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Sake

Sake of the week #052: Kaiun Daiginjo Hase Shokichi

This post marks one year of posting Sake of the Week. Yay! Well, considering we had some time away from Tokyofoodcast, it took a longer than one year to be exact, but we managed to write about 52 different sake we had each week.

On Friday, we opened a very special bottle of Kaiun which I thought to be perfect for our anniversary post. This rectangular bottle is actually what got me started with sake so many years ago. And, for us, this is most likely the last time we’ll enjoy Kaiun brewed by Hase Shokichi Toji. Last fall, I bought this bottle at Mitsuya and saved it in the fridge for a special occasion.

Having been aged for over one year total, this developed a more honey-like and thicker taste. Looking over my notes on the same brew in an unpasteurized version, I see that the velvety feel that rolls on the palette was still there. I enjoyed this aged bottle just by itself–no food–so that I could just remember the legendary masterpiece.

Six or seven years ago, I knew nothing about nihonshu, but I was totally impressed by the sake someone ordered for a group dinner at a sushi place in Akasaka. Kaiun literally blew my mind with the realization that sake could be so good. The rectangular bottle was easy to remember too. So, I remembered to look for the same green bottle when we stopped at Mitsuya Saketen in Ogikubo for the first time. We were actually looking at a gallery across the street and found Mitsuya by chance. One stroke of good luck after another! Since then, we have been going to Mitsuya once a month for a sake lecture and tasting lead by Takase-sensei. Considering how much of my time I devote to promoting nihonshu tourism after this series of coincidences, I don’t think it is over-dramatic to say Hase-toji’s work really changed my life.

Last July, Hase-toji finished his more than forty years at Kaiun.

Shokichi Hase, long time toji at Kaiun in Shizuoka, Passes Away

“The toji at Doi Shuzo in Shizuoka since 1968, and known as one of the Four Guardians of Heaven of the Noto Toji, (Noto Toji no Shiten-oh), Shokichi Hase passed away on July 17. That is forty seasons as a toji – all at one kura. He helped make Kaiun and Takatenjin what they are, and was surely one of the most famous toji in the history of the craft. I am quite sure he took steps to see that the brew maintained its quality after he was gone. May he rest in peace, and may the Doi family and their sake not feel his absence too much.” Quoted from John Gaunter’s SPC Alumnae NL August-September 09

For sure, we will continue to enjoy Kaiun. But, I thought this obon week was the appropriate time to pay tribute to the greatest toji who had so much impact on me.

Previous post on Kaiun: Kubi 5 ro

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