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和醸良酒-or-Happy Brewing Session 3!

One night during Session 2, Daimon-san brought us all to a nearby restaurant for a very nice dinner. It was actually our second visit there, and this time we sat down in the tatami room in the back. From where I was sitting, I could look up and see the framed calligraphy in the photograph below. The last character on the left especially caught my eye.


I’m pretty sure those kanji are read Wajyouryoushu. But, what does that mean? Probably something important for all of us who join the kurabito for our short stay on the MISBP. If I had to really hack the translation kanji by kanji, it might go something like this:

和 [wa] Harmony
醸 [jyou] Brewing
良 [ryou] Good
酒 [shu] Sake

There must be a much more elegant way to phrase this, but how about “Good sake from happy brewers”? I think it goes well beyond just happy though. Beau and others have already commented on the flow in the kura. And translating wa as “happiness” just isn’t right. “Contented” feels good but reminds me of a certain California dairy campaign that just isn’t dignified. “Peaceful” belies the amount of hard work involved.

If the MISBP motto is “The Best Way To Learn Sake Is To Make Sake” then maybe we can turn it around to also say that “The best way to make good sake is to know good sake”? “Love good sake”? I’m grasping at straws here, so I’ll leave it to the next crew to ask Daimon-san how he can best explain those kanji for you. Have fun, happy brewing, and wish I was back!


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Meetup anybody?

Near the end of the week at the brewery, Daimon-san asked about the Tokyo Sake Meetup. I don’t mean to be too self-promotional here, but since we just announced our next event, I thought I’d explain a little bit. Meetup is a website that makes it easy to coordinate events and announce them. It works like many social networking sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn, but has the added advantage of a good RSVP system that makes it worth the small monthly charge.


Et-chan and I had been attending many nihonshu events, classes, and tastings in Japanese, but there were few opportunities for newbies or people who preferred their sake intake in English. So, Et-chan (I just help out as much as I can) decided to create the Tokyo Sake Meetup to take everything we’ve learned and try to share the enjoyment of nihonshu with people in or around Tokyo in a bilingual setting. Since 2007, we’ve held 16 events for lots of old and new sake fans. It is just a lot of fun to turn people on to the many, many ways to enjoy sake. There are more than 100 people on our membership list but we usually have a small turnout of 8-20 people for an event. One nice point is that there is always a fun mix of people from Japan and those from around the world living in or near Tokyo. Slowly, but surely, we’re spreading the word about our favorite beverage.

Please sign up and you’ll get all of the sake information and events we put out there. I know most of you aren’t in Tokyo, but you never know when you might want to visit, right? We love to have people from out of town. Can’t make it to Tokyo? There are also Sake Meetups in Chicago, New York, the Twin Cities, and Vancouver. I hope we’ll see some new ones in California, Philly, and Singapore soon. Hint! Hint! A Kansai Sake Meetup seems to be a must. If you know someone who can get it started, I think we all know a brewery they could visit.

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Things the MISBP interns need–or, not

Since we seem to be in a list mode here on the blog lately, I guess I’ll try to tie together a few thoughts for future Interns. I’m sure I have forgotten something, so I might come back with a reflexive comment to myself. Please, add your own thoughts and pretty soon we’ll have a regular FAQ list for next year’s group.

Things I was very glad I brought with me

  • A multi-plug: I got a tiny little AC power splitter that came in very handy. I could charge my camera, video camera, iPhone, and computer all at the same time in my room. Very handy. With everyone carrying lots of gear, there are never enough plugs.
  • Long underwear: I brought one pair of cheapy Uniqlo ski-wear. I wish I’d brought another. When you spend a whole day washing rice and doing stuff in the kura building it gets cold, especially the feet. They kept me warm without having to pile up so many layers of jackets. For anyone with the dreaded lower-back pain, keeping that area warm is a good idea.
  • Flip MinoHD: These are great little cameras. I love mine. I now have hours of video to edit and post to this blog, but someday soon…
  • Things I didn’t really need after all

  • Tripod: I never had time to stand still and set it up. No good place to leave anything anyway.
  • So many socks: I missed the memo about the washing machine.
  • Coffee: After various travels around Japan I have found myself coffee-deprived on enough early mornings that I usually bring a Mon Cafe or a Melitta with me. No need here!
  • Things I wish I had brought

  • Notes: I forgot to bring all of my notes, such as they are, about sake. The evening discussion often turned to other sake (surprise, surprise), and I was sometimes caught trying to remember something I’d had ages ago or something I had learned but forgotten.
  • A tiny voice recorder: I was often way to busy to make notes and there is so much water around that notebooks might not always hold up well. I wish I’d had a little clip-on voice recorder. I tried to make do with my phone now and then, but it wasn’t the same.
  • Camera straps: This is a big one. I was always fishing my Ricoh or my Flip out of one pocket or another. The around-the-neck camera strap is clunky and can be uncomfortable, but I missed shots because I didn’t have the camera handy. You will always have some work you should be doing with your hands, so you can’t just hold the camera all day. Also, we sometimes passed cameras to each other or wanted to get pics of what was happening in the tanks. I was sure I was going to drop my camera in the moromi and then be instantly ejected from the kura. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, but it very easily could. Put a strap on that camera and you can relax.
  • Storage: We all took a ton of pictures. I wish I’d cleared out my laptop hard drive before I came so I had more room. Extra memory cards are not a bad idea either. If you use SD, you can get an extra 1GB at the Family Mart down the road for about ¥2,000.
  • What did you forget? What did I forget? What should the next session bring along? I know there is something. Fire away with your comments.


    The sake is coursing into the tank

    Even as I went to dinner this evening with Daimon-san, Peter, Mei Ling, Vinod, Rick, and Margaux, the Yabuta had been filled and the fresh, new sake was flowing. If I walked through the back of the kura this evening, I could sit and listen to the brew burbling through the lines. You, Intarweb readers at home will have to make do with this snippet of video.

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    Follow me on Twitter for constant updates from the kura

    Blogging takes time, and energy.

    For those who already finished Session 1, you know that the energy goes into the sake, and our time here is so short, that I want to spend it doing, watching, and experiencing. So, in between blog posts, I’ve been sending short notes and pictures to Twitter. It only takes a minute and I can do it right from the action.

    All of my messages, or “tweets” can be seen at Just visit there to see everything. If you like it, sign up for an account and you can follow me to get my updates easily anytime you go online or even on your iPhone. It is fun and easy, so please give it a try

    Here is what a Tweet looks like.

    The twitpic link will take you to a photo of just what was happening. It is almost live action, so check it out.



    Session 2 Begins: Arrival and a Quick Start

    Yesterday, I met up with Rick smith of Sakaya NYC in Tokyo Station, we hopped on the Shinkansen, and chatted and Twittered our way to Osaka. After a short walk and a nice detour around around the neighborhood, we found Mukune-tei. A change of shoes, some hand washing and sanitizing, and then we got our hands in the koji. Read the rest of this entry »


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