Archive for March, 2009

A gracious welcoming by Daimon-san

After reading the previous interns’ posts, I was really eager to meet Daimon-san and see his brewery with my own eyes.  I arrived at the brewery after dark, and as I approached the main gate it felt like I was looking into a mystical gardern.  The brewery has an absolutely beautiful courtyard that is lit with tiny spotlights and has a very peaceful feeling (the picture below does not do it justice).

The Mukune courtyard

The Mukune courtyard

After I long train ride from Tokyo, I couldn’t help but feel more relaxed as I walked towards the main door.  Very quickly, I was greeted by Daimon-san and couldn’t have felt more welcomed.  He is a genuinely nice individual and his enthusiasm for this program is tangible.  As I was the last intern to arrive, minutes before the first scheduled meeting at 7pm, we assembled in the dining area of the brewery.  After introductions and a speech by Daimon-san about his hopes and desires for this program, it was off to a local izakaya for our first group dinner.  In summary, the food was excellent, and the 3 bottles of Mukune nihonshu that Daimon-san shared- a nama, lightly cloudy sake (うすにごり生酒), a daiginjo, and a special production junmaishu (特別純米酒)- were also excellent.

Daimon-san sharing his sake

Daimon-san sharing his sake

Special production junmaishu

Special production junmaishu

a lightly cloudy, nama sake

a lightly cloudy, nama sake

a lightly seared bonito salad

a lightly seared bonito salad

All in all, it was a great start to the week.   We are just getting are feet wet, literally, in the brewery today.  In fact, it is time to go back now!


Calm before the Storm

Rick and I are sitting at the kitchen table getting used to the Dashboard. I’m watching sumo on the large tv that will be our video monitor soon. Daimon san drove into town…an embarrassingly straight shot down the road. We knocked around the Kansai Supa . On the way back, we reaized Rick had been maybe 20 feet from the shuzo back entrance before he gave up the dark last night. His taxi driver had refufsed to give him the ride, as the station was closing around 1 a.m., saying, (Rick thinks) “It’s only 300 meters, dude!” I was more fortunate last evening in the pouring rain,but the driver took a circuitous route to the beautiful front garden gate. Warming, future Mukunites, the route straight up from the station has no English sign saying “Mukune, this way”. On your right there is a asphalt path splitting uphill alongside the road. It IS marked by several lavendar long banners with kanji on them. A small sign on the wall says Mukune but is hard to spot. There is a rusted barred gate and you will walk into the bottle storage area. The entrance is on your right justpast the tall concrete chimney. Now we are awaiting the arrival of the rest of TeaMUKU3 and the evenings festivities before we get to work tomorrow. In the shuzo! Hands on!

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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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Session #3

Yes, it is true I was able to make to the Kura last evening with only a few minor train difficulties but resolved. Today found some new foods at the market and a day of  restIt will be great wash it down with some of the sake I have come for.

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session 3 kicks off

Arrived yesterday 5pm in torrential rain.
Rick arrived 2 am last night after 3 planes and 3 trains. He’s revived now and we are drinking Key coffee. Daimon san will show us around a bit but today is a day off. The rest of the Session 3 crew blows in tonight.Great accomodations and room and shower. No knives or forks in the kitchen, but 100s of chopsticks. More soon. Looks and smells incredible.

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MISBP Alumni Facebook group page

I set up an “alumni” page on Facebook – please join, will be a convenient way to organise efforts and, hopefully, alumni events!


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.


    Daily Commentary

    Apart from Über-creative haiku, I’ve been posting daily pictures and commentary at:

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    5 Reasons why I like Team Mukune

    Margaux. Mei Lin. Peter. Rick. Ted.

    What a great group of people! We’ve worked hard but have also had a lot of fun getting to know each other. Sometimes, the sake otaku leads a lonely existence, so it’s wonderful to be around like-minded people. I have no doubt that our connection has been real, friendships have been formed, forged through our work, and will be refreshed many times in the future.

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