The Birth of Saké

The Environmental Film Festival was in DC over the past week or so I read over the rundown of shows. There were some interesting movies running and one that really caught my eye was The Birth of Saké.  Side note:  how does that truly fit in with the environmental part?


Anyway, my friend and I decided to see the movie.  It was a compelling documentary about the origin of this well-known Japanese drink, from its origin, processing, to current state.  The movie follows the one brewery that continues to make sake by hand vs. going to machines/automation.  Their process of making sake takes 6 months and those who work at the brewery are gone from their families for that entire time.  Unique piece, and worth checking out. Definitely not something you hear or think about everyday.



Japan #4: Beer…a button away

It’s Friday, the weekend is only hours away.  So what better to do than loop back to the Japan trip theme and talk about BEER???  T minus 4 hours until Happy Hour. 

There are beers around the world and I was looking forward to having true Japanese beer while in the country of origin.  But the best thing I found while there were beer machines.  What is that you ask?  You want a Coke, Sprite, Mountain Dew?  You go find that machine and throw in a couple bills and voila.  Over in Japan…OH, you can do the same thing for beer.  HEAVEN!  You can tell they aren’t as strict on the drinking (age) as we are.


Also want to highlight a couple of the beers I enjoyed, overall.  There is the ‘normal’  Sapporo, which I only had once.  I also only saw it on tap one time.  Otherwise I looked for the ones we don’t get here or I haven’t tried.  Pictures below (Asahi is the one also available in the machine).

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Japan #3: Korean BBQ

As we progressed through Japan we had to expand our cuisine beyond just local fare.  One night we opted to go for Korean BBQ.  My uncle asked his colleagues for recommendations and they gave him ‘the best place to go.’  So, off we went.  It was of course one of those hard-to-find, hole-in-wall restaurants – perfect!

So at the Korean BBQ, you have a grill in front of you, order raw food and grill to your liking.  So much fun.  We ordered basic food that we were used to — chicken, shrimp, pork, veggies, versus some options on the menu that we were either unfamiliar with or had heard of but didn’t want to take the risk of eating, especially on vacation.

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The marinade and seasoning on the meat were delicious and the mushrooms were just – WOW!  It was a meal that you take slowly and you can just kick back and relax.

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Japan #2…Traditional Fare, from restaurants to 7-11

When most people think Japan (myself included), sushi is the first thing that comes to mind. The great tour guide we had on our trip to Mt. Fuji and Hakone educated us on the fact that that is not the case.  It’s a special meal for the locals.  Maybe only a few times a year.  It’s intricate to prepare, not quick and easy.  Traditional fare can include the components of it — rice, sashimi — the raw fish, and the seaweed.  We also learned about a KEY staple in Japanese cuisine, miso soup.

During our tour we were given a sample of the local fare at lunch with a bite of several varieties of food, a bit ‘westernized.’  It was very nice.








That night we did the true Japanese style hotel and meal.  I did not feel comfortable taking pictures in the restaurant but it was about a 9 (small) course meal with a taste of everything.  It was amazing.  A couple soups, several unidentifiable objects that were pretty good, some good seaweed pieces (that were purple-ish), amazing fish and other assorted tastes.  Overall, definitely a meal to remember.  The size was perfect, since you get a small sample of everything.  And I was able to conquer the food with chopsticks!  I discovered that soy sauce is not used all that much in Japan — more a Chinese staple.  They provided us with a small bit and that was all — maybe a teaspoon or two.

The next morning, breakfast called.  It was at that point when we realized the Japanese diet/regimen is quite similar throughout the day.  Most of the dishes the waitress brought to the table were very similar to dinner.  One of the oddest was the cold (super super) over easy egg on angel hair- ish pasta, which was also cold.  That threw me off because I was expecting both components to be hot.  For that meal I think I only tried a tiny bit of everything and much of it was less than I was hoping for, very unfortunately.  But as I was taught, you have to try it all.  Coffee is also hard to find.  Very fortunately we came by a coffee machine in the lobby of the hotel…caffeine!

The next cool, interesting thing in Japan is 7-11.  What do we think of it as here…convenience store.  Coffee, soda, snacks, gas station.  There, OH NO!  High quality food, no lie.  They have awesome sandwiches that are pre-packed and last for awhile (loved the PB one) and sashimi that I wish I could have everyday.  And so affordable — about $3 for a huge pack!

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Next food subject…still can’t decide!

Japan #1

Last month, personal travel took me to Japan.  What an experience; from culture to scenery to food.  I learned so much about any and everything.  I didn’t get to take nearly enough pictures of the food I enjoyed/didn’t enjoy, but wanted to share some of what I experienced.  There will be a few parts to this over a few days.

The hardest thing about being in Japan is the language barrier.  Every other place I’ve traveled I’ve been able to communicate with the locals.  This time, not even close (note – the one extreme is when I was trying to ask something and I spoke to the waiter in French – in Japan!  One time when I couldn’t remember the Spanish word for butter, while I Spain, and whipped out the French there, that was not extreme – but while in Japan – whoa!).

When a restaurant in Japan offers an “English Menu” that normally means you get to look at pictures or plastic samples.  Not so bad, I guess, and quite entertaining.  The night we arrived we saw a rough idea of the tuna ‘sashimi’ with some type of sauce.  Another great example was when we were near the Sumo stadium and saw bowl upon bowl, plate upon plate of display.  It couldn’t look more real.  I just wonder — how did they make these?

There are amazing vegetables in the area, especially at markets, though prices were high.  But let me tell you — if you buy a tomato, they wrap that thing for you like it’s the most precious thing on the face of this planet.  They also have some great samples of seafood, and I’m going to use the word ‘local’ stuff.  I tried some things, steered clear of others.  If I could identify it for the most part, I would give it a try.

Some of the best seafood bites were near the renowned seafood market.  I didn’t get there to see the hands-on action because it can be hit-or-miss to actually get in.  You need to arrive by 4:30am.  Sometimes they let 20 people in, sometimes 100, sometimes nobody at all.  Depends on the day, the mood.  So, we went down to the market around 9:30am and saw the shops that were selling the food they purchased from the market.

That’s the first rundown of the trip.  More to come.