Archive for September, 2013

Meet Miyao-san, the rice farmer

On the 2nd day of our Niigata Tour (Feb 17 – 21, 2014), Miyao-san will be guiding us through the beautiful Fukushima-gata slough where he grows sake rice in the summer. During the snow season, the vast plains become home for migrating swans. Meet Miyao-san in the video! He and his family believe in sustainable organic farming. Also, the French and sake dinner pairing at historic Imayo Tsukasa brewery gives you an idea what our evening will be like on the 2nd day.

Shiki Hocho knife ceremony

Join our Okayama tour (Jan. 27 – 31, 2014). In addition to immersing yourself in sake tradition by meeting the brewers, rice growers, and even plowing the rice fields yourself, Okayama tour adds cultural experiences very rarely seen even by locals, let alone in a private setting. On the second night, you’ll witness Shiki Hocho knife ceremony at Ginza, a restaurant near Marumoto Brewery. The following is a description of Shiki-Hocho knife ceremony from Ginza Restaurant web site.
The Shiki hocho is manners of using a kitchen knife at the Imperial Court that started in 859 by the Emperor Seiwa’s instruction. Later, the banquet was held at Court on auspicious occasions. Fish such as carps and sea breams were prepared only with the kitchen knife and chopsticks without touching them to make an auspicious shape which had been called Zuisho-kei. The Ikama family was given the surname by Minamoto-no-Yoritomo and served as the cooks of the Kamakura Shogunate. Thereafter, it had served the successive shogunates, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and military commanders. When Toyotomi Hideyoshi adopted Prince Hachijo who had been a younger brother of the Emperor Goyouzei in those days, the Ikama family was told to become servants of Imperial prince the Hideyoshi’s instruction. The family worked at Court since then. Furthermore, Prince Hachijo constructed the Katsura Detached Palace, which is existing in Kyoto now. In the Edo period (1604~1868), the Ikama family had worked as cooks at the KDP. At present, the29th family has run “Mankamero” in Kyoto that serves the Imperial Court-style cooking.
This video is a bit too long, but you’ll see how you will be a part of this ancient court ceremony.

Bitchu Okayama Kagura

If you are wondering what Kagura Dance is, here is a performance by Bitchu Kagura Dance Troupe of Okayama. Susanoo gave eight jars of sake to Yamata No Orochi, an eight-headed serpent, to get it drunk, defeat it, and save a princess. Our welcome dinner January 27 on the Okayama Tour includes a private Kagura performance. One of the performers works at Shiragiku Brewery which we will visit that day. Find more about the Okayama Tour.

New Destinations in 2014

japan_map_sake_Niigata_Okayama We are very excited to announce two new destinations in 2014 to Okayama (January 27th – 31st) and Niigata (February 17th – 21st). There’s something special about these two destinations. The Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association is supporting part of the cost. They invite all sake enthusiasts to really experience Japan through sake with their help. This is a one-time opportunity you cannot miss! Both tours are 5-day excursions into the world of sake brewing, drinking, and enjoyment, featuring an exclusive seminar by the greatest sake sensei. The contents of the tours feature sumptuous cuisine, luxurious yet quiet relaxing time at hot springs, and excursions to fantastic cultural highlights in areas seldom visited by foreigners. Okayama January 27 – 31, 2014 (Monday-Friday) Visit four sake brewers in the home of Omachi sake rice. The Okayama tour combines sake, food, and art with visits to beautiful classic towns. Some very memorable experiences you will find only with us are: a session with Omachi sake rice grower, hands on rice field plowing, private Kagura dance performance, private Shiki Hocho fish cutting knife ritual once performed only for the emperor, hands-on guinomi sake cup making experience with Bizen artists, observing art of sword making and more. On the last day, simply relax at the hot springs by the river far away from the city, in the snow. Niigata, February 17 – 21, 2014 (Monday-Friday) Niigata is known as the sake and rice capital. From over 90 breweries, you will visit four breweries who represent very distinctive traditions including Sado Island. In addition to a chance to interview sake brewers and rice growers, some special moments include: a private Geisha performance at dinner, a masterful tea ceremony, paring of Niigata sake at French restaurant, and hands on experience of Kodo Taiko drum. Of course, we’ll have time to explore the distinctive cultural heritage of the area and to relax at hot springs. Both tours are 270,000 JPY per person. With 50,000 JPY support from Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association, your cost is only 220,000 JPY. Please visit for tour information after September 15. Group size is limited to 12. yuki2 Details are still being finalized for the Okayama and Niigata tours, so email Etsuko at for more information.