Summer is definitely here in Japan! It is hot and humid, but with it also the summer festivals have arrived, well at least the ones that have not been (again) canceled this year. And plenty of sake events have come back, so many in fact it is hard to choose. Here are some highlights of what was going on in August.
Yuki Shuzo Charity Event in Nerima, Tokyo
It was great to see the sake industry rally together again in support of Yuki Shuzo, the Ibaraki-based sake brewery that so tragically burned down earlier this year on the 11th of March. With plenty of breweries coming out to serve their sake, it was great to see that help is still ongoing and of course, if you too want to help and if you do live in Japan monetary donations can still be made to the following bank account:
常陽銀行 結城支店 普通 1502819 真結酒造組合(シンケツシュゾウクミアイ)
Joyo Bank Yuki Branch Normal account: 1502819 Shinketsu Shuzou Kumiai
Aizu Sake Brewery Visit with "The Kabuki Works"
Another highlight was joining Reuben Oh King, "the young sake ambassador" and founder of the Kabuki Works, a company importing sake to Singapore, on his sake brewery visits in Aizu. Great visit to Suehiro Brewery (which is open to the public and offers a great free tour), as well as a spontaneous invitation to Miyaizumi Brewery, makers of Sharaku along with some great dining and of course sampling of the local products.
Tonoike Shuzoten Sake Garden
It was great to see Tonoike Brewery open its sake garden this year. Over several weekends the brewery welcomed the public to join them for an informal event including free-flowing sake, bento style dinner on its premises. A great chance to try not just their best-selling sake, but also some of their seasonal brews and talk to Tonoike-san. One of the few Kuramoto who's English is really great, along with his brilliant hosting qualities. Always a joy to meet him because he is such a personality.
A Visit to Nikko's Watanabesahei Brewery and Katayama Brewery
Nikko is not just famous for being a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is also home to two amazing sake breweries Watanabesahei and Katayama Brewery. They are both open to the public and tours can be arranged.
Visit Watanabesahei Brewery and enjoy a sake brewery tour by Watanabe-san himself. Being fluent in English, this is your chance to get all those unanswered sake questions answered and he is extremely friendly and funny. From showing people around the brewery to explaining some traditional drinking games, and then of course to the tasting, this is one sake brewery tour you don't want to miss if you are in Tochigi or Tokyo.
And a few walking minutes away, Katayama Brewery also opens its doors to visitors. Famous for its collaboration with the New Zealand Rugby team, creating the "All Blacks" sake, a stylish black bottle with New Zealand's signature silver fern on the label, there are a few treasures to be found in this incredibly traditional brewery...
I am a huge fan of miso and was invited to participate in a miso-making class in the center of Utsunomiya by Aogen Miso. A company with the desire to share knowledge about miso and make it more accessible. They have a shop, cafe, and kitchen studio and reservations can be made on their homepage (although it's all in Japanese). A really amazing experience and another step into understanding fermentation, who knew miso-making is so easy? Plus I have 2kg of miso waiting for me to be eaten in 3 months - yay!
*Photo Credit: Shinja Ikeda
Pottery at Atelier Touyusha
As part of the same assignment, I also had the chance to visit a local pottery studio in Utsunomiya and try myself at making some pieces. Although a little difficult to reach, this was incredible. Move over touristy pottery class, this is what I have been looking for! Rustic, hands-on, and quirky-creative a really personal pottery experience, which I will come back to and make more pieces for my collection!
*Photo Credit: Shinja Ikeda
The Month Ahead
Next month will be interesting with the first batch of Hiyaroshi coming out, we are also back from our summer break at "Sake Unplugged" (a weekly sake podcast I co-host and produce). There are an incredible amount of events coming up in September, so I will be trying to check out as many as I can, so stay tuned...