Saturday, November 03, 2007

11/2/07: Day 1 in Japan - Touchdown in Osaka

I touched down in Osaka about 6:45 pm. It took about little bit over an hour to go through customs, change currency, receive JR Rail Pass (West/Sanyo), activate cell phone, and find the way to the hotel (bus). By the time I got to the vicinity of the hotel, it was 8:50 pm.

I suspected 9:00 pm as the witching hour for Daimaru (department store across from the hotel), so the first thing I did even before checking in was to go straight to Basement Level 2 to seek saké. Just in luck, Daimaru was wrapping up a tasting run by Mr. Owada of Yonetsuru Brewery (those in the States may have tried their Junmai Daiginjo). He let me try 6 of the selections, and I ended up buying the Kissui (亀酔 = "drunken turtle"), named after a new style of rice. Kissui Junmai(SMV: +1~3, Rice: Kissui, Seimaibuai: 60%) was officially recognized in 1993 as new strain that is an offspring of Kamé No O, and the saké has similar characteristics to its parent strain: mildly fruity, smooth, with hints of celery and melon. What I find different is that while Kamé No O has stronger approach and finish with quiet mid-palate, Kissui is more balanced throughout. Mr. Owada told me that this rice is grown and harvested on premise, and they are "practicing organic" in their production.

Within 45 minutes of checking in, my friend Motohiko dropps by for a toast, then we are off for some fantstic Hakata style ramen at Ippudo (一風堂). I chose Ippuodo since I remembered it from the last visit, and they were notable for making great ramen and introducing the concept of "Kaedama" (refill order for noodles). I had the "Red" selection which had the richer style soup, having had extra day of simmering than the "White." With 2 order of Kaedama, my bill was about $12.50 for approximately 3 servings - and people think eating well in Japan is expensive!

Motohiko then took me to a Shochu bar, because that what they do in Japan. Yugen (幽玄) had Satoh's Mugi Shochu, and I had to try it since their Imo is very good. In short, this turned out to be the best Mugi Shochu I have tried. While most have the grainy flavor akin to vodka, Satoh maintains complex flavor of wheat, almost as if the aftertaste is that of Mugi-cha.

The nightcap was Nikka Yoichi 10 Year Old whisky. It is a little known fact that Japan produces some of the world's outstanding whiskies, and Nikka 10 is no different. With a very mild and soft approach complemented by fruitier palate and spicy and dry finish, it is complex and dynamic for a very young whisky. During my last visit, I took a bottle of Nikka 15 home; this time, it will be the 10.


Valerie said...

Wow! I am impressed that the first thing you did in Japan was go to find saké, jet lag be damned! Very fun to read about your time there.

warren said...

save me some nikka! one of my all time favorites. i have some of that cognac for you when you get back.

great pictures, glad you're having such a good time.

KCinNYC said...

Thanks for checking in, Valerie.

About finding saké first thing... well you know, the plane kind of gets you dehydrated, especially after a long flight...


KCinNYC said...


You've got it, my man!

Let's do cognac and Nikka tasting when I get back!