Saturday, November 10, 2018

On the nihonshu trail in Takayama and Hida-Furukawa :)

A well-stocked liquor store in Hida-Furukawa
The greenest sugidama I've seen to date!
Sake tasting in Takayama
In the years since my first memorable night at Sasagin back in the summer of 2012, I've become quite the fan of the Japanese tipple known as sake to much of the world but more specifically as nihonshu in Japanese (since sake is the generic word for "alcohol" in the native language of the residents of the Land of the Rising Sun).  These days, my favorite bar in Hong Kong specialize in nihonshu and this very Japanese alcoholic drink has become my drink of choice when eating a variety of foods (most of them Japanese but I've also found that nihonshu pairs very well with certain cheeses!). 
While I still do have a taste for (good) beers, I do drink more nihonshu than beer these days both in Hong Kong and Japan.  And, increasingly on my Japan visits, I like to track down specialist nihonshu bars, keep a look out for particular brands of sake to drink (including a few that I've yet to find in Hong Kong) and have even made a pilgrimage to my favorite sake brewery far up in the mountains of Yamaguchi prefecture!  
In addition, certain towns being known for having sake breweries most certainly adds to their attraction for me -- and while it really is true that my primary reason for wanting to go to Obuse actually was not sake, I was perfectly happy to visit its sake breweries when I was in that picturesque town!  By a similar token, I was attracted to Takayama for more than it being home to six (or seven?) sake breweries.  Still, I did make a point while there to visit a good number of them and taste at least one of the varieties of nihonshu which they brewed!  
Strolling around that Hida mountain town, I saw a number of liquor stores, all of them looking well-stocked with nihonshu, and got the distinct sense from them as well as the existence of the sake breweries, that Takayama's quite the nihonshu town.  If truth be told though, the only locally brewed sake there that I cared for was that from the Funasaka Sake Brewery (which also is home to a nice restaurant where I had a delicious Hida beef set lunch).  And I didn't have much hope that the quality of the sake brewed in nearby -- and smaller -- Hida-Furukawa would be any better until a chance meeting with a fellow nihonshu enthusiast at Yamanosachi Uribuoya, the wild game specialist eatery that I dined at one evening in Takayama.  
Hirakawa-san, a Sapporo man on his third visit to Takayama, told me of his having visited Hida-Furukawa earlier that day and decided that the Watanabe Sake Brewery there produced his favorite sake in the region.  Intrigued by his high praise of their nihonshu, I decided to head to that neighboring town the next day -- and I really would like to thank him for his recommendation.  Let's put it this way: I liked the junmai daiginjo I tasted at the brewery so much that I ended up coming away with a bottle of it that I've managed to safely transport back to Hong Kong!

For the record: that's only the second bottle of sake I've ever transported back to Hong Kong, and only the first that I've bought in Japan.  (The first was given to me by the Asahi Shuzo's brewery's CEO when I visited his brewery!)  And I have not yet drank it because I've been told that it's actually too fresh to be in optimal condition.  Come January 2019 though, I'll be opening that bottle and sharing it with my friends -- and when I do so, I'll definitely think fondly of Hida-Furukawa but also Takayama, where I got the recommendation to go to check out the sake brewed in Hida-Furukawa! :b  


peppylady (Dora) said...

Had very little sake and what I had I liked. But I liked it also slightly heated.
Coffee is on

YTSL said...

Hi peppylady --

Cool re your having tried sake and liked it! By the way, what I've found is that sake with added alcohol (known as honjozo) can taste better when heated but those without added alcohol (known as junmai, which I way prefer) are best drunk chilled or at room temperature.

Anonymous said...

Hi There,

A note, the Honjozo may give you a headache next morning if you drink too much but not for Junmai. You may still be woozy but there would usually be no headaches. As told by one of my wine buddies. I don't usually drink that much myself.


YTSL said...

Hi T --

Agreed re the junmai being much better if you wish to avoid having a hangover the next day. I also like that the junmai does have an alcohol "burn" when you swallow it -- and really like how "pure" my favorite junmai daiginjo (top grade junmai) taste. :)