Wednesday, November 14, 2007

11/8/07: Day 7 in Japan Part I: Kobé Shushinkan, Wrap on Nada

It's safe to say that Kobé Shushinkan (神戸 酒心館) played a very important role in formation of this blog. Thus, I was very happy to return to Shushinkan two years later. My visit this time was far shorter, as Mr. Takano arranged a visit to Harushika Brewery in Nara (奈良), not to be confused with Nada (灘). My lunch appointment was at 12:15, and I have to be in Nara by 3:30. Factoring in about 2 hours of travel, time was very precious.

First order of the business was to visit their Sakabayashi restaurant, and have their tremendous hand-made soba and yuba (湯葉, tofu skin).

Of course, nothing tastes better than having a fresh saké straight from the brewery. Here is their Hiyaoroshi, a Junmai Ginjo Genshu (but not nama). This was bold and intense, really showing the character of hard water of the Miyamizu.

Afterwards, I viewed DVD on Shushinkan, had few sakés to taste, and browsed their showroom. Here are some of their selecions, under the "Fukuju" (福寿) label.


Having visited Sakura Masamuné, Kiku Masamuné, and Kobé Shushinkan, I learned a lot about Nada and their terroir.

Here are what makes Nada ideal place to brew saké:

  • Climate: The great disparaty between low and high temperatures are ideal in producing fantastic Yamadanishiki rice, with rich starch content and low proteins and minerals.

  • Miyamizu (宮水): While most of Hyogo Prefecture has soft water, it was discovered that the very small area in Rokko Mountain (六甲山) flowed hard water rich in minerals and low in iron, allowing for vigorous fermentation. Sakés made using such water will have highly expressive saké with clean finish.

  • Rokko Draft (六甲降し): The cool draft of Rokko Mountain is ideal in controlling the temperature of the brewery. This greatly affected how breweries are built; as an example, the side of Sakura Masamuné Brewery that faces Rokko Mountain has a huge door that opens to allow Rokko Draft to blow in.

  • Proximity to the Port: Kobe is right by the water. Sakura Masamuné was built right by the waterfront, before development pushed it inland. Port is important, as it encourages and facilitates trade, and by extention, saké production.

  • Rokko Current: The location, between mountain and ocean, meant that there is a strong current in the rivers. Fast currents play integral role in milling, allowing for highly polished rice to make high quality saké. While the above reasons are predominantly cited as virtues of Nada, Mr. Yamamura of Sakura Masamune feels that Rokko Current is perhaps the biggest reason why Nada rose to prominence.

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