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Kioke, Shoyu, Sake, and Fermentation

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Last January Sebastien and Justin travelled to Shodoshima, the island of kioke, shoyu, and olives, located off the coast of Kagawa Prefecture of Shikoku Island in Western Japan.

The purpose? To take part in the Kioke Summit hosted by Yamaroku Shoyu. Why are we visiting a shoyu (soy sauce) maker for an episode of Sake On Air? A quick internet search for any combination of the key words above will tell you why, but here’s the gist: With almost no one left in Japan (which means, in the world) that possesses the skill and knowledge for crafting large-size kioke (wooden tanks) used for the fermentation and storage of sake, soy sauce, miso, vinegar, and occasionally other fermented beverages and flavorings, Japan is at risk of losing a massive element of its microbial DNA. That includes the character, quality and originality that makes Japanese regional cuisine—and Japanese cuisine in general—the delicious wonder that it is.

Owner of Yamaroku Shoyu, Yasuo Yamamoto, took it upon himself to develop a means of reversing that trend. For years he and a dedicated team bound together both locally and across Japan have been honing those woodworking skills themselves and then training others around Japan that are in a position to reinstate kioke into their production. The future of Japan’s kioke (and if you haven’t caught on yet, the flavors that define Japan) is at risk of being lost and Yamamoto-san and team are close to being the last bastion.

For years Yamamoto-san and team have been hosting what they call a “Kioke Summit,” where those in the industry come to learn the craft and share the culture of kioke. Back in January, for the first time they opened the event up a bit more to those on the periphery of the industry and hosted something more akin to an actual summit, with guest speakers, panels and lectures spread across several days with kioke construction serving as an ongoing backdrop.

The incredible work, energy, passion and sense of community is something above and beyond what any of us could have imagined. Sadly, we can only transmit a fraction through the airwaves, but I think our sense of awe of the entire ordeal shines through in our discussion.

And fret not, as we are indeed discussing sake and shochu as well, in the context of kioke. We touch on the input from participating breweries and distilleries, including Kenbishi, Aramasa, Satsuma Shuzo, Yamanashuzo (makers of Okutamba) and more. Plus, Sebastien pays a visit to the island’s only sake brewery, Morikuni, and shares a bit of his experience.

We’re lucky to be joined again this week by Jamie Graves, Japanese Beverage Portfolio Manager for Skurnik Wines & Spirits and previous guest from Episode 16, who made the trek to the island with us. He tells us about his trip to Kenbishi the week prior and the unexpected discoveries and chance meetings from throughout the Summit.

Speaking of Summits, for those of you that missed out on, Sake Future Summit 2020 back on November 21-22, we’ve begun to upload and archive the various sessions from that informative and inspiring weekend into a playlist on our official YouTube channel. The remainder are scheduled to go up over the next couple of weeks, so do check back occasionally and share

Day 1 YouTube Archive: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqP_2k2S7iE
Day 2 YouTube Archive: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQu2XcwtxpY
*Note that due to YouTube’s streaming and archiving restrictions five sessions did not get included in the Day 1 archive. Some of these have been uploaded to the playlist already, with the remainder scheduled to go up in the coming weeks.

We somehow managed to produce more programming over a weekend than we do in an entire year for the show. That being said, the podcast is where our home is! If you appreciate what we’ve put out into the world, please do leave us a review on Apple Podcasts, or reach out to us at questions@sakeonair.com. You can follow us on  InstagramTwitter, and Facebook, or subscribe to us over on YouTube.

Only a month left in 2020.
Here’s to hoping the remainder of your year is filled with sake, health and happiness.

Kampai!

Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is a co-production between Export Japan and Potts.K Productions

Our theme, “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” was composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.

Two-year Anniversary Special (Live)

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Thank you.

Two years ago Sebastien, Big Chris, Justin, John and Little Chris huddled around some microphones after-hours at the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center and tried to sort out how to approach an episode of Sake On Air. We stumbled our way through a year with all kinds of amazing guests and inspiring events. Along the way, we were incredibly lucky to be able to welcome Rebekah and Marie into the fold. Over the next year, things got a bit smoother and more polished.

And then COVID happened, and for the first time in the show’s history we started doing shows from a distance. We had always really enjoyed that the show was conducted entirely in-person, however with new challenges brought new opportunities. We were able to welcome guests to the show we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to convene with, and we put in a great deal of work gathering information for our listeners during these unprecedented times.

And here we are, exactly two years and 50 episodes later. Thanks to the blessing and support of Imada-san and the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association, along with one of the luckiest chance encounters imaginable in crossing paths with Frank, the man who really makes it all work, we were able to get the entire cast together – in true, physical space – to celebrate this special occasion.

As sake (and shochu) are still relatively niche in the grand scheme of things, conversations and perspective on the categories tend to get boiled down to the lowest common denominator – the love for the beverage itself. With this cast, crew, and our incredible community of listeners and supporters across the globe, we feel so incredibly honored and proud to be able to share and contribute to the wider, ever-expanding dialogue growing with the world of sake. For us, these beverages represent much more than merely liquid in a bottle. It’s something that has resonated with us and changed our lives in all kinds of incredible ways we never could have imagined. With Sake On Air, being able to continue to grow and develop our excitement, perspectives and relationship with sake and shochu together with such a vast population of sake-lovers and sake-curious has been rewarding beyond words. We can’t thank you enough.

So, in order to celebrate two years and 50 episodes…we celebrated. Last month we got the entire cast together for a two-hour live Q&A, while welcoming previous guests Dave Joll (Zenkuro), Andre Bishop (Sake Master), Natsuki Kikuya (Museum of Sake), and Pablo Alomar Salvioni (S&A) for live discussions and debates, and delving into some of the most heated conversations we’ve had to-date here at Sake On Air. It’s unquestionably a sake-fueled session, but if it’s any indication of what’s to come in year number three, we’re already very excited.

Maybe most important of all, Sake Future Summit 2020 is happening on November 21-22. That’s next weekend. There’s more programming scheduled over a single weekend that what we’re able to produce in an entire year at Sake On Air. This is an entirely new endeavor for us. We don’t know how it’s all going to go, but we’re as excited for this as we were when we first started the show. We certainly hope you’ll join us for this very special event.

Day 1 YouTube Stream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqP_2k2S7iE
Day 2 YouTube Stream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQu2XcwtxpY


Feel free to leave us a review on Apple Podcasts, or reach out to us at questions@sakeonair.com. You can follow us on  InstagramTwitter, and Facebook, or join us over on YouTube, as well.

Thanks for an incredible two years, everyone.
Here’s to the next two.

Kampai!

Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is a co-production between Export Japan and Potts.K Productions, with audio production by Frank Walter.

Our theme, “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” is composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.

Kurabito Life

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The role of the “kurabito” – one who works in a sake brewery – is incredibly varied. While the traditional image is that of a team of brewers hunkered down for a long brewing season of focus and isolation, nowadays the term has come to encompass the diverse range of tasks at the brewery involved in seeing a bottle of sake through from start to finish. That being said, for the most part, having a physical hand in the process of crafting sake, in more cases than not, is often central to the role.

New sake breweries are popping up right and left internationally, creating opportunities for ambitious brewers to experience the craft closer to home, however the role as it exists in Japan is very much something unique to beverage’s relationship to the livelihoods, people, communities and culture that it has been central to for centuries. This makes the role of working in a sake brewery in Japan incredibly special and intriguing, yet equally demanding and challenging.

As sake’s prevalence has grown internationally, so has the number of non-Japanese investing a significant part of their time and energy to the act of making sake here in Japan. While those cases are still few and far between, you can only expect it to become more common.

This week we invited three gentlemen from very different backgrounds with different motivations; their common thread being that they have all found themselves making sake as kurabito here in Japan, each at very different breweries of very different scale, style and philosophy.

We’re joined this week by Andy Russell at Imada Shuzo in rural Hiroshima, makers of Fukucho, Jorge Navarrete of Matsui Shuzo in the heart of Kyoto, makers of Kagura, and J.J. over at Imanishi Seibei Shoten in Nara, makers of Harushika.

Together with Sebastien, Chris and Justin, the group explores the nature of this truly invaluable, yet incredibly demanding, and equally rewarding career path. Grab a glass, sit back, and travel with these inspiring gentlemen to their respective locales for a taste of life in the kura.

If you haven’t heard, Sake Future Summit 2020 is happening on November 21-22! Imagine more than a year’s worth of Sake On Air on steroids, with visuals, packed into a single weekend. A lot of the sessions have been announced, but we still have lots of exciting announcements to come. Stay tuned!

Feel free to leave us a review on Apple Podcasts, or reach out to us at questions@sakeonair.com. You can follow us on  InstagramTwitter, and Facebook, or join us over on YouTube, as well.

Thanks for tuning in with us this week and we’ll be back with more Sake On Air in a couple of weeks.

Kampai!

Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is a co-production between Export Japan and Potts.K Productions, with audio production by Frank Walter.

Our theme, “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” is composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.

Hannyatou: Chef Soma & Russell King

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Drink Sake. Stay Soba.

It’s this simple mantra that has made Seattle’s Hannyatou and its neighboring soba destination Kamonegi almost overnight mainstays for the sake-inspired community of the Pacific Northwest.

It was almost exactly one year ago that Justin sat down with and renowned soba chef Mutsuko Soma and sake specialist partner-in-crime Russell King at their (then) newly-opened fermented creation-driven sake bar, Hannyatou. The pair’s appreciation for craft along with their fearless creativity have turned their co-creation just two doors down from Chef Soma’s soba haven into one of the most exciting sake stops, not just in the Northwest, but arguably in the country.

In less than three years, how do you go about bringing to life, not one, but two hit restaurants able to maneuver right for that elusive sweet spot between tradition and free exploration, pushing the envelope for traditional Japanese food and beverage while making it feel like a completely natural progression? That’s what we went to find out.

You might also be wondering why an interview conducted almost a year ago is just now making it to the airwaves. Originally scheduled for an early-Spring release, 2020 happened. We could have brought the interview out sooner, but given all that was happening and the surplus of challenges facing restaurants everywhere, we wanted to make sure we had a show that represented the dedication and hard work of Soma and Russell to the best of our ability. Not wanting to shower them with questions while they were scrambling to feel out their new format in the current reality, we decided to wait a bit.

The good news is that the latter half of the show you get to hear Justin catch up with Russell as he tells us all about how the last 6 months have played out, their setbacks and successes, the evolution of both Kamonegi and Hannyatou, and their positive vision for the still unforeseeable future of sake dining and sales in Seattle.

Grab your favorite ochoko or guinomi and settle in for a journey into Seattle’s sake heartland this week.

While you’re sipping along,  you’re welcome to leave us a review on Apple Podcasts, or reach out to us at questions@sakeonair.com. You can keeps tabs on us on  InstagramTwitter, and Facebook, or join us over on YouTube, as well.

Thanks for tuning in with us this week and we’ll be back with more Sake On Air in a couple of weeks.

Kampai!

*Note: Since our follow-up interview with Russell King only a few short weeks ago, he has announced that he’ll be leaving Hannyatou to pursue other endeavors and focus on family. All of us here at Sake On Air wish him happiness, health and success on all of his adventures to come.

Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is a co-production between Export Japan and Potts.K Productions, with production and editing by Frank Walter.

Our theme, “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” is composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.

The SG Shochu with Joshin Atone

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Lately it feels as though we’re teetering on the verge of shochu’s day in the limelight. Japan’s indigenous spirit with about as much market and mindshare as the beverage more commonly associated with the island nation – sake – has been gradually demanding more and more attention amongst some many of the world’s most prolific bartenders, mixologists and connoisseurs of fine spirits. However, despite the category’s all-too-common association at home, the incredibly diverse, distinct and delicious category has struggled to find a way to reach the masses.

With The SG Shochu, internationally renowned bartender and arguably currently the world’s most successful bar owner, Shingo Gokan, and his team at the SG Group are setting out to change that. Should they manage to realize their lofty goals for the product line, and the category itself, shochu could become a staple behind bars around the world…maybe by the time you’re reading this.

And the man responsible for helping lead that charge is long-time SG Group bartender, now The SG Shochu brand manager, Joshin Atone. For this episode, Joshin packed a bottle each of IMO, MUGI and KOME and joined Justin and Sebastien in the studio, where the trio sipped (and guzzled, as you’ll hear) their way through the process of developing a line of shochu from scratch that’s persuasive enough to claim a permanent spot both behind bars across the globe, while communicating what makes the category so unique and special in the first place.

Oh, and Snarky Puppy fans might enjoy this week’s show (and shochu) as well.

This week we’re (finally) back at the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center, recording in the actual physical presence of one another for the first time in a long time. We missed this format! There will still be more online recordings coming down the pipe, but it was a nice reminder of how pleasant – and important – it is to be able to sit down together with our guest, and one another.

Go ahead and pour yourself a glass (or several) and settle in with us on this week’s episode of Sake On Air.

When you’re done, go ahead and  drop us a review on Apple Podcasts, or reach out to us at questions@sakeonair.com. You can follow our current limited movement on  InstagramTwitter, and Facebook, or join us over on YouTube, as well.

Thanks for listening and we’ll be back with more Sake On Air in a couple of weeks.

Kampai!

Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is a co-production between Export Japan and Potts.K Productions, with audio production by Frank Walter.

*Please note that the official theme song for The SG Shochu made by Snarky Puppy is not what is playing in this week’s show. You’ll likely have to wait just a bit more for that.

Our theme, “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” is composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.