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The International Writers Magazine: Japan

The Benefits of Warm Sake
Tony Alexander

This winter, as you pour warm sake into her belly button, reflect on her curvaceousness.  The overflow of sake as it moves downward from her navel following the will of gravity in a snake like motion and then settling down into her boundless beauty a whiff of nature mixed with hints of soft floral scented sake and then a quaff as the after-taste permeates back up into your nose - (sigh) this is what winters are for.
Everything that is good has stood the test of time and no matter how often we change or how many times the world turns, Japanese sake will always be Japanese sake.  The magical essense of sake is that it drinks us whereas drinks like scotch and whisky and bourbon force us to drink them.  These hard drinks demand our attention and then they kick our heads in every morning in the form of a hang over.  Nihonshu is a spiritual drink that fades away every morning with faint memories of a great time had.

As we imbibe off of that beautiful 1.8 litre of sake we pay a little more extra attention to our glasses, the long beautiful one leg of that sake bottle beautifully adorned in ancient Japanese calligraphy, that tiny little sake cup with no bowl and no stem that was uniquely handcrafted by some forgotten great Japanese hand somewhere deep in Nara.  We never question its whereabouts we just tip our cups.  Done !

Long gone are the days when people use to appreciate the simple things that mattered most; things like family, friends, lovers, and more lovers....Now, in place of all of that, we have these garishly dressed psuedo-human beings who are vastly ignorant that have no appreciation for good taste at all !  Instead most of them have no idea why they drink what they drink.  ("If it's popular then it must be good !  Or, if I can't pronounce the name on the label or even know what it means and if it's expensive then it must really taste good").

I think the late Pekka Erica put it best "Collective deindividualization is a phenomenon where individual[sic] will be trained as part of the mindless herd controlled by state, corporation, church or some other organization, group, ideology, religion or mass delusion system and adopt it's rules, morality and codes of conduct."  And in this instance we can see how group thinking defines the "universal tongue" when it comes to alcohol consumption.

In such a case you must ask yourself " is taste acquired, or is it controlled?"  I tend to agree with the ladder.  However, I do believe that if people give sake a chance, especially you first timers out there, and try to acquire a taste for something completely different then you can grow to like or even love sake.

Sake is rice wine made from a grain whereas wine is 80 to 90% water made from a fruit - the two cannot be compared !  Only 10 percent of wine is alcohol with hundreds of scents and aromas added to it with only 1 percent fruit acid.  Doesn't sound much like a refined drink to me, neverthless, it's good according to my taste buds, in small quantities that is.

Sake on the one hand contains 60 to 100% rice, thus rice wine.  In the case of a Junmai you get the full rice content at 100% with only a little bit of water as a filler.  Daigenjyo and so on have a bit of spirits added to it with highly polished and highly refined rice grains.  There are so many components that go into making a great sake !  On the other hand, wine has very little to do with this type of mastery.  I mean you have your enologist(wine maker) and your viticulturist ( vine grower) who make sure the grape and the stem are high quality, and then make wine…and keep your fingers crossed months later.

Let us remember this season that the best sake is yet to come.  Metereorologist have predicted a very cold winter for Japan with lots of snow this year  Expect some fantastic sake to come about and be ready to pour warm sake into her belly button.

© Tony L. Alexander December 2007

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