Sunday, November 04, 2007

11/3/07: Day 2 in Japan Part II

After incredible time at Sakura Masamuné, we had some time to kill before heading over to izakaya. Looking at the map, it turned out that the world famous Kiku Masamuné was right in the neighborhood, so off we went.

Arriving at the museum, the place was packed with tourists. The crowd composition between two breweries was noticably different, as while Sakura Masamuné had neighborly atmosphere, visitors from Kiku Masamuné were predominantly from overseas including visitors from China and USA (I saw Maryland in one of the visitor's name tag).

The museum at Kiku Masamuné was very well laid out, and you can get a good appreciation of the scope of their mass production by looking at their equipment and pictures of how they were laid out in layers. In the back, they had a video presentation of the saké production, and it was in English. The store was full of merchandise, and perhaps the most interesting items were the series of items made from the bags used for pressing, including handbags, hats, and wallets.

After spending about 1/2 an hour, we were off to saké store/izakaya Takenaka. This was unlike any bars I've been. Mr. Takenaka, the proprietor, comes to pick you up at the station if you need a lift. The store has both shochu and saké, and Mr. Takenaka has particular fondness for Kimoto and Yamahai, feeling they capture the essence of the saké. For our evening, he recommended Hachibei Yamahai Junmai-shu after hearing some of my favorites.

If you like to get to the izakaya, you go through the kitchen, pass by the display area with ingredients, and place your order before decending down to the bar, named Aruchu (阿留酎) which is a play on the words meaning "alcoholic." Apparently, there was a large dinner starting at 8:30, so tables were already set by the time we arrived around 5:30 (first guests of the evening, surprise.) We grabbed seats at the bar, and got ready to drink. For a Yamahai, Hachibei (SMV: +14, Acidity: 1.6, Rice: Gohyakumangoku, Seimaibuai: 60%) was mild and balanced, without much of the gamy character. It was smooth, and only hints of Yamahai was in the color. It went very well with Fried Pork Loin, Grilled Eggplant with Ginger, Boiled Calamari, and even sashimi selection. Perfect way to cap an incredible day!

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