As the brewing season is slowly slowing down, more and more events have started to pop up again and with cherry blossom season being just around the corner, March too, has been a rather busy month here in Japan.
Brewery Visit Shimazaki Aged Sake - Nasu Karasuyama
It is always great to have visitors in Tochigi and this time Arline Lyons from Taste Translations as well as Simone Maynard aka The Sake Mistress, made their way up to visit some breweries with me. First up was Shimazaki Brewery in Nasukarasuyama, famous for its aged sake and of course its sake cave...
This is one brewery I love to bring people to, although it is not an actual brewery visit as we only check out the caves, shop, and tasting room. but it is a truly special sake brewery and no matter how many times I come here, I seem to discover something new every time I visit - which is amazing!
Brewery Visit Tonoike Shuzoten - Mashiko
Of course, having visitors to Tochigi, there are other breweries I love bringing people to and another one of them is Tonoike Brewery in Mashiko. Their award-winning sake and outstanding hospitality always make this a special experience.
And this time the brewery has again outdone itself by preparing a very special lunch along with a few other things for us including one of my favorite sake pairings, their “AUTHENTIC” Junmai Daiginjo paired with local strawberries picked that very day from a nearby Strawberry farm! 🍓
If you do want to visit the brewery you can do so on your own, but if you prefer a unique experience such as a pairing lunch or tasting get in touch here.
Brewery Visit Shinkame - Saitama
This brewery has been on my wish list for a long time. In fact ever since I watched the Sake Future Summit session with Ishikawa Toji, where he described how he fell in love with Shinkame, I have had a little bit of an obsession with the sake and the brewery, so when Simone Maynard returned the favor and invited me to come along to visit them I was extremely excited!
Although close to Tokyo and easily accessible by train, this is not a public tour, which made our visit even more special. Walking through the brewery and being able to try their sake fresh from the press was a real highlight. Only topped by the fantastic sake tasting, which of course included some warmed-up sake as well as a few surprise bottles.
Meeting Akira Oze creator of "Natsuko no Sake"
Our visit to Shinkame was not just to see the brewery and try their amazing sake, but also to meet with a very special person - Akira Oze.
In case you have not heard of him, Oze-sensei is a manga artist well known with sake enthusiasts for his manga "Natsuko no Sake". It is a series of books created in 1988, which tells the story of Natsuko, who gives up a career in Tokyo, to return home to Niigata to take over the family sake brewery after her elder brother passed away...
The story inspired Rumiko Moriki from Moriki Shuzo in Mie, to create her flagship label, “Rumiko no Sake” and is the reason why they started to move to make Junmai sake. In fact, Rumiko-san was planning to join us but had to cancel last minute due to not being well (but she is ok now), which of course would have made this meeting even more special (surreal?).
Either way, it was amazing to meet Oze-sensei, look at some old photos with him, and of course share some sake and have one or two kanpais.
Watanabesahei Sake Brewery Tour - Nikko
Watanabesahei Brewery in Nikko is one of the breweries I work with as part of Sake Voyage and I love bringing visitors here for many reasons.
Just popping in with a few friends it was great to see so many other people visiting and joining is sake brewery tour and tasting, which is always a real treat!
This time we just got the end of pasteurization, which was great to see and slowly the full puzzle is coming together...
Sake Jump - Saitama
I loved the set-up at last year's Sake Jump in Tokyo, but little did I know that this small sake festival is pretty much touring around, so for it to come closer to where I live, making it the perfect excuse to visit again.
And what a difference it was, instead of torrential rain it was the perfect spring day and many breweries I love made it out to Saitama for it, including Kamikawa Taisetsu, which I extensively visited last month up in Hokkaido. What a nice surprise!
And finally, for once Haccoba did not sell out all of their brews, so I even got to try one of them this time - success.
Kyoto Photo Exhibition: Roy Schack "KONOMI - My Like"
I was absolutely delighted to be able to see fellow sake enthusiast and photographer (among many other things) Roy Schack's debut photo exhibition "KONOMI - My Like" at Gallery Take Two in Kyoto and what an amazing show it was!!!
Stunning photos, great crowd, and nice to see that aside from the usual champagne some sake also made it into the glasses of the guests. In fact, the same sake from Matsui Brewery - Kagura was my choice for an exhibition last year. If you have not tried it make sure you do if you get a chance!
JSS Hanami Sake Event
As one of my first Cherry blossom events this year, I had the chance to join journalists and influencers at a very special Hanami event organized by the Sake and Shochu Information Center in the heart of Tokyo.
A beautiful evening with singing and shamisen performances by @senshimieka & @koumiki_kouta as well as a wonderful sakura sake and wagashi pairing from @wagashikunp that let us all travel a little back in time.
The pairing of Niida Honke's Usunigori as well as the Junmai Taru sake especially stood out and worked so well with the slightly sweet wagashi...
Eureka! - I am Back Again
Another visit to Marie Chiba's Eureka! this time accompanying some restaurateurs from Australia on a little culinary adventure. (If you would love to visit the restaurant but are not sure how, get in touch here, as I do offer guided dinners.)
It seems the "Spring" menu has arrived with many new dishes to try and sake to match them, so if you have already visited Eureka before, it might be time to head back and check out all the delicious new items they are serving up now.
Sawahime Tasting Room Utsunomiya
It has been a while since I visited the tasting room of Sawahime Brewery ( IWC overall champion in 2022!), so I was quite excited to go back. Only a 35min bus ride from Utsunomiya and therefore extremely accessible if you are in the area, this one is a little hidden gem, as you often get the Toji, Sato-san to join the tasting room and explain a few things.
Now to be honest, there is not a lot of change in their lineup (other than the seasonal addition of Shiboriate in spring or Hiyaoroshi in autumn), but I do love bringing people here as they have a few sake that I think are absolutely incredible. My favorite is the Sawahime Junmai Gold, Kimoto style, only polished to 85% and slightly aged - a real treat!