1.06.2015

Drink Menu: Nagano Nihonshu


Good drinks selection for Nihonshu.

1) Eichi ( Special sake made without added alcohol) by Shinano no uni supine

A little dry taste sake which you can enjoy the taste of "Ginjo."

2) Karakuchi Junmai ( Dry pure rice sake) 

Dry, thick and flavoursome.  A bit gamey.

3) Umakara Honjo 

High quality , tasteful and dry sake which you do not get tired of drinking.

4) Maboroshi no Blue by Suien

Thick and flavoursome  sake with rice notes, but also clear and clean.

5) Ginjo Nigori by Suien

Turbidity sake with sweet and clear taste.

6) Kura Genshu by Suien

Home brewer sake which is carefully aged with low temperature.  Thick taste, yet easy to drink.

Kurand original sake

7) Dosukoi ( sumo) sparkling sake.

8) Sake of waxy rice ( rare sake)

[end) 

All of these sake are definitely worth trying if you cannot decide where to start.

Sake Brewing Process




Sake is a brewed alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice but few people know how it is actually made.  Fermentation is a process where yeast converts sugar into alcohol.   Since rice does not contain any sugar, it cannot be fermented as is.  It has to first be converted into sugar with the help of enzymes found in a particular mold called koji-kin.   The resulting koji is then added to yeast known as kobo and left to ferment.    From this labor intensive process we get sake.


Step 1

Polishing hulled rice, the main ingredient.   As it passes through specialised polisher, the proteins and bran that can produce off flavours in sake are removed.

Step 2

Washing, steeping and steaming.   The polished rice is washed in water to remove the bran and is left to steep in water.   When the grain has absorbed 30% of its weight in water it is steamed.  One batch of steamed rice may be used to make koji, yeast starter, and to feed the moromi mash.


1. Koji 2. Shubo 3. Moromi

Making Koji

Spores of the aspergillus oryzae mold ( koji-kin) are added to the steamed rice, which is then incubated to produce koji.   the koji is added to the yeast starter and the moroni mash to help convert the rice to starch into glucose.


Preparing Shubo

This is made by mixing steamed rice, water, koji, and yeast.   It contains large amounts of yeast, which promotes the moromi fermentation process.


Preparing the moroni

Koji, steamed rice, and water are added to the shut and then left to ferment.  [ Sandan Shikomi]. Here ( during the moroni preparation stage), a process unique to Japanese sake brewing takes place.  It is a three-step fermentation process known as sandman shikomi.   On the first day, koji, steamed rice, and water are added to the yeast starter ( this addition is called hatsuzoe).   the mixture is left to stand on the following day to allow the yeast to slowly multiply( this step is called odori).   On the third day, the second batch of koji, steamed rice, and water is added to the mixture( this addition is called nakazoe).   Then finally on the fourth day, the third batch is added to the mixture( this addition is called tomezoe) to complete the three-part process.

[ Multiple parallel fermentation] From this point, the koji will convert the starch in the rice into glucose, which the yeast will then use to create alcohol and carbon dioxide.   The conversion of starch to sugar and sugar to alcohol takes place in parallel all in the same tank.   This is known as "multiple parallel fermentation," and is a process that is entirely unique to sake.


Pressing

Once the moroni is completely fermented, it is passed through a press to separate out the sake lees.   the sake is then filtered, pasteurised, and played in cold storage where it matures before being bottled.

12.10.2014

Central Park in Tokyo



Hama-Rikyu Gardens

Just go there and see the beauty of both urban and natural landscapes.    Witness migratory birds and ducks move through the air and water.  Watch as nature unfolds its beauty.  Contemplate on the quiet pond and behold the clear blue sky in its reflection.

If ever there were parks that exemplified the beautiful dynamic between modernity and tradition, then there are only a few great Japanese garden parks in Japan.  In Japan, you have garden parks that are often called gardens which are actually just beautifully maintained parks, whereas in North America the garden is a place replete with beautiful flowers and fauna, a place to go where you want to study the botanical  bounty of  a city or a town.  


The Japanese garden park is much more dynamic and aesthetically pleasing to the senses when you understand the history.   Sometimes a Japanese garden could be in the form of a stone garden, sometimes called a dry rock garden.  It could also be in the form of a wide open space with beautiful spatial dynamics that conjure up imagery of the distant past.  Or, it could be a humble little garden park with some seasonal flowers sprinkled hither and thither along a path, with some patches of bamboo and shrubs nestled away somewhere near a thicket, or even a bubbling brook.  


I love Tokyo.


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9.15.2014

Temple of the Floating Buddhas

No blog on Japan would be complete without writing about a certain aspect of Japan.   The Japanese temple is one of the most ubiquitous symbols of Japanese culture in the world.   There are thousands of temples in this country, far too many for one soul to visit  in a lifetime.   A life of searching and growing, yet as impermanent as we are as human beings, timelessness never ceases to escape our dreams, wishes, and fantasies.     We remember timelessness through impermanence, through the finite lens of our own mind, so in essence nothing truly dies if it lives on in our own minds.   


In my essays I have extolled the beauty of impermanence through my exposition of Jukujo, onsen, and analects.   Here in Japan the term for such temporal beauty is called “Wabi-sabi” a sort of timeless ephemerality through natural decomposition, a natural order of life and death.   Though the Jukujo ages she maintains an air of righteous dignity.   Her hair may lose its luster, but it shines on in grey.  Her step may lose its bounce, but she walks with a sense purpose.   That old Japanese sake cup, as small as it is, may have the scars of time smitten  over its surface, yet it imbues the mastery of its craftsman.    Temporality and eternity.    


In Kyoto, a place I have been to numerous times, and back again just recently, I knew exactly where I wanted to go this time round.   Uji City, the land of the Tale of Genji and the home of Byodoin Temple.    The temple of Fujiwara no Yorimichi, the pure land heaven of the floating buddhas and the great Phoenix Hall.    Typically in my essays I do not go into a great deal on the temple’s history because that information can  easily be sourced through Wikipedia.   I am merely relaying my personal observations and opinions.    

national treasure



The significance for me visiting this temple was to first see the garden and the general layout of the temple.   First, Byodoin is rare for me because the garden, as simple as it is, is designed according to how Lord Yorimichi envisioned  heaven would be in the after-life.   Wide open space with very simple parameters that flow and create a simple bucolic setting along a mote with a red temple in the backdrop.  Above that temple is a gold phoenix which represents  rebirth, makes me sort of wonder what Osamu Tazuka was thinking when he used a similar theme in some of his works.     


Another reason  for visiting is because it is the only temple in the world where you can see floating buddhas on clouds.    In the museum  you will be pleasantly amazed at the number of beautifully hand-crafted buddhas.   All of them are floating on clouds and are exquisitely beautiful.    They are all in their original form, aged and well cared for.  The natural decay of metal is what gives them a timeless beauty.   According to Lord Fujiwara, when you die, you are pleasantly awoken by the floating buddhas of Amida’s Heaven.   Some buddhas float on clouds shaped in the form of a lotus.   There is a sense of peace and serenity that is evoked instantly as you walk through the main hall area of the museum.   The ten yen coin seen on Japanese currency has an image of Byodoin printed on one side.


I have been to many great temples all over the world, but for me, Byodoin was the most heavenly inspiring and otherworldly.    I was no longer afraid to transition to the other side of this world.    In the Judeo-Christian world you awaken to be judged by a cold and unforgiving god who sends you straight to hell.  Buddhist concepts of heaven and hell vary quite differently from Western religions.   In Buddhist, both hell and heaven are temporary.  In hell you experience more suffering and in heaven you experience more pleasure.   You can move beyond  hell in Buddhism through educating yourself.   And then there’s hell that already exists in our daily life.  


Byodoin takes you on a journey through the physical realm and the spiritual realm in just 30 minutes.   You can really get a sense of the spiritual maturity of Lord Yorimichi and the people of that time.   Japan embellishes the charms of the after-life.  A country that has created a world unto itself.

8.29.2014

Shiosai Beach Volleyball Stadium


Shiosai Beach Volleyball Stadium


The last two weeks for me have been hectic and almost non-stop.  Had to meet my fiancee’s parents in Niigata, then hit up a few onsen and some sake breweries there.  Then down south to Kyoto and Nara.   Burnt through a lot of cash with all the transportation, hotels and dinners.  When I was single I didn’t think twice about money, but now that I am  gladly hitched, I need to be a little more careful about how I splurge.  I have to think for four people.   If I eat it’s like eating for two people, and with my girl that makes three people.  4th is what we hope is on the way.  


I am posting this because if I forget it won’t get done.  Some of you will not find this information useful because it wasn’t intended to be useful.  Keep it moving.  I am posting this to express my apotheosis for Japanese women, as usual.  On this recent trip, I took my girl with me this time to enjoy a little leg and ass worship down in southern Osaka at the Shiosai Beach Volleyball Stadium - home of the gods of femme beauty.


Now, every summer I always say I’m going to check out a beach volleyball tournament but never get around to it.  But this time I was lucky enough to grab two court side seats.   My eyes were blessed by all the bounce and sweat, but actually I was a little more mellow this time around.  My future wife rides the velodrome as a “Keirin” athlete, or in other words a avid cyclist.   Whenever I come home she’s got the $2000.00 bike parked in the kitchen!  So I got all the legs and ass I need at home!  And I can’t wait to get home!  


The post may seem self serving, but in reality I believe it’s meant to highlight how exciting life is in Japan in mid-summer.  There are tons of sporting events and various sporting venues all over Japan.   Japan has the most female World-Class athletes in the world, with many competing on the international level.  Japan has the most beautiful female athletes in the world, only to rival those in Europe.   What they lack in size they make up for in finesse and sheer beauty inside and out.   No other country in the world shares such a dynamic.   Nowhere.  Not one single foreign born female athlete dominates any sport within Japan, on Japanese soil.  Only Japanese women rule the sporting world in Japan whereas Japanese men have become a bunch of fags who can't even hold down even the most sacred of all sports.  


Here at Shiosai, home of beach volleyball in Japan, you can witness true amazonian type Japanese women leaping over nets and driving their bodies into the sand.   Their powerful midriffs and butts are flawless, even their hair somehow remains in tact all throughout the game.    As I sat court side, the usual  smorgasbord of pervs took the front row, me included.   One guy  had on a pair of thick shades and he sat within ass sniffing distance from the server!  I do not blame him!   The smallest person on the team was 170cm tall.   After the game I had a chance to meet and greet the winners as they were showering outside - in suits of course.   They were curious about my sweetheart and how she allowed me to even go near there.  Every guy there was single it seemed.  


The tallest player wanted to take a picture with me, I couldn’t.  I got a tug on my sleeve.   Just for your reference beach volleyball was born in Santa Monica California my hometown, so I am no stranger to the actual sport.  It is my favourite spectator sport.    I probably won’t be down this way again, but it’s nice visiting another part of Japan and enjoying the beauty of female sports.

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