Friday, March 13, 2009

Day 4 ... The Rice's Tale

Imagine if you will, a journey through time and space that begins with an intensive abrasion of your skin. While still smarting, you're jet-sprayed, dunked, and held under water until you've shed whatever residue remained from the abrasion. "Whew! Glad that's over with," you think as you lie down and rest for the night.

But early the following morning before you know what's happening, you're in the hottest Turkish bath you've never dreamed of. Ouch! With great relief you're allowed to cool off while being transported somewhere by conveyor belt. Suddenly, without warning, you're sucked into a hose and flying at warp speed until...splash! You've been shot into a tank of yeasty smelling liquid.

Such is the sakamai"s tale.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How do they sleep at night? VERY well thank you!

How do they do it? There are so many tasks and so few kurabito. Our Mukune International Sake Brewing Program intern team of six has doubled the work force at Daimon Shuzo. The experience of the last day and a half has given me an immense appreciation for the efficiency of the operation of this sakagura. To say that the craft of sake making is arduous and demanding would be an understatement. But the real difference maker is the coordination, timing, and teamwork.

We've washed, soaked, steamed, and cooled rice for a variety of uses (and we'll do more). We've made and moved koji. Made boxes and labeled bottles. Washed and cleaned our equipment and the materials used in the process. We'll do that many times more as well. Along with the physical, we've also be given an inside look at the science and management of the process. It is astounding what the full time kura team accomplishes in creating and packaging a variety of different sake (each with it's own unique "recipe" requiring different logistics and timing). All is seamlessly integrated following a flow of steps that bends and turns according to time, temperature, and taste.

At the figurative end of the day, we've had a literal taste of the satisfaction that a toji feels as he samples the free run sake that is the first to flow out of the Yabuta (the machine that presses the fermented mash and yields the fresh undiluted, unpasteurized sake). At the literal end of the day, we've also experienced the blissful exhaustion that comes from a labor that produces such an exquisite beverage. I know that I've never slept so well.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Mukune Sake Internship, Stairway to Heaven

Rick is at Daimon Shuzo, Osaka, Japan, participating sake internship program. Here is the report....

Within 10 minutes of our arrival at the Daimon Shuzo kura, we were immersed in the transfer of koji from wooden box-like trays to a burlap lined, wire mesh-based variety. We were smelling, smoothing, and yes, even tasting the almost styrofoam-like grains of rice that were now in a state of saccharine transformation due to the effects of exposure to their koji-kin invaders. With apologies for the lack of specific terminology, it was the experience of immediate entrance into the world and craft of sake brewing that was singularly exhilarating.

Our welcome from Shacho (President) and Toji (Brewmaster) Yasutaka Daimon was at the same time, warm, gracious, and enthusiastic. "Fasten your seat belts!" he exclaimed as he smiled at us from the top of the stairway. And then, there we were, up to our eyes in koji.

The subsequent exploration of our new home ultimately led to a steep, well-worn wooden stairway which led to our sleeping quarters. Looking straight up into the eaves of this ancient structure, I was struck by the feeling (realization?) that I was exactly where I most wanted to be. The stairway symbolized that point of entry from one world to the next.