August is historically a month full of local events, which I am super excited about. Also having moved from Kanto to Kansai I was really looking forward to exploring my new home Kyoto. I anticipate spending most of my time in and around Kyoto, as the real beauty of it is that there are so many amazing places nearby, so this month has again been one where I checked out a few places spread over a couple of prefectures to discover some amazing sake and meet the people who make and promote it.
Anjo Tanabata Festival - Sake Matsuri
There are a lot of Tanabata (Star) festivals happening all over Japan and they are beautiful matsuries where the whole community comes together. We traveled to Anjo in Nagoya for one, not just for the festival, but also because we knew there was a hidden local sake festival inside the festival
Lots of great sake, and surprisingly not just from Aichi prefecture, and some great other beverages including plenty of Doburoku from Niigata Craft Sake Brewery Lagoon and a pretty amazing Amazake from the local Kamisugi Brewery 😋
Elevage - Aged Sake Bar Nagoya
A highlight of our Nagoya trip was certainly visiting @elevage_shikemichi, THE aged sake bar in Nagoya (and beyond?). A treasure cove of amazing aged sake at really fair prices and one of the best hospitality I have seen in a while.
Nestled in the historic district of Shikemichi in Nagoya this bar dedicated to aged sake has been a place I wanted to visit for some time. They say they have over 500 aged sake in their shop at any given time and looking into their fridge/reading through the extensive sake menu leaves no doubt that this is true.
They even curated some very affordable tasting sets (or you can just tell the barman what you like and he will custom-match your taste). I thought I start with one of the sets to see what they are all about, which included:
〇元禄 純米 “Genroku Junmai” @katsuyamasake
○金鼓 山廃本醸造 “Kinko Yamahai Honjozo” @ Ookura Honke
○二十年常溫熟成古酒 普通酒 “Twenty-year-old aged Futsushu”
The first surprise was they all were served from small 300ml bottles (!) and then came the color of each, especially the Genroku Junmai, deep brown almost like a cup of coffee! Needless to say, this trio of aged sake was incredible…
Great evening, with plenty more amazing aged sake. And just like that, Nagoya has moved up on my list of places to visit more regularly so I can pop in here and try some more 🤩
Happy Taro Doburoku - Shiga
On our little 4-prefectures-in-one-day trip (Aichi, Gifu, Shiga & Kyoto) our last stop was with Shiga Doburoku maker “Happy Taro” and it was a very happy visit indeed!
What a cool space! Located in what is best described as a sustainable craft department store in the heart of Nagahara the brewery is at the very core. Visitors get to both look into the brewery space, Koji room and take a seat to taste their Doburoku in a nice small tasting space. And with a tasting set of 4 at 700Yen that is certainly amazing value!
They have their standard Doburoku, which they pretty much brew all year round (fun fact, brewing happens during “shopping hours”, hence between 9 and 6 pm), and their seasonal brews, in our case, these were:
-“Happy Doburoku” their standard
-“Huell Melon” a Hop Doburoku
-“Something Happy” Fresh Herb Tea (with mint and marigold)
-“Something Happy” made with Green Tea
The fresh herb tea Doburoku was insanely good and at 7% abv just perfect for the summer! And talking to Kotaro-san was so interesting, I learned so much in the little time we were there...
Really great visit all around if you are curious to find out more check out my detailed post about Happy Taro here!
Yamaguchi Sake - Jim Rion
It is always great to have visitors and how nice to see fellow podcaster from Sake Deep Dive, Author and Yamaguchi resident Jim Rion for an impromptu book sale at a coffee shop and a quick stop and catch-up at the @ry_yakimono_gallery_kyoto to talk about sake, his book and of course look at some amazing pottery.
Have not read the book yet? Well-worth reading, you can check out both the hardback and the paperless version on Amazon here.
I did not know what to expect when I was invited to join an event by @glassbacca to celebrate Gozan Okuribi Festival, maybe the most famous Obon celebration in Kyoto, where bonfires are lit in five mountainsides in the shape of Kanji Characters. What a great evening with plenty of sake from @kitagawahonke_fushim ( makers of Tomio), @tamanohikari_1 and a surprise appearance of @adachi_noujo.yoshi. I also discovered @butugenji_aburanokoji who brought some amazing slightly aged Kijoshu and an invitation to his temple. And of course, there was plenty of local food, other beverages, live music and we got to see the bonfires from a rooftop in downtown Kyoto - just an amazing evening!
Hama Otsu Morning Market - Furosen
One of my favorite events every month is the Hamaotsu Morning Market in neighboring Shiga. only about a 35-minute train ride from Kyoto it is super easy to get to and such a fun way to spend your morning, well if you are up for tasting some sake before lunchtime.
Always held on the 3rd Sunday of the month, I must confess, I nearly missed it. Luckily I made it just in time!
I was especially excited about this month's brewery, which was. Uehara Syuzou, makers of “Furosen” which I love. Great sake and one brand you should have on your list to try if you are into Kanzake, because all their brews taste incredible when heated up.
Ritmicita - Italian Food and Sake
A little bit off the beaten track, this was such a great find. Beautiful interior, amazing stuff and the food and sake selection was exquisite. They have great options on different course menus, which were really affordable too and the food that came out was absolutely delicious. Just look at the starter, a plate of several mini-sized appetizers including a tiny pizza.
You can also find out more about my visit in my post about Ritmicita - Italian Food and Sake here.
More from Osaka - Silver Lining Tacos
So many great places to drink sake in Osaka and so many places to eat! There is a very good reason that Osaka is called the belly of Japan, as there is just so much great food here.
Does it always have to be Japanese cuisine? I don't think so, in fact, some pretty spectacular Mexican food can be found around here and I do try to come down to eat a taco or two at least once a month, as it is one of my favorite things to eat!
So I was incredibly excited to finally check out @silverliningosaka and it was so worth it.
Amazing tacos (all meats available 3ways: food truck, BBQ and Tex-Mex style), a great selection of craft beers (no sake on the menu I am afraid) along with mouthwateringly looking burgers, pulled pork, and wings. There is only so much one person can eat in one sitting, which means I will be visiting again and I actually cannot wait for it
A few weeks ago I met Kazuki Aburanokoji, the vice head priest of Butsugenji (a small temple here in Kyoto) and he told me he is holding regular sake events called “Teranomi” (寺のみ), “Tera” for temple and “Nomi” for drinking. Because he loves sake and he wants his temple to be a space where the local community can come together and grow. So needless to say I was really interested in attending this!
Funnily enough, what I did not realize was that his temple is literally 4min from my house. Coincidence? Maybe not.
So for this small event, he curated 10 sake, had a small ceremony and a tiny speech, and then everyone just sat together drank sake and local craft beers, and made new friends. Just a local, very casual event bringing the local community together over our favorite beverage...
This is pretty much why I love Kyoto. What a great project by @butugenji_aburanokoji (follow him for more info 😉) and a wonderful evening with great sake.
Visiting Robert Yellin Gallery Kyoto
Always a pleasure to visit the amazing @ry_yakimono_gallery_kyoto - so many wonderful things to see and great stories to hear. With every piece having its own character and life, I am always truly amazed by the knowledge and passion Robert has for every single item in his gallery and for the makers they came from.
So it did not at all surprise me to find him in one of the many pottery books and what an amazing interview.
And then the tiny shelf of guinomi and cups, with each piece more beautiful than the one before and reverse. Two pieces did catch my eye, one of them found a new home at a friend's place in Tochigi, the other one, I might be back...
Bizen Exhibition at Takashimaya in Kyoto
Super quick visit today at Takashimaya in Kyoto as the super talented @bizen_kazuya let me know he is once again exhibiting some of his amazing work as part of a group exhibition of five young Bizen potters/artists, who are pushing the boundaries of Traditions 🍶
With Bizen pottery having a very particular look and style, it is great to see what the next generation of this style produces and it was clear some of them are very much pushing the boundaries of what we imagine Bizen pottery to be.
Some really great work by all the artists involved and if you missed this, make sure to mark your calendar for the annual Bizen Pottery Festival next month.