May 2011

Ask Beau - "Care to share any more stories about your Japan trip?"

Posted by Beau Timken in 2011, Ask Beau, May, Newsletter
Carolyn S from Stamford CT asked a pretty appropriate question and my initial response was to say Nope! What happened in Japan stays in Japan. That said I will mention one brief event that should demonstrate how wacked out my trip was and still remains. If you know me, then you know that I always travel with my trusty little black book. What's in said little black book? No - not names and phone numbers. When I am in Japan I write things down. I write everything down. I record all of my sake activities. From brewery tours to late night izakaya drinking bloodbaths. It's all in there. I even do sketches, and I can't even draw. These black books are incredibly important to me. They have recorded my love affair with sake.

Well on this last trip I was putting the book to great use. Descriptions of brewery tours to Kikusui, Ichishima, Koshi no Tousetsuka, Minenohakubai, Kirin-Zan, Kanbara, Shirataki Jozen, Hakkaisan etc were faithfully recorded. Also enclosed were wonderful accounts of looking for sake trouble in the Niigata City sake scene. I ate at numerous restaurants known for their sake selections, and went to several sake stores to see what was trending. It was all in the book.

Then I went to Tokyo to enjoy some more sake science. One evening I ventured to a hotel restaurant, and enjoyed an amazing sake experience. The bar was driven by a kikisake-shi - sake somm - who has a deep love for sake and has even deeper sake pockets/budget to buy great sake. When I venture around sake town I never introduce myself, rather I simply enjoy seeing sake from another perspective. Basically we (was joined by a friend) went in as tourists. Upon first inspection of the menu I stammered "This place is supposed to be awesome with a menu like that?" It was quite plane Jane. The sake sommelier then mentioned that he had "a lot of sake off-menu".

So I decided to do some flights. First I wanted some nama-zakes. I cannot get enough when I am in Japan. I asked for a flight of unique namas. He brought out three brews and we enjoyed a nice collection of flavors and feelings. I think he noticed that I was taking notes and photos of the sakes. Then for the second flight I wanted to play, so we asked for three sakes with distinctive acidity levels. His eyebrows shot up. After this flight I then asked for another three sakes, but this time with distinctive amino acid levels. It was great. He did a brilliant job of bringing out some serious brews that all hit my initial mark. I was in heaven and he was stunned as some white guy was asking him the most unique sake requests that he had ever heard.

As I mentioned, I don't introduce myself. I just simply enjoy the experience of sake. But when we asked for the check he came around the bar and said that he knew me and that I was a very famous man. I hate that! Sake is famous and we are all part of the ride. We exchanged cards and I was in a state of bliss walking out of the bar. We then took a cab to a restaurant in Shinjuku. Upon existing the cab I realized my black book was gone. Nooooooooooo! We raced back to the bar. It wasn't there. It must have fallen out of my jacket pocket in the cab. It was gone!

I still believe that the book will eventually get back to me. There were many business cards other than mine enclosed, and I hope that it will find its way home. That said - it was a small testimonial to how powerful that sake tasting was for me. Everything happens for a reason. Perhaps I was meant to remember that night and the entire trip by thought alone.

Please send your sake specific questions to askbeau2 @ (This address is not for general questions and I only review the questions once per month. All other correspondence should use info @

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