Day 4: Fukuoka + Nagasaki

 

After two days packed with 8 distillery tours in Kumamoto and a big night out in Fukuoka with the distillers to wrap it all up, it was time to shift gears. Matsuda-san from Sengetsu Shuzo, who lives in Fukuoka, picked me up at my hotel for an hour’s drive into the Fukuoka countryside to visit Shinozaki Shuzo, a barley shochu distillery and sake brewery. I’d met Shinozaki-san last month at the SIP Japan events in NYC and was eager to visit his distillery after tasting the richly rewarding Sennen no Nemuri mugi shochu that’s aged in wood.

barrels and pots

Shinosaki-san was not available to meet us at the distillery, but his parents were there to give us a tour. Both spoke excellent English as his mother had studied in New York in the past. She was also a perfect hostess, plying me with treats when she realized I hadn’t had a proper breakfast. We were introduced to their large, clean facility that includes a 2nd floor Nihon-shu plant and a 1st floor shochu distillery. They also make a very popular Amazake (non-alcoholic rice beverage), which I’d first tried last winter at a Tokyo New Year’s festival.

shinozaki

The surprise discovery for me was Kokyu, a kame aged mugi shochu genshu (undiluted, 41% ABV) sold in very limited numbers and bottled much like small batch bourbons with lot numbers hand written on the bottle labels. I’ve long known I’ve got a taste of clay pot aged shochus and this was no exception. It’s only perhaps surprising to me that I haven’t found more mugi distillers who use this approach to aging.

Distillery tour finished, we visited the river basin where the distillery sources its water prior to an unagi (fresh water eel) lunch at a local restaurant complete with tatami seating and ayu no shioyaki (salt grilled fresh water fish). After lunch, Matsuda-san and I made our goodbyes with the elder Shinozakis and began the trip back to Fukuoka, but not before stopping at a basashi-ya to pick up one of the area’s delicacies – basashi – or horse sashimi. Packed on ice, this became my contribution to a home dinner in Nagasaki.

basashi

Meeting Mai-san at Hakata Station in Fukuoka, we stopped by a nearby outdoor festival where Yoshida-san from Nishi Yoshida Shuzo, which I’d visited last summer, was pouring samples of the delicious Tsukushi Shiro and Tsukushi Kuro along with their Ume-shu before taking the express train to Nagasaki, Mai-san’s current city.

Nagasaki Prefecture is not particularly known for shochu production apart from Iki Island, which is the traditional home of barley shochu, which I’m planning on visiting later in the week. However, Nagasaki has great seafood and a long history of interesting food as the only port open to the west for hundreds of years. And as in the rest of Kyushu, shochu is plentiful. We’ll visit Nagasaki restaurants over the next couple days, but tonight would be my first dinner in a Japanese home in 4 visits to Japan. I have a number of very good friends in Japan at this point, but have not yet had the chance to visit their home cities.

loot

Mai-san, who calls me “Onii-chan”, or “older brother”, prepared a few dishes to compliment the basashi to have a relaxing evening after the intense adventures of the past few days. She’s just as crazy about shochu as I am so we paused to count and document the bottles and gifts we’d received from the distilleries we’d visited before opening up a few bottles to pair with dinner. Talking late into the night as we’d done the first night in Fukuoka, we finally called it a night and I settled into the futon she’d been kind enough to buy in anticipation of my visit.

 

Kampai!

Comments
One Response to “Day 4: Fukuoka + Nagasaki”
  1. Comradde PhysioProffe says:

    What’s the condiment served with the horse sashimi?

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