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August: The Return of Souls

August is peak summer season in Japan.  We can look forward to some of the most spectacular fireworks displays and festivals in the world, ...

True Cold Winter Brew: 冬の月

It’s pronounced fu-yu-no-tsuki (winter’s moon)an arabashiri,which denotes the season’s first sake called run roughly sake, in other words moromi (fermented mash) naturally pressed from a traditional wooden press called a fune. What comes out after what’s either pressed manually or naturally from its own weight is what I am drinking now(rough run). Of course, I have only given you a condensed version of this whole process. Just remember, this sake was made by hand not machine. You do not drink sake like this hot but COLD.
abashiri
This a Junmai Ginjo Muroka Nama Shiboritate (unfiltered first pressed draft type) and is produced by Kamikokoro( God Heart) Brewery in Okayama Prefecture, located in the westernmost region of Honshu called Chugoku or San'in-San'yō’s Asakuchi District. Sake from this part of Japan are typically fuller bodied than their Northern Japan counterparts, so if you are looking for something with more dynamic ranges in flavors then look West.
photomatix
When savoring the initial taste of this sake in your mouth(口に含む/kuchi ni fukumu) the first things that comes to mind is dry, sharp, and fruity, like winter itself, along with the sweet smells of the seasons.


All of these elements burst forth on your palate all at the same time. This is called “umami.” I think this could be attributed to the type of yeast that was used called “ hakuto.” The seimabuai(sake meter value) is at 58%, Alc 1.6, and the nihonshudo is minus 4. So, sweet,dry, and fruity. Another key feature is that it’s also an usunigori type!



When talking about sake I can’t help but include other aspects about the region and its people, history, and cuisines as I feel they embody the essence of shudō– the way of loving the seasons and sake according to Hiroyuki Kouda. I can’t resist. These other elements must be told. N.B., shudō should not be confused with the homosexual practices of the samurai. They are two different practices.



When I think of this part of Japan, images of the famous Korakuen  come to mind with its lush green, its peach groves and long winding meandering channels called kyokusui. I also can’t help but envision the snow clad pine trees and cedar groves. The soothing and mysterious clucking sound of the Shishi Odoshi as water fills and empties it.



The Japanese Bush Wabler’s cherp in the early morning as dew drops fall near my window. I can drink sake to this I say to myself.  Morning sake is the best.  I have sat in WARM winter onsen(s) in West Japan as snow fell gently and gracefully across my shoulders while drinking COLD sake. I can almost smell the scent of pine from the sake masu(woooden cup).



Built by Ikeda Tsunamasa, lord of Okayama this garden/park has become known as one of the top three great Daimyo gardens in Japan and is a shining jewel in the middle of a city famed for its samurai and enormous wealth. One notable great was a samurai sword legend named Miyamoto Musashi, author of the book “Five Rings” which details his martial arts. Musashi is well-known in Japan as arguably the greatest swordsman that ever lived. Don’t forget that folks.


According to the way of shudō, which again means fostering a love of the seasons, sake lends a type of expression to the natural balance and harmony of life for me. I see it as a way to better understand Japan and its people.  I have personally been to Okayama. I have met the people there. I have met the Jukujo there. I have imbibed there. I have strolled threw the daimyo gardens there. I have acknowledged the gods there.  This is Japan.



On a final note, please don’t confuse the term “arabashiri” as there are other sake with this label as well. Just remember, this one is from Okayama Prefecture. Arabashiri is extremely popular now in Japan, especially by most Japanese sake lovers.


I’d like to give a special shout out to Melinda Joe for poking me with a lightening rod over at her wonderful blog called Tokyo Through the Drinking Glass.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, indeed! I hear what you mean about arabashiri getting kind of popular. I just had a really lovely Matsu no Tsukasa arabashiri nama junmai ginjo at Sushisho Masa last week!

    Thank you so much for the fantastic recommendation!

    Best wishes,
    Melinda

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