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.