sake left? Not interested in tasting a “present”?
No worries, like for wine or many many other alcoholic beverages, it can be used for great cooking!
A couple of days ago, that is on a Sunday when for once I had no cricket or any place or friends to visit, I rummaged in the kitchen and found a batch of shallots from Belgium. These are are pretty easy to find in Japan now. Choose them as big as posible as the smaller ones, although more packed with taste, tend to dry out more quickly.
Here is what I concocted:

Chutney garnish for 4~6 people:
6 medium ot large shallots (echalottes in French)
Half a garlic bulb
A large tablespoon of butter
A large tablespoon of olive oil (extra virgin, please!)
A pinch of salt
A generous pinch of fine white pepper
A tablespoon of Garam Masala Curry Paste
A tablespoon of honey
A cup of sake (320 ml)

Chop shallots and garlic fine (discard garlic cores as they are heavy on the digestive system as well as the shallots root core which have no culinary interest)
Heat and melt butter and oil in pot together on a medium fire.
Pour shallots and garlic in pot and stir in butter and oil. Cook on medium fire until they have become transparent.
Lower the fire to gentle medium/low.
Pour in the sake and stir it in. Then add and stir again one by one the honey and the Garam Masala Curry Paste.
Add the salt and white pepper.
Let it simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Check taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.

This can be eaten hot, lukewarm or clod. If you prefer it clod, let it cool down completely and keep in the refrigerator under wrap. The taste is at its best 24 hours after cooking. Can be easily reheated if necessary.
Enjoy!

What’s that ball?

February 11, 2007

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Takasago Brewery, Fujinomya City

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Kikuyoi Brewery, Fujieda City

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Eikun Brewery, Shizuoka City, Shimizu Ku

May old sake breweries have a “ball” hung under the eaves or roof at their entarnce.
It is made of ceadr branches.
Have you ever wondered about it purpose?
Actually it is a kind of “timer”: the cedar will dry and change colour and give the brewers indications not only time elapesd but also on climatic conditions!
Similarly, in England old pubs and beer breweries hung a bush under their eaves for the same purpose.
On a similar note, winegrowers in the Bordeaux area still plant roses at the end of each vine row to check the weather and especially the event of mould forming!

Fuuki 1: The Rogue?

February 8, 2007

For some time, I have been intrigued by the presence of a “Brewer” called Fuuki, located in Shizuoka City, Shimizu Ku, Yokosuna Minami Cho 2-1. Checking on the map, I noticed the presence of a natural river flowing along from the nearby mountain. The problem was that I could not find any bottle of it! I noticed recently one of thieir “taru” (cask on display in Sengen Shrine in Shizuoka City.
I first asked a pointed question to the gentleman working at the Shizuoka Brewers Association Office but only obtained a very vague answer.
Fine. Next, I asked my good friend, Mr. Masuo Yokoyama of Shimizu Ku to check for me. He found out that they are not making sake in that particular “factory”, but making large amounts of alcohol for their mother brewing company in the Nada area (Kobe-Kyoto). Apparently they had found some good water.
A liquor shop owner friend of mine mentioned they were also into bottling business.
I reported my findings to John Gauntner who revealed that this particular company is one of the biggest cheap sake exporters to the uS. Ah, ah! John advised me to read his article on oke-gai for more information. Read it, and you will understand why I call Fuuki a “rogue”!
Upon more investigation, an old hand revealed that many tank lorries were seen and are still seen on the nearby main thoroughfares.
The Association has assured me that all Breweries were presently making sake for their own business only. Whereas I cannot fault companies on making extra money, I do hope that Breweries in Shizuoka Prefecture are all genuine!

To be continued

Shizuoka Sake for St. Valentine?

February 4, 2007

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With Saint Valentine around the corner, some Shizuoka Brewers have come up with a new way to entice customers to buy their products: personalized bottles.
Bottles vary from 300ml and less to 720ml. They all contain some kind of message on their labels, some very direct, such as “Gambatte!”, Arigatou”, etc.
I was surprised to notice upon inspection that the sake offered was of a high quality for such a mass sale oriented seasonal product!
They certainly will help recuiting new adepts!

Sake as a beauty product?

February 2, 2007

Sake as a beauty product?
I would not be surprised to hear newly-come foreign women snigger at the notion!
Actually sake has been used by Japanese women (that is the richer ones) in their bath for centuries. Incidentally, shochu is also used in such a manner in other regions.
Alright, now what sake should we use?
Any will be fine actually, but it could mean an extravagant manner to savour it!
I get lots of sake presents, especially in the form of one-cup sake. Instead of discarding it as the quality is sometimes suspect, I pour it in my morning bath, for which my wife is thankful as it leaves a soft sheen on the skine, even after toweling. There is practically no smell left, and there is little danfer to get accidentally drunk as the alcohol will quickly dissipate in a hot bath!
Try it (ladies and gents alike) and you will thank me!


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