I’m dismayed to tell you that Yamaya, the local liquor boutique in my town has shut its doors permanently, as such, my recent ventures into fine sake, shochu and awamori will be somewhat curtailed.

I offer up this elegy to the fine shop passed. The vast majority of supermarkets and downscale booze shops here have staff and clientele that couldn’t care less about the state and origin of their wares. I go to the average supermarket and ask for a genshu or a namazake and they stare at me blankly even as   out the kanji on my palms. The shops make most of their money on happoshu which is “beer” that makes Budweiser seem like the storied Czech Pilsner it descended from. Real beer is taxed heavily here, so most “beer” sold is some half synthesized swill (most “sake” too for that matter). Yamaya always had at least on person on hand who was willing to tolerate my questions phrased out in grammatically incorrect Japanese and my obscure brewery whoring, until I finally figured out they focused on in-prefecture kuras (sake brewery), and tried to just get a sense of Mie alone.

Now I am reduced again to hunting the shelves of supermarkets in vain, for something fresh and exciting. R.I.P. Yamaya, you were too soon in passing in today’s recessionary economy.

So, onward to today’s selection. What we have today is “Suzukagawa”. Like most drinks I’ve had, and all that I’ve been profiling here, it’s unavailable outside of Japan. What makes this particular brew so interesting is that it’s basically the local product of the town (though when I noticed the address, it’s closer to Shiroko town than the bulk of Suzuka City). I hadn’t tried it yet, as it’s a bit steeper priced than most of what I buy, and not “unusual”, which is usually what I seek out when I get sake. I got it from JUSCO, from a clerk who didn’t know sake from socks.  Oh well.

The box and bottle are fairly nondescript, each variety being distinguished only by a different color label. As they were out of Daiginjo, I settled on purchasing a Ginjo, with the rest of my money going to a shochu which will be reviewed later. Chilled and poured the next night. The color is completely clear. The bouquet is one of the strongest I’ve encountered; heavy, sweet smelling and fruity. With reflection, one notes elements of honeydew melon and apples, with an undercurrent of bananas. It’s quite an intoxicating smell. The taste is light with a light mouthfeel. It’s sweet, but not cloying. Any particular flavor is difficult to distinguish in the mouth. This is definitely a sake made for the enjoyment of one’s olfactory senses. The otherwise enjoyable experience is a bit ruined by a bitter finish that lingers on the tongue, the unfortunate hallmark of many an otherwise delicious ginjo.

I’ll probably try this again with the Daiginjo grade. It got high marks in the 2006 “Joy of Sake” tastings held in San Francisco.

Well, as I’ve now imbibed quite too much, and probably lent more ammunition to those who assert that I’m simply a souse, I’d like to admit right now to the world, that the more I think about it, the more I’d like my day job to be in some aspect of the premium alcohol and tobacco business. Any pointers anyone?

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