Click here to check outThe Tokyo Sake Meetup Group! I just posted this announcement to Tokyo Sake Meetup. Please join us for a special Valentine’s sake trip to Yamanashi! We are well into the sake brewing season and it is time to enjoy new sake! I just spotted this fun and educational opportunity visit Shichiken [...]
The destinations are totally off the beaten track, but I am sure you will find the slow pace of life there, the welcoming people, and the green scenery dotted with red gorgeous roof tiles very heartwarming. On our tour, you will experience the San-in region through sake, by going right to the best sources and by really getting an understanding of the brew from the world’s best expert!
A tale from Yunotsu … Somehow, one of the ladies started to tell me stories from her childhood–how she thinks of her father who died from over-working and how she wanted to give back to her mom great things her mom had given her, but her mom passed away a long time ago. I still have a vivid picture of this lady with totally gray hair bundled up soaking in the tub, sitting in front the frog as hot water dripped down with a soothing sound. When she broke into tears, I felt empathy, but at the same time my mind drifted off to a kind of ‘Spirited Away’ feeling as if I was being put under a spell by Yubaaba!
Downtown was surprisingly quiet with more historical sites, a few shops, and a captured glimpse into people’s daily back in the good old days.
Then, we were off to the Izumo Grand Shrine which is believed to be the oldest shrine in Japan. And, it is rich with myths and legends. In October, all gods from throughout Japan gather at this central location. What do they do? They hold conferences and discuss various topics such as liquor production, marriage ties, and the yield of grain during the previous year. Where do they stay? There are special guest houses on the premises to host gods while they visit the shrine! Even today people believe in the uber-power of the kamisama here and pay a special visit.
Tucking our feet under the comfortably warm table, we listened to the boatman singing old rowing songs and looked out at the the moss-covered walls or an elegant white heron resting in the middle of the still, green water. Time seemed to slow. Then, the skipper said “now we are coming up to a series of low bridges and make sure you duck”.
After the crabfest at Gyosantei, we started our third day at a hotel which also serves as a dormitory for sailors by the port of Sakaiminato. Although not a soul besides us seemed to be wandering the harbor or the streets on that sunny spring morning, the clear sky at this working port town was filled with the “clang, clang, clang” from the shipyard echoing through an otherwise very peaceful neighborhood.
A while back, John and I talked about nihonshu tourism as a way to really open the doors to the sake world to anyone interested in the brew. So, here we are announcing the first very special opportunities to meet the brewers and experience Japan through sake.
The day I returned from visiting Chiyomusubi in Sakaiminato in January, we opened a bottle of Tamagawa Tetsukezu Genshu from Kinoshita Shuzo. This was bottled directly from the giant accordion of a pressing machine, or Yabuta. It was so bubbly and lively. I happened to also bring back some Matsuba Kani from Tottori that day. The sake itself was great, but with the crab, that was just soooo good. That’s when I pulled out a map of Japan to see where Kumihama, Kyoto is.
“It’s on the Japan Sea coast and not far from Tottori or for that matter, Shimane is pretty close.” After going to a tasting of Shimane sake, I was really impressed by the region. Thus, my first casual thoughts boiled and bubbled over the next few weeks to finally emerge as a plan for a grand tour around San’in in March.
Every now and then I look back on our San’in Grand Tour from last year and fondly remember some special moments. A local old lady who broke into tears as she talked about her childhood at the century old public bath in Yunotsu Onsen comes to mind often and makes me wonder how she is doing. The look on the face of the owner of Gyosantei, a famed crab restaurant, when he found out we came all the way to Sakai-Minato from Tokyo because of Chiyomusubi Shuzo, not for his crab or for Kitaro, still makes me chuckle.