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Kinpou Sakagura

When we returned to Kinpou Shuzo for harvesting, we stopped by at Kinpou Sakagura, an izakaya a few minutes from Koriyama station that carries sake exclusively made by Kinpou Shuzo. This was our second time here, after liking it so much in June on the way back from the rice field. Back in June, as we sipped sake and grazed on reba yaki liver yakitori, half drunken Te-chan and I repeated ourselves over and over by saying, “Gee, this place makes me feel so natsukashii, like being in izakaya 20 years ago, in Showa period.”

In June, when we opened the sliding door and stood for a second in the dark wondering where we should sit, the sight that first came into view was the big “U” shaped wooden counter that seats well over 15 people. Inside the counter is the space where staff walks around and serves customers. Surrounding the counter are separate little tatami areas or tables, each will seat about 8 people. In the back room, there is a big kitchen where you see the staff skewering pieces of chicken or chopping veggies. All around the room, menu boards are hanging on the wall along with seasonal sake recommendations. Then, enka music.

A lady in a white uniform with a triangular white head cover tied around her neck approached from the kitchen, turned on the fluorescent lights and stood in the bar space very quietly after greeting us, “irassyaimase” as we stood there. We were the first customers that evening. Finally, we occupied one corner of the counter and sat down. We looked around sheepishly and still we were not sure what to make of this place. We knew they carry Odayaka and other sake brewed by Kinpou, but we weren’t expecting to feel like this–an odd but kind of warm feeling.

We looked at the menu and ordered two kinds of honjozo that are not available in Tokyo along with the usual suspects, edamame and sashimi. Then we realized sake is really cheap here; 300 yen for a 180 ml glass honjozo or 2,000 yen for a 720 ml bottle of Odayaka, about half of what you pay at a restaurant. As we looked closely at the food menu, we were totally stunned to find most of the plates are around 300 yen to 400 yen: five skewers of chicken tsukune, shime saba plate, or motsunicomi stew. Interestingly, my first reaction was, “I did not think we were coming to Tsubohachi type cheap izakaya. Oh, well, we can just go after the first round.” Cheap often does not mean good, especially at restaurants. My dark thoughts and regrets, however, were completely blown away when the lady brought out the bottle of sake, poured it into a big glass overflowing into a wooden sake cup or masu, then food. Both sashimi and shime saba were fresh and such good, large portions. The edamame had just right amount of salt. As often is the case when food at a restaurant exceeds our expectations, we went totally berserk and ordered so much food and so many bottles of sake.

Half way through, we washed reba yaki down with Tamura nama muroka. The counter slowly filled up with what seemed to be regulars. They all came alone, sat quietly at the bar, and sipped sake or beer with a few tsumami, occasionally chatting with the lady in the center. My memory system shut down around here. It was rebooted only as we approached Ueno, on the Shinkansen back to Tokyo.

In September, we went back to Kinpou Sakagura. Same again. First customer, the same lady. This time, though, we sat down at the same spot right away and ordered honjozo. “How did you like the harvesting?”. She asked as she brought out the first bottle. Nothing changed since June, needless to say. Same, same. “Great”. We replied. An hour or so later, a guy comes in and as soon as he stepped into the bar, said “Oh! You are back for harvesting already? How did you like it?”. Totally startled and feeling like being in front of a psychic, Te-chan and I looked at each other like “How the hell does he know?”. Then, a few seconds later, it dawned on us that he was at the bar at the same time back in June. He went around the corner and sat down.

We chatted with this nice guy for a while, but had to leave to catch a train. As we were walking back to the station, I said “You know, next time we are back in March, I bet he will be on the exact same stool at the exact same time.”. Then, I felt really jealous that he has such a nice local place to hang out in that never changes even the slightest bit.

More Kinpou Sakagura pix


2 Responses to “Kinpou Sakagura”

  1. Wow, sounds so lovely! I want to go there in March, too!

    I wonder, though, if you get that natsukashii feeling at my place – the showa-style bathroom, atmosphere that never changes, little old lady with a headscarf (me). All I need is some enka.

    Thanks for dinner the other night! It was so much fun. Thanks, too, for letting me tag along to yesterdays’ tasting. That was a terrific surprise. Oh, and Ozaki-san didn’t karamu me at all on the ride home!

    Posted by melinda | October 23, 2007, 8:00 am
  2. You are too young to be a little lady from Showa, Melinda!

    I thought this is a nice picture of you and Oyaji-san from yesterday. I will post some more later.

    Posted by Et-chan | October 23, 2007, 1:29 pm

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