Sake

Enjoy Japan’s iconic drink on any occasion!

With an unmatched tradition dating back some 2,000 years, sake is one of Japan’s most enduring products. Its unique qualities have been enjoyed throughout Japan for centuries but have only recently begun to attract international attention. On top of its newfound fame as a fashionable drink in both the United States and France, in 2007 in England a special sake category was created in a wine competition, further boosting its profile and popularity.

A perfect match for all cuisine

Like beer and wine, sake ingredients are fermented to produce alcohol. The drink can be enjoyed either hot or cold, with a temperature range from 5oC to 55oC being suitable for drinking. This “Magic water” also combines amazingly well with almost any kind of cuisine, making it the perfect accompaniment. For example, when drunk with fish or shellfish, sake works to amply the natural flavours while neutralising
any fishy odours. Unlike many other alcoholic drinks, sake harmonises nicely with fresh fruit and also blends superbly with miso, soy sauce and most soup dishes.

The 1,700 sake breweries spread throughout Japan are known for creating sake with a wide variety of flavours. Sake flavour depends on the quality of the two main ingredients: a special type of rice and water. Typically, water makes up 80% of a brew. The brewing process itself also plays an integral role in determining the flavour of the sake.

Sake production methods

Sake can broadly be divided into the three categories of Ginjo-shu, Honjozo-shu and Junmai-shu with the classification of the sake dependant on the degree of polishing
of the rice. The polishing of the rice is based on a percentage level.

For example, if the rice is polished to 60%, it means 40% of the outer part of the brown rice has been removed. Rice polished as close to the core of the grain as possible creates a consistently clean and clear taste.

Ginjo-shu sake uses white rice polished to less than 60%, koji yeast, water and brewer’s alcohol.

The Ginjo brewing method is then employed to produce sake with a nice, fruity aroma and clean taste.

Honjozo-shu uses the same ingredients as Ginjo-shu but the rice is polished up to 70% to give an appealing flavour of sake that is clean and very well priced.

Unlike Ginjo-shu and Honjozo-shu, Junmai-shu places no limitations on the amount of rice polishing and also does not use brewer’s alcohol as an ingredient. This gives the sake a true rice flavour with acidic characteristics.

The three main sake types can also be split further into the subcategories of
Daiginjo-shu, Junmai daiginjo-shu and Junmai ginjo-shu.

Sake from the sacred peaks of Mt. Hakkai – Hakkaisan八海山

hakkaisan

The ranges of Mt. Hakkai form a string of craggy peaks that run through Minami Uonuma City of Niigata Prefecture. At an average height of 1,778m at their highest peaks, the mountains have long been worshipped as one of Japan’s sacred sites. The Uonuma basin that spreads out from their foothills is covered in the wintertime with a heavy snow so deep, you can not see over the top of the snowbanks.

Japan’s regional varieties of sake, collectively known by the term jizake, are a
product of the environment and customs of the region in which they are produced, and each region in Japan is the proud owner of its own unique flavor. The sake of Niigata and Uonuma City in particular is known for its sharp flavor and almost complete lack of any overpowering notes,made possible by the incredibly soft water that flows down from Mt. Hakkai and the constant low temperatures found in Japan’s snowiest regions.

Brewers often describe the land as if it had been gifted by the gods purely for the production of sake.
Hakkaisan sake is one of Niigata’s most famous local sake varieties from the city
of Minami Uonuma, produced by Hakkai Brewery Co., Ltd. Ever since its establishment
in 1922, this brewery has striven to produce only the finest sake. Taking the
greatest care in selecting ingredients, no expense is spared in the methods and
facilities used in production, with the aim of delivering the highest quality sake to as broad an audience as possible. To achieve this aim, Hakkai Brewery ensures that the rice malt used to create all its sake, not just the higher-grade daiginjoshu and junmai daiginjoshu varieties, is prepared entirely by hand. While the rice malt itself is undoubtedly a highly important element of sake that greatly influences its end taste and overall quality, the brewers of Hakkai Brewery believe that only rice malt that has been prepared by hand is fit to meet their exacting standards.

Needless to say, producing the best possible sake means using the best possible
ingredients. In this case, that means water and rice. The water used in brewing Hakkaisan is a clear water known as the water of the lightning god Raiden-sama that runs from the peaks of Mt. Hakkai and is used not only as brewing water, but in all stages of the brewing process. The rice, too, is taken from the local gohyakumangoku and yam adanishiki varieties that are highly suited to sake production, another of Hakkai Breweries efforts towards promoting local production and local consumption.

These carefully selected ingredients are then combined using traditional methods that consist of countless steps to produce a sake of the highest quality that is humanly possible.

The culmination of these efforts to create the best possible product with only the
greatest ingredients is a sake that is free of overpowering flavors, as well as a palate that is perfectly balanced and a flavor and aroma that is clear. The sake’s taste is strong enough to let it stand on its own, yet subtle enough to make it the perfect partner for any meal, with a taste that is fresh and new no matter how many times you have tasted it before. Hakkaisan has a unique taste that lingers not only on your palate, but also in your memory.
http://www.hakkaisan.com


Outlets for Hakkaisan sake and related goods
Izakaya Masuya
izakayamasuya
A Japanese restaurant in Sydney’s CBD and specialist spot for junmaishu sake, Izakaya Masuya is one location where you can enjoy a special brand of Hakkai Brewery’s Hakkaisan sake that is made especially for the overseas market. The bright blue bottle is decorated with a label that shows a likeness of the Mt.Hakkai ranges, and its contents has a clear look and a smooth taste. The sake’s characteristic soft aroma and junmaishu taste have gained it high regard with sake
fans the world over.

Address: Ground Floor, 12-14 O’connell St., Sydney NSW
Tel: (02)9233-8181
Mon – Sat 12PM – 2PM, 6PM – Late


Uonuma no Sato
uomura-set

A multi-purpose facility operated by the Hakkai Brewery, Uonuma no Sato includes stores for soba noodles and Japanese sweets throughout the peaceful countryside of Minami Uonuma City.

Amongst the foothills of Mt. Hakkai, a mini library with a collection of books on sake and food can be found, as well as places to take a rest. Here visitors can purchase Hakkaisan sake, along with a variety of other local specialties from the Uonuma region.

What’s more, summer 2013 is set to bring a new addition in the form of the largest snow room in all of Japan. This enormous freezer with its low temperature, humidity and dim lighting all year round, afforded by over 1000 tons of snow, is perfect for storing not only sake but also carrots, potatoes and other root vegetables. The snow room will host a shop for food under the theme of rice, rice malt and fermentation called Snow Room – Sennen Koujiya, with a shop called Okatte that handles kitchen goods. The snow room’s beautiful decorations representing all of the four seasons are sure to evoke nostalgic memories, allowing visitors to sample what many characterise as the true face of the Uonuma region.

415-23 Nagamori Minami-Uonuma City, Niigata
Tel: 81-(0)25-775-2975
Trading hours may vary depending on stores


Sennen Koujiya
sennenKoujiya
Sennen Koujiya is Uonuma’s brand of food and culture produced by the Hakkai Brewery. In addition to its head store in Niigata and the snow room, branches can also be found in Tokyo’s Azabujuban and Kagurazaka. Not only do they offer carefully selected traditional food and ingredients from the Uonuma region, the stores also stock original foodstuffs created by Sennen Koujiya and numerous other popular items. The meticulously produced rice malt created by the brewers of Hakkai Brewery, as well as other select items such as salted rice malt, are a hit with customers.


Head store 627-8 Nagamori Minamiuonuma-city Niigata
Tel: 81-(0)25-775-2604 7 Days 9AM – 6PM / Azabujuban
1-6-7 Azabujuban, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 81-(0)3-5772-3930
7 Days 11AM – 8PM /

Kagurazaka 109 Porta Kagurazaka, 2-6-1 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 81-(0)3-5227-8130
7days 11AM – 8PM /

Snow Room
(set to open in summer 2013) 415-23 Nagamori Minami-Uonuma City, Niigata

Food

Japanese food, worldwide appeal

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Japan as a nation may not be much larger than the state of California in the US, but the country’s dense population spread out over a diverse geography has given life to a unique culinary experience. In fact, as time passed certain types of food become associated with a different prefecture. That is why traditional Kyoto is famous for its soba (buckwheat noodles), Kamakura is known for its hato sabure (dove cookies), and in Osaka you can find okonomiyaki (Japanese style pancake). As this selection demonstrates, unique foods spanning the traditional to the modern can all be found in Japan.

Fresh sashimi is eaten throughout Japan.

With no shortage of customers looking for a bite to eat, particularly in metropolitan cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, numerous restaurants have branched out to focus on a particular speciality. Sushi and sashimi restaurants can be found in popular parts of town at varying prices, but people in the West are used to these foods for their variety. For those who want an entire culinary experience dedicated to fugu (blowfish), shabu-shabu (meat hotpot), or unagi (eel), Japan will likely have a restaurant that deals exclusively with that food. The specialisation is entirely dependant on the chef, typically is an expert in that type of cuisine and has the preparation skills to meet the needs of the unique menu.

Some foods that may be taken for granted in the West, such as tofu, are often elevated to a whole new level through this level of specialisation. Tokyo Shiba Tofuya-Ukai in Tokyo is an example of this. The traditional means of preparing and serving tofu means the everyday product is cast in a completely new light. Located at the base of Tokyo Tower and surrounded by trees that block out the outside world, the restaurant is housed in a traditional Japanese building and is run by skilled staff well versed in the ways of omotenashi (customer service). Though, one does not need to go all the way to Japan to experience omotenashi, as Sydney’s own Sake restaurant in The Rocks provides a glimpse of what it is like to be at the centre of the culinary experience.

In addition to good food, Japan has a long history and affinity with alcohol. The world has already become familiar with Japanese sake to the point where it has more or less become a household word, yet the country is also the home to many types of beer. Whether it is Asahi, Kirin or Sapporo, there is no shortage of local brew to enjoy in Japan. Bars and clubs have gained a foothold in the country in recent years, though the most common way to enjoy alcohol is at izakaya (Japanese style bars). Like restaurants, the establishments run the gamut from the affordable to the upscale, catering to any audience on a particular night. Izakaya do not only serve alcohol, but a wide variety of snacks to go along with the drinks, with edamame (soy beans) being a particular favourite for locals.

At the upper end of the scale, an izakaya such as Gonpachi in Tokyo is famous
among locals as well as overseas visitors.

The drinks and menu have made Gonpachi a mainstay in the posh Roppongi area, and it gained further recognition by being featured in Quentin Tarantino’s 2003 film, Kill Bill Vol. 1. Smaller and family owned izakaya can provide a similar experience at a reduced scale, and can often be found just about anywhere. In fact, they are not out of place in a residential area or neighbourhoods. Those looking for a more standardised experience can go to chains such as Domadoma, Warawara and Watami, where drinks and snacks are easily ordered from a touch screen. Yebisu in Sydney’s CBD offers this very experience, allowing locals to drink the night away with edamame on the table.

Japanese who want to experience the drinking culture of the West can find pubs
and bars often as readily as an izakaya.

International areas such as Roppongi in Tokyo and Amemura in Osaka provide a host of drinking venues that channel a British, American or Australian vibe. The Rose and Crown in Tokyo’s Yurakucho district, known for its imported beer and fish and chips, is a particular favourite among locals and expats. A younger audience is more likely to check out the Hub chain of British themed pubs or American flavoured TGI Friday’s for a quick drink and some snacks after a busy day at work.

Western alcohol is not the only beverage to gain foothold in Japan, with the tradition of drinking tea now being complemented by coffee. The enticing aroma and taste of coffee has enabled it to quickly and widely grow in popularity, to the point that a Starbucks can be found just about anywhere in Japan. Local chains such as Excelsior, Tully’s and Doutor have joined in on the craze to provide their own interpretation of the cafe experience. Areas such as Daikanyama and Sangenjaya in Tokyo have gained a reputation among cafe connoisseurs for their unique setting and method of preparing the beverage.

Japan is also famous for spinning the concept in a memorable way with maid cafes in Tokyo’s Akihabara district, where the staff at establishments such as @Home are dressed as French maids.

Japan, in particularly Tokyo, has an image of being expensive, though the reality is that cheap yet tasty food is plentiful and easy to find. Family restaurant such as Jonathan’s and Denny’s may have English names but they serve Japanese influenced
food designed not to break the bank, making them popular among students. The Ootoya chain is popular for its “home style” menu that hovers between 600 to 1000 yen for a typical teishoku (meal set), and there is no shortage of beef bowl and udon (wheat flour noodles) places such as Yoshinoya to grab something to eat for 500 yen or less.

This cheap yet tasty approach to meals has made Mappen and Oiden in Sydney’s CBD very popular among locals, not to mention visitors from Japan who want to have a taste of home while in Australia.

Japan may be the source of the recognisable and delicious food that we have all come to appreciate, but this growing popularity has meant that tasty sushi, sake and edamame can be enjoyed in an overseas city like Sydney without needing to step on an airplane.

food-set

Getting around

*This article below is written as at 2013 and is only intended as a basic guide to relevant information. J-style makes no representations as to the suitability of the information.

A quick guide to where, when and how long for domestic flights and train travel.

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p51-02domestic

* Japan’s Major International Airports *

NARITA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

A few domestic flights do leave from Narita, but most domestic flights leave from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (95min. from Narita by the Airport Limousine bus).

Travelling to and from Tokyo

Trains

Narita Airport has two key rail connections operating between central Tokyo Station and the Narita Airport terminals. JR East’s Narita Express (N’EX) is the fastest option (60 min., ¥2,940). The Keisei Sky Liner is the best choice for travel to
Nippori (36 min., ¥2,400).

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Buses

Airport Limousine buses stop at most major hotels and certain landmarks on the way to central Tokyo (75 – 155 min., ¥3,000).

Taxis

Taxis can be expensive depending on your destination. Central Tokyo costs approx.
¥15,000 to ¥24,000 by taxi.

KANSAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

Travelling to and from Osaka and Kyoto

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Trains

The Haruka limited express service travels from Kansai Airport Station to Kyoto Station

(75 – 95 min., ¥3,280), Shin-Osaka Station (50 -70min., ¥2,770) and Tennoji Station (32 – 50 min., ¥2,170) .

The Kansai Airport Rapid travels to Osaka Station (65 min., ¥1,160).

Nankai Electric Railway operates the fast Rapi:tα train (34min., ¥1,390) from Namba to Kansai Airport Station at 7am, 8am and 9am only on weekdays.

Buses

Buses travel to Osaka Station (60 min., ¥1,500);
Kyoto Station (90 min., ¥2,500); Namba Station (50 min., ¥1,000).

Taxis

¥18,000 to Shin-Osaka Station; ¥16,000 to Namba Station; ¥32,000 to Kyoto Station.