Tuesday, February 25, 2014
1) A Disneyland for Sake? Rocket News 24 reported about a "Niigata sake theme park," Ponshukan and I did a little additional research on this intriguing place. Ponshukan has four primary Sake-related attractions, including a restaurant and souvenir shop. The restaurant showcases many local Niigata ingredients, including Koshihikari rice. To relax, and rejuvenate your skin, you & can visit their Sake Bath, an onsen (hot spring) where specially prepared Sake has been added to the water. The amino acids in Sake include a few which are beneficial skin, and numerous cosmetic products, made with Sake, are available, from bath gels to soaps.
The last attraction is a wall of Sake jidō-hanbaiki (vending machines), 117 in all! 95 of those dispensers are dedicated to Niigata breweries, and the remaining 22 are from different Prefectures, and that selection rotates regularly. It costs 100 yen for a cup of Sake, and at the current exchange rate, that is roughly equivalent to $1 U.S. That is certainly a cheap way to conduct your own Sake tasting. It would be a great place to spend several hours, tasting through their entire line-up. Yes, that would be akin to Disneyland for me.
2) Some good news from the New York Times, reporting on plans of the Japanese government to promote Sake. Japan is looking to boost exports of some of their cultural products, like Sake, to help their economy. One of the new programs is funding Sake tasting booths at international airports. The goal of the government is to increase Sake and rice-based exports five-fold during the next six years. The article cites some of the problems of Sake's entry into the U.S.market, which is currently their largest market. One of the problems is misconceptions about Sake, requiring increased education. The Japan External Trade Organization is increasing their own Sake education efforts, and Sake advocates, like myself, are trying to do our part too. Let us hope all these efforts lead to increased imports of Sake, and a spread across the U.S. of greater passion for this wondrous Japanese beverage.
3) In some sad news, Channel NewsAsia is reporting that the Sake breweries of the Fukushima region are having difficulties. In March 2011, an earthquake and tsunami brutalized the Tohoku region, and caused meltdowns at the Fukishima Nuclear Power Plant. Initially, after the disaster, there was a rallying call to support the Sake breweries that had been adversely affected by this disaster. However, it appears that recently, the support of these breweries has waned, partially due to fears of lingering radiation. The Sake breweries though want people to know the water they use to produce their Sake is perfectly safe, from sources high in the mountains, and have been thoroughly tested to ensure they are safe. We need to support the Fukushima Sake breweries, so that these quality breweries, with vibrant histories, do not vanish. Don't let fear mongering prevent you from purchasing their Sake.
4) Should you drink hot Sake? Over at Eat North, there is an interesting article by Elise Gee concerning heating Sake. Elise discusses the role of the o-kan-ban, the various temperature classes, and how to eat Sake at home. I'll add a little history here to supplement her article. Prior to the 18th century, heating Sake was done occasionally and was not the norm. It was more often drank at room temperature, and sometimes serve chilled. However, during the 1700s, heating Sake became commonplace with everyone, and it is thought this was due in large part to Chinese beliefs that hot beverages were good for your health. The written character for kan, the general term for warmed Sake, wasn't created until around the end of the 17th century. Premium Sake often tastes better when slightly chilled, but some are also very good when gently warmed. Experiment at home.