Achikochi Marche in Shunan, Yamaguchi

Shunan, the nearest “big” city to where I live, hosts a series of local industry events called “Achikochi Marche,” each of which has a different theme. The 7th one, on March 31st, 2018, was focused on Sake of the Chogoku region: Shimane, Tottori, Hiroshima, Okayama and Yamaguchi. Naturally, I went.

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Amazingly, this event featured far more breweries than the more focused Washu-Fest sake event in Ube the month before. 33 kura with well over 60 brews were on hand, and, well, what was a man to do but try to hit them all?

I did my best, I really did. I paced myself, drank lots of water, and ate bread like there was not tomorrow, but I still only managed 13 different sakes. I took notes and made sure I recorded each one, but still…after a few cups, all my notes turned into “Good” and “Wow!” stuff. Yet, I would like to bring up a couple of very stand-out cups.

One of the most unusual sakes on hand was Himegami no Shizuku 比売神乃雫. This sake was being sold not by the kura, but by the rice growers. Why? Because it’s made with a very unusual purple rice, and is made on contract by a kura in Osaka for famers in Tottori.

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Himegami no Shizuku

As you can see, the sake is not the usual yellow or clear, but pink! Usually, pink sakes are made with special flower yeasts, but this time the color comes from the unusual rice used. They don’t have a website yet, but are working on one. For those wanting more info, here’s a Japanese news article about it.

The flavor is also unusual, it’s a floral, fruity flavor more akin to a rose wine than most sake. It’s got a full body, and is well worth a try. I’m not sure I’d buy a full bottle, not at all bad. And I’m always happy to support local agriculture!

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Goriki from Chiyomusubi Shuzo

Another unusual sake was this one from Tottori’s Chiyomusubi kura. Tottori is not a big Sake prefecture. They only have nine kura, and this was the only one present at the event.

They use an unusual, Tottori-grown sake rice called Goriki (meaning, literally, “strong”) in their sakes, which is also the name of the sake. I tried their Daiginjo, and it was a rich, umami-filled drink worthy of the name. It’s a definite meal drink, suited to meat or yakitori for sure.

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Wakamusume from Shintani Shuzo

Another real treat came from perhaps the smallest brewery, Shintani Shuzo in Yamaguchi City, about 40 minutes drive from my house. It’s run by 3rd generation owner Yoshinao Shintani and his wife, who spend every month making the very best sake they can under the label Wakamusume.

I tried their Junmai Ginjo Muroka Nama Genshu, and it was an excellent example. The sake tastes lively, with the typical nama genshu alcohol kick but with a lovely dose of souness balancing out the very gentle sweet. It’s very much a sipping sake, less for meals and more for a quiet day on the porch.

 

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Kamikokoro Junmai Ginjo Bingakoi

But for me the real stand out came from Okayama’s Kamikokoro 神心. Okayama has a huge sake industry thanks to their popular sake rice Omachi, and their presence at this event was second only to Hiroshima’s. This particular brewery stood out to me for their jukushu, a sake bottle-aged a full year. Most sakes are drunk fresh, and indeed the fresher the better for nama sake, which is extremely sensitive to temperature.

This was my first jukushu, and it was, dare I say, revelatory. It tasted full, rich, interesting. The alcohol is assertive but quickly gives way to a pleasant umami and mildly sour sweetness. I loved it, and this is the only bottle I tried twice at the fest.

There were plenty of other sakes present as well. Dassai was there with their famous 23% daiginjo, but it was surprisingly among the least popular tables (due, perhaps, to the fact that Dassai is not only more popular than the Beatles these days, but there were at least 4 izakayas within clear view flying the ever-present Dassai flag–meaning, of course, it’s available any time you want).

I’ll leave the rest of my tries in pictures. Please don’t ask me how they were, I can only tell you the one sake I didn’t enjoy was from Yamaguchi’s Nakashima-ya. It was fairly harsh and astringent, with an overly sour aftertaste for my palate. But of course, tastes vary, and Nakashimaya has a generally good reputation among local drinkers.

Enjoy the pics, and enjoy your drinks!

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