月別アーカイブ: 2021年9月


Sake Is the Best of All Medicines: Meaning Behind the Proverb

Sake Is the Best of All Medicines

In Japanese there is a saying  “Sake wa hyaku yaku no chou” meaning sake is the best of all medicines. In a similar way, Italians have a saying “good wine makes good blood”, but these are proverbs are not calls to overindulgence. Rather, they are proverbs that show these are drinks that are very much connected to the Japanese and Italian culture, history and land.  So sake is as much about a relationship with the Japanese culture and identity as it is about taste and experience.

The origin of this proverb is the Book of the Later Han, one of the official Chinese historical works complied in the 5th century. It is sometimes followed by another saying “sake wa hyaku doku (poison) no chou”, meaning that sake’s the worst poison. This later proverb comes from the Essays in Idleness written by Kenkou Yoshida in the 14th century. This is a good example of the Japanese people’s fondness of moderation.


Kinsen Sake Wa Hyaku Yaku no Chou

The current brewer of the Kinsen brand is Aihara Shuzo, the maker of another famous brand called Ugonotsuki, but it was originally a brand name of Horimoto Shuzo in Mitsu, Akitsu, Hiroshima Prefecture. When Horimoto Shuzo went out of business, Aihara Shuzo brought in Atsushi Horimoto, a skilled toji (master brewer), and added the brand name to the Aihara Shuzo lineup.

Kinsen’s flagship sake, Kinsen Sake Wa Hyaku Yaku no Chou, makes a bold but solid statement that is hard to disagree with. It is a junmai ginjo sake with a rich ginjo aroma and a sharp, clear taste that goes well with seafood dishes such as bonito tataki, as well as Chinese dishes such as haposai and spring rolls.

A soft, dry and even slightly grainy start spreads into a lighter finish with a bit of bitterness and sweetness coming out of the recesses. There is a thickness to Kinsen that survives long into the finish, which is fairly quick despite all that is happening before its turn to take the stage comes. Take a time to enjoy this special sake!



September 28th Is Drink Beer Day! Celebrate with Kinshachi Akamiso Lager

September 28th Is Drink Beer Day!

Beer can be enjoyed on almost any day of the year, however this day is certainly an extra special one. It’s Drink Beer Day, an enjoyable day which has the dedicated activity is clearly stated in the name. What could be better?

Every year on September 28th, National Drink Beer Day honors the malty elixir. As the Oktoberfest season draws to a close, the day serves as a reminder to partake in the world’s most popular adult beverage.
Beer drinkers now have more options than ever before in the market for ales and lagers. The craft beer industry’s expansion keeps the competition and flavors vibrant, churning out new flavors seasonally. Beer lovers quench their thirst with flavors that are vastly different from the beers of their grandfathers. When it comes to artisanal brews, everything from root beer to raspberry, caramel, and traces of herbs tickles the palate.

And this day offers the simplest of instructions when it comes to this world-renowned beverage: drink beer. Now it’s time to raise a glass of your favourite ale or lager and celebrate Drink Beer Day!


Celebrate with Kinshachi Akamiso Lager

If you are looking for try a new taste, Kinshachi Akamiso Lager is the answer!

This unique Japanese style Lager is brewed with akamiso (red soybean paste), a specialty of Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture. Exotic and unorthodox, it has a beautiful bold palate with rich flavour and a sweet scent, created by combining the umami of red miso and malt. The velvety smooth finish and its miso flavour is well suited for this style of beer and is a must-try among beer advocates. And we have just the perfect snacks to go with this unique beer!



Nakano Shuzo and the Two Chiebijin Brands

Nakano Shuzo and Their Two Brands

Nakano Shuzo was founded in 1874 and is located in Kitsuki City, the northeastern part of Oita Prefecture. The castle town, which still retains the atmosphere of the Edo period, used to be lined with sake breweries. With the passage of time, one brewery after another went out of business, and today there is only one, the smallest, Nakano Shuzo, located farthest from the castle town. Since its establishment, the entire staff has been dedicated to brewing sake that is loved by the local community and that the community can be proud of.

The brewery’s brand name “Chiebijin” (智恵美人, written in kanji), which has been used for generations, was named after the founder’s wife, Chie. Since its establishment, the brewery has been making local sake of Kunisaki Peninsula, but the new sake brand created by Atsuyuki Nakano, the fifth generation president, is called “Chiebijin (ちえびじん, written in hiragana).

It’s not just a matter of changing the kanji to hiragana. The hiragana version, “Chiebijin,” is a high quality sake with a special name, and is only shipped to specialty sake stores nationwide, while the kanji character “Chiebijin” is positioned as a traditional local sake. The latter is  made to match the local sweet flavored dishes, and has a strong sweet and umami taste, while the former has a more refined taste  – very soft and fruity.

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Compare the Two Chiebijins!

Kanji Chiebijin (智恵美人) is the local product representing Kitsuki-shi in Oita. This junmai ginjo is brewed using natural underground water pumped up from 200 meters below the brewery and locally produced Yamada Nishiki rice from Kitsuki, Oita Prefecture, polished to 55%. Enjoy the balance between the sweetness that spreads in your mouth and the gentle aroma that follows.

Hiragana Chiebijin (ちえびじん) junmai ginjo has a fruity aroma, a round sweetness that is gentle on the palate, and the full flavor of Yamada Nishiki is well-balanced by the firm acidity. This is a sake to be chilled and enjoyed in a wine glass. In 2016, for the first time ever Japanese sake was given Parker Points (score awarded to a wine by Robert M. Parker Jr.,  one of the most influential wine critics), and Chiebijin Junmai Ginjo Yamadanishiki received an Outstanding rating of 90 points. Only 78 items received 90 points or more, making it a very narrow field.



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Kaganotsuki Gekko: Soft Radiance and White Glow of the Moon in a Sake Bottle

Kaetsu Shuzo 

The history of Kaetsu Shuzo dates back to the end of the Edo period (1603-1868), and the brewery has been refining its techniques in order to produce sake that will please customers, and in recent years has received high praise for its ginjo brewing. The brewery is characterized by the pure, unadulterated flavor of its highly refined sake and its natural, understated aroma, making it an extremely delicate brewery even in the snowy Hokuriku region.

It is often said that water is the life of a sake brewery. Kaetsu Shuzo is located at the foot of Mt. Hakusan, one of the three most famous mountains in Japan. The cold, clear subsoil water originates from the Hakusan Mountains and is produced from melting snow. According to the theory, this water spends at least 100 years slowly filtering through deep underground until it reaches the well .

Kaetsu has won many awards, including the Gold Award 15 times at the National New Sake Competition sponsored by the National Institute of Brewing Research, the most prestigious competition in the sake industry. In 2012 and 2013, Kaganotsuki (the representative brand of the brewery), was selected as the sake to be served at the Nobel Nightcap, a celebration following the Nobel Prize award ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden.

Kaganotsuki Gekko Junmai Daiginjo

Kaganotsuki Moon series is made for those with philosopher’s taste buds. In pursuit of an intangible artform, Kaetsu Brewery aimed to capture the soft radiance and white glow of the moon in a sake bottle. And they may just have succeeded. Gekko meaning “moonlight” evokes a mysterious, still and thoughtful imagery, that this sake aims to encapsulate in one bottle.

This junmai daiginjo is made with 50% polished Gohyakumangoku rice from Ishikawa Prefecture. Kaganotsuki Gekko won the “Highest Gold Award” in the Premium Kanzake category of the National Kanzake Contest 2016. Exquisitely harmonious natural rice flavor and savory ginjo incense, reminiscent of mysterious moonlight. It has a gentle aroma and a smooth and deep taste, and you can fully feel the umami of rice. Sipping on this sake under the moonlight would certainly make for a wonderful special moment!





Shochu Starts with Kagoshima: Try the Traditional Kagoshima Imo Shochu!

Shochu Starts with Kagoshima

Shochu making began in Kagoshima around the 16th century. It is thought that the distillation technology developed in West Asia was introduced to Kagoshima from Siam (today’s Thailand) via Okinawa. At first, rice was the main ingredient, but the Shirasu region covered with the volcanic ash of Sakurajima was not suitable for rice production, so it did not take root. It took the arrival of sweet potatoes for shochu production to flourish in Kagoshima.


The cultivation of sweet potatoes began in Kagoshima in the 18th century. The sweet potato seedlings brought back from the Ryukyu Islands were suitable for cultivation on the Shirasu plateau, so they spread quickly throughout Kagoshima, and the sweet potato shochu production took root. Kagoshima still produces the most sweet potatoes in Japan, accounting for more than a quarter of the total domestic production. Another reason why so much sweet potato shochu is made in Kagoshima is that the city has been actively doing research relating to using sweet potatoes in shochu.


Try a True Kagoshima Imo Shochu

Since the times of the Satsuma clan, Kagoshima has positioned sweet potato shochu as an important local specialty, and has encouraged its production and quality improvement. As a result, many shochu breweries have refined their shochu-making techniques through friendly rivalry, and even today, more than 100 shochu breweries continue to improve their techniques. Today, there are more than 2,000 brands of Kagoshima’s imo shochu, and it is said there is no brand that tastes the same.

One of the breweries that has always had a strong passion for making a good imo shochu is Ogatama Shuzo. Established in 1894, the brewery continues brewing shochu using century-old traditional methods, with earthenware pots buried in the ground and aged to achieve its mild, elegant flavour.


Tekkan is the flaghsip brand of the brewery. Only carefully selected satsuma sweet potatoes are used, and both the primary and secondary brewing are done in a traditional earthenware pot. Enjoy the aroma, softness, and fullness of the drink. Tekkan Imo Shochu is the perfect representation of what Kagoshima imo shochu should taste like!




September Is Honey Month! Try Choya Honey Umeshu

September Is Honey Month!

If you love any and everything that is related to honey, bees and beekeeping, get ready because it is time to celebrate Honey Month!

Honey Month is a celebratory and promotional event that is held annually during the month of September. Its purpose is to promote US beekeeping, the beekeeping industry and the use of honey as a natural and beneficial sweetener.

In the United States, honey collection season typically concludes in September as bees begin to secure their hives and prepare for winter. In the spirit of celebration, here are a few fun, crazy facts you may not have known about bees, beekeeping, and honey!


open-honey-jar-icon-hand-3299909-removebg-previewThere are nearly 20,000 known species of bees throughout the world.

open-honey-jar-icon-hand-3299909-removebg-previewA single worker honeybee produces approximately 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. That means around 22,700 bees are needed to fill a single jar of honey!

open-honey-jar-icon-hand-3299909-removebg-previewA single honey bee will visit 50-100 flowers on a single trip out of the hive.

open-honey-jar-icon-hand-3299909-removebg-previewHoney never spoils. When sealed in an airtight container, honey is one of the few foods known to have an eternal shelf life.

 Try Choya Honey Umeshu

To celebrate Honey Month, how about trying Choya’s Honey Umeshu. You might discover a totally different way to enjoy honey!

Located in Osaka, the company first started as a wine-grape grower in 1914. Later in 1959 CHOYA began production of Umeshu, a traditional Japanese ume fruit liqueur. Today CHOYA is the No.1 Umeshu making company in the world and their mission is to produce and promote the finest Umeshu made from natural ingredients.

This classic umeshu is a beautiful balance of sweetness and tartness of the ume (plum), with notes of almond for its pit. It is made with 100% natural honey with no sugar added. Serve well with soda water or as cocktail base.



The Best Selling Sake in August: Dassai 23 Junmai Daiginjo 720ml!

The best selling sake in August was Dassai 23 Junmai Daiginjo 720ml!

Asahi Shuzo is a brewery that cherishes sake crafting. Just like wine, the world of ginjo sake is often described as something too difficult to understand unless you are a connoisseur. That is not the case, however. Special knowledge is not necessary to understand what a truly great sake is, and Dassai makes sake for everyone to enjoy.

The name of the brand, DASSAI, means “otter festival,” and the origins convey much of what the sake is about. This is a word that was used long ago in Yamaguchi Prefecture, as there were many otters frolicking in the nearby rivers. Otters would lay out on the shore fishes they caught, almost as if they are showing them off – like one would do during in a festival.

Sake is made from rice, water and koji. Rice especially is one of the most important things for making sake. All of Dassai’s efforts are aimed towards providing the customers with a sense of satisfaction, which is worthy of polishing the rice of the utmost quality.


The Story Behind Dassai 23

Dassai 23, often featured on TV and many publications for what is maybe Japan’s most extravagant rice polishing ratio,  has brought  all sorts of challenges for the brewery.

It was first planned to be a Junmai Daiginjo sake with a rice polishing ratio of 25%. The company president, Hiroshi Sakurai, waited for the rice to begin the polishing process, before going on a business trip. This is when he was told that a major producer from Nada was already selling a Junmai Daiginjo sake polished down to 24%. After having a sleepless night thinking about it, the president asked the staff to polish the rice 2% more, down to 23%. At the time, 6 days and 6 nights had passed since the polishing process started. Although exhausted, the brewery workers reluctantly did polished 2% more, which required an additional 24 hours. This seven days and nights work period, the overall 168 hours required for polishing the rice is still unchanged as of today.

The nose of Dassai 23 presents an irresistibly elegant flowery bouquet with a soft, delicate, honey-like sweetness, and the flavor blooms exquisitely in your mouth. The long finish is a gentle waterfall of flavor that hits the center of your palate and dissipates into bliss-like mists, begging for another sip.

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Kokuto Shochu: Unique Shochu Made Exclusively in Amami Islands

Kokuto Shochu – Specialty of Amami Islands

Kokuto shochu is a distilled spirit made exclusively in Amami Islands, Kagoshima, Japan. “Kokuto” refers to specially refined brown sugar and “shochu” is a distilled spirit made mainly in Southern Japan. In short, kokuto shochu is a distilled spirit made from brown sugar. While the other shochu distillers outside Amami are using sweet potato, barley, or rice as their main ingredients, kokuto shochu is made uniquely from brown sugar.


The history of sugar cane cultivation in Amami dates back to about 400 years ago. In 1609, the islands of Amami came under the direct control of Satsuma Domain, who ordered a tribute payment of shochu 14 years later, suggesting that distillation technology was already available at that time. However, kokuto was monopolized by the Satsuma Domain so common people couldn’t utilize the sugar towards shochu production. Amamians, therefore, alternatively used various grains such as rice, millet, chinquapin, and/or sotetsu (cycad) for shochu production. In the Meiji era (1868-1912), the process of making Awamori was introduced from Okinawa to Amami, and homemade production became popular.

After World War II, while the U.S. governed the area from 1945 to 1953, Amamian distillers started using kokuto to make shochu. This was the beginning of kokuto shochu. In 1953, the year of Amami’s return to Japan, the Japanese Liquor Tax Act recognized kokuto shochu as an official variety of shochu.


Sato no Akebono Kurokoji

There are only 26 distilleries of Amami Kokuto Shochu in the world, making this a selected group. One of them is Machida Shuzo, known for their Amami Kokuto Shochu “Sato no Akebono”, made with the brewery’s signature vacuum distillation and long term aging. Highly thought of since its release,  Sato no Akebono combines mellow taste and aroma to provide a refreshing feeling that fascinates drinkers.

On your first sip of kokuto shochu, you will notice that there is a hint of brown sugar in its aroma, then flavor from rice koji will dominate your palate. There are various ways to enjoy kokuto shochu – on the rocks, straight or with water. Kokuto shochu is also well known for its hangover-free characteristic.

Our recommendation is Sato no Akebono Kurokoji, made black-colored koji mold that has been introduced from Okinawa to Southern Kyushu. It produces a strong and pleasant flavor. Made with the vacuum-distillation technique, this Akebono promises you a well-balanced flavor derived from kurokoji with a refreshing finish.

Kokuto shochu is a unique product born in Amami’s nature and nurtured by its culture, so it’s a must-try for any alcohol fan!