It’s the first “very special episode” of The Drinkable Week. (Grab the tissues and don’t do drugs, kids.) This week, I’m in Tokyo and in the Kagoshima and Kumamoto Prefectures experiencing shochu, the treasured spirit of the southern island of Kyushu. The itinerary, very generously organized by the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association (JSS), included tours of six distilleries and more bars than I can count (and so much amazing food!) Extra special thanks to JSS’s Ken Kajihara and Kampai.US’s Stephen Lyman for pulling this grand adventure together.
The Drinkable Globe will present one photo from a different part of the world each day, designed to inspire you in your worldwide beverage pursuits. And if you can’t get there on a plane, you can get there in spirit with a glass. Today’s image takes us to Hitoyosi-City in the Kumamoto Prefecture, on the southern island of Kyushu. You know you’re on Kyushu when you walk into a supermarket that looks like this—entire aisles dedicated to shochu. Kyushu boasts the greatest concentration of shochu producers among all of the home islands and is, therefore, the center of the shochu universe. Kumamoto is best known for its rice shochu, while you’re most likely to find sweet potato shochu in Kagoshima and soba (buckwheat)-based shochu in Miyazaki. In others, you’ll likely discover barley, sugar cane and even sesame shochu.
After a bit of a hiatus, the video featurettes (vide-ettes?) return with the first of several shot in Japan. Ever drink saké with fish parts in it? Unless you accidentally dropped a piece of sashimi in your cup (happens to the best of us), the answer is “probably not.” A tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Osaka serves up a hot saké with a very curious (and surprisingly not deadly) ingredient. Give it a watch; it only takes a minute.