Today’s tipple is Otokoyama from *muttersandcoughstohidehisinabilitytoreadthekanji* brewery.

A fairly young koshu from Hokkaido, it comes in an interesting case tied with rope that resembles a traditional carrying satchel for sake. The color is a pale yellow, which denotes it’s slight age. The aroma is light, only slightly more honeyed than your average ginjo grade sake. The taste is cloyingly sweet and heavily honeyed, which hides the high acidity. It brings to mind what a Tokaj wine would be if it were sake instead of made from boutryized grapes. Underneath the honey is the flavor of raisins and an almost imperceptible smokiness that’s overwhelmed as you drink more. The sugar content of this kinda ruins the experience, the sweetness is getting in the way of the more complex flavors.

Still, I’m not complaining. It’s my first koshu in ages. I’ll have to check the label description closely to see if it’s a kijoshu (think a Port Wine version of sake here).

You know, if I have to leave Japan because I can’t find another job after my contract ends, I don’t think I’ll return. Not because my time here has been so unbearably nasty, no, it’s only part of that. Work is hellish here, but my life in my free time is like heaven. Tonight was a fresh tempura donburi at a restaurant where the manager calls me by name, right now is delicious sake and Enka and classic Japanese pop. This weekend I’ll buy more fashionable clothes. No one harasses me about my dandyism or smoking here. People respect readers here. Intellectuals aren’t shunted into their own diseased little ghetto where they can entertain themselves with perverse fads.

It’s been such a change, God help my arrogant drunken soul, but I can’t bear to return to someplace where fat people dress tastelessly and deride more cerebral folks.

As much as I can’t acculturate myself to the different work culture here, or live without grating on my coworkers, I still love it here. I’m an alien, but I don’t want to remake this place. It’s nice as it is, a maddening sanctuary from the homogenization of the lowest common denominator.

Visiting here would be like returning to Seattle. A place in my past where crude indignities and sublime memories mix and merge into a transmuted gold that I can’t bear to pull out of my mental lockbox for too long. I don’t want this sojourn to end, but in a few months it will. God help my drunken soul!

Yeah, I know, drama and all that. Deal, or go and read something where people pretend to be hard, though if you’re all tough, why the hell are you reading blogs?

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So, I’m watching the annual Red and White Song Contest on NHK, a tradition amongst most of the people here in Japan. Five hours of a mix of various genres of music with odes to what’s happened during the year.

I’m really enjoying the Enka parts as well as some of the rock groups. They had this Japanese-Brazilian group that did an interesting mix of J-Rock, Favela Funk and traditional Okinawan music. I’m realizing that my favorite trad music of Japan is Okinawan stuff on the sanshin. It’s just so lively and earthy as opposed to the somewhat detached and formal stuff for the koto, shamisen and shakuhachi. Another interesting performance was by Jero. Jero is a young black guy originally from Pittsburg who’s become famous in Japan for singing Enka. It’s somewhat like if a 21 year old guy from Tokyo moved to America and became a beloved Delta Blues or Country and Western singer. He’s damn good, though. He gets the Enka feeling and sound down pat. I should post some examples of the genre sometime later.

I’ve eaten some soba, as is the New Year’s tradition.

I guess the main thing I want to write about is the sake I’m drinking tonight. I went all out and bought a pretty expensive bottle, at around 30 dollars equivalent in price. Basically it’s of a type of sake that’s I’m possible to have in the states, namely koshu, or aged sake. The vast majority (around 99.5% of sake production) is released quickly after being made. Koshu, and and it’s relative kijoshu, is usually aged for several years minimum before being released. Aging changes the profile of premium sake from flowery and fruity to something much more heavier and sharp. It’s something of an aquired taste.

The bottle in question is jizake (a regional brew). It’s actually pretty hard to find non-regional premium brews outside of the main urban areas. Hence, that means it’s made and mostly sold in Mie Prefecture. The brewer is Hokosugi, which translates roughly to “Japanese Cypress”.

According to the label it’s aged 7 years, but without digging out my grammar dictionary I can’t tell if it’s aged in bottles or tanks. My guess is bottles due to the light profile and color. So how does koshu differ from your ginjo? Most premium and non-premium sakes are clear, or very lightly tinted. Koshu is usually a rich yellow to a reddish-brown. This particular example is almost a Chardonnay yellow. The nose is mixture of used bookstore and English leather. The flavor is what’s most interesting, as it shifts as the temperature rises. Just out of the fridge, it’s sharp, tasting of mushrooms, aromatic wood smoke, with a sweet honey finish. As it begins to warm, the sweeter aspects take over and and it feels less and less dry. It takes on the flavor of almost a cross between dark chocolate and single malt Scotch. Finally at near room temperature, a taste redolent of dates and raisins emerges.

In all an awesome and unique drinking experience. Which is impossible to have in the US, save outside of two import shops, one in San Fran and one in New York City. I highly recommend the type if you’ve ever in Japan. It’s actually pretty hard to find, even in Japan.

Oh, I almost forgot. New Year’s resolutions. I plan to finish that damn novel and write more poetry. My output is up, but it’s still far beneath what a serious writer should be churning out. Also I plan to buckle down on my Japanese. I need to get certified level 2 before I leave.

Well that’s all. Seeya.