Thursday, December 14, 2006


THE CURSE OF THE OLD-FASHIONED CACHET


As a long-term lover of sake and all its trappings, from the overall extreme finesse required to make the ancient drink in those big wooden vats in the old sake brewery buildings - and the traditional advertising - all the way to when at last the noble result is poured into handcrafted sake jars where in winter it is warmed and then poured into regionally handmade ceramic cups, or in summer when the sake is poured cold into masu, square fragrant cedar cups with a pinch of salt on the corner...

But like so much else of tradition here, the truly national drink of Japan is currently going the way of spare time. Advertising is everything these days, and upon sake has fallen the curse of the old-fashioned cachet, while elsewhere around the world fine sake are served to accompany all sorts of gourmet meals...

It has long amazed me that the single- or double-distilled grain liquor shochu, with its more obscure ‘under-the-bridge’ cachet (“In general, its flavour is often described as ‘nutty’ or ‘earthy.’”) ever won out over sake, the master-crafted rice drink that has all the diversity and savor of wine, with none of the general liniment qualities to be found in shochu-- though the latter is of course cheaper...

I have had some truly superb sake here; there's nothing like a quality hot sake in the dead of winter, if we ever have another dead of winter, with a quality sake to be found...

3 comments:

Zen said...

Ah , Sake!!

It is indeed getting more popular here in the states.

Typical for the New Japanese to forsake good old things for something more "stylist"

I tried Shochu once, it was like rock gut wiskey sold here, yuk!

Good sake is great and easy going down!

J. said...

Yes, but isn't it shochu in all those little mixed-drink cans known as chu-hai? There are so many flavours, similar to soft drinks, that anyone, even those who really don't like the taste of liquor, can drink them and get a little buzz. Though I know there are many kinds of sake, and I've tried only a few, I really really hate the headaches it gives me, even from one small glass, so I've never been able to explore its finer qualities. But I agree with you that good Japanese traditions should be preserved, and the kids ought to take some pride in them.

Trace said...

Thank you once again Robert, for teaching us of Japan.