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Sake

Sake of the week #027: Kikuyoi Junmai Ginjo Matsushita-mai 50

Last Thursday, Tokyoites witnessed just how fragile our modern transportation web can be with just a touch of a typhoon that barely covered the area. Some strong winds stopped the JR Yamanote Line completely for more than two hours in the early morning as I got to Gotanda Station. So, my alternative transportation to Shibuya, a fully loaded bus, took over one hour, instead of six minutes.

Naturally, on the bus, I was thinking ahead and that the evening sake event we were supposed to go to might be canceled. Around noon when everything cleared up, our very organized host at Haneda Excel Hotel Tokyu emailed me to say that the event was still on. So, we were able to attend the first Sake Seminar organized by the hotel’s team of sake enthusiasts.

The honored first guest-brewer was Aoshima-san from Kikuyoi in Shizuoka. He struck me as a very serious craftsman, so dedicated to his brew–almost like a zen monk at a monastery with his approach to the sake making season. He shared with the group his philosophy toward his work and talked a bit about his far away former life as a fund manger on Wall Street. At the end of the talk, we raised our ochoko filled with Kikuyoi Junmai Daiginjo Matsushita-mai 40, made with organic rice grown by Matsushita-san.

Matsushita-san grows rice during the summer and works as kurabito at the brewery in the winter. He had quite a former life as well. Initially, the guy went to Ethiopia as part of Japanese version of Peace Corp to teach locals how to increase yields by using fertilizer and pesticides. In the end, he returned home with what he had learned: co-existence with nature, which lead him to grow organic Matsushita-mai.

OK, back to the kanpai. I jotted down, “sawayaka, almost like a cool wind passing over the green rice field, creating waves.” It was clean and just so delightful, especially a great moment of relief from the hectic weather we’d had earlier that day. One guest across from us pronounced it. “Yabai“, or too dangerous. “This is too smooth and too good,” he said. I completely agreed.

Then, we moved on to the next one, Kikuyoi Junmai Ginjo Matsushita-mai 50, same rice, just a slight reduction in rice polishing rate. This really hit me. It had the same sawayaka feel with deeper umami and a very well-balanced acidity, a bit like bigger waves of wind slowly sweeping the green rice field. Every line we had that night was great, but this one was especially memorable for me.

I really respect the approach both Aoshima-san and Matsushita-san are taking toward their rice and sake. To access more information, see below for Melinda Joe’s article in the Japan Times. Also, I hope you have a chance to read the full chapter dedicated to Kikuyoi in Sake’s Hidden Stories by John Gaunter. You will find out how one man quit his work as a successful financial wiz and then how the two of them with such different backgrounds started as a team.

So, whenever you have a chance to sip this special brew, please see if you can taste a bit of how three continents collaborate in this masterpiece!

Japan Times article about Kikuyoi and organic rice grown by Matsushita-san

Sake’s Hidden Stories: Farewell To Wall Street (Page 55)
Kikuyoi of Shizuoka Prefecture
Then it hit him. Hit him like a ton of bricks, it did.
“Holy shit! Sake brewing! What the hell have I been
thinking! It has been with me my whole life!”

More great information on Kikuyoi Matsushita-mai at:
Tokyo Through the Drinking Glass
Shizuoka Sake

Discussion

2 Responses to “Sake of the week #027: Kikuyoi Junmai Ginjo Matsushita-mai 50”

  1. Etsuko-san,
    The timing of this post is fortuitous as ever since first tasting it at Melinda’s seminar with Elizabeth Andoh last March, I’ve craved Kikuyoi JG. Finally, I was fortunate enough to purchase a bottle during my visit to Tokyo last week for Hiroko and I to enjoy here in NYC. It was great seeing you and Ted to share some great food and nihonshu!
    Kanpai!
    Rick

    Posted by Rick | October 16, 2009, 5:06 am
  2. Rick-san
    It was great to see you in Tokyo. Sounds like you had good and fruitful shopping time. Did you carry all back?

    Posted by Et-chan | October 17, 2009, 7:55 am

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