I was met at the train station by Mr. Takeshi Endo, Export Salesman for Kikusui. Mr. Endo would be my guide for a fun filled day at Kikusui! Let me just say that my tour of Kikusui turned out to be more than I expected. As fate would have it, Kikusui Brewery was putting on a yearly Sake Rice Harvest festival for the local community on the day of my visit. Not only was I able to visit this fantastic brewery, but I also got the chance to harvest organic sake rice… by hand!The day started with a welcome for the families and community members who came to the event from Brewery President Mr. Takasawa, who I met in January at Sakaya. We were then given a quick tutorial on cutting and binding rice stalks by hand using a deadly looking hand-held sickle. Next, we had some hilarious calisthenics that were lead by the youngest Kikusui office workers. Then it was time for the main event! Endo-san got me a sickle and then off to the rice paddy! Let me tell you right now, harvesting rice by hand is hard work – and true to the “lazy American” stereotype, I pooped out long before anyone else including many kindergarten age kids running around collecting rice bundles with gusto and having a blast.
In about two hours, the entire rice paddy was harvested! phew, time for a break. Kikusui arranged for a fantastic concert by the Pataya Beach Boys. They were great and I even found a clip of them playing on YouTube if you want to give a listen! The crowd at Kikusui loved it and even chanted for an encore.After the concert, Endo-san gave me a tour of the Kikusui brewery and museum. They have several brewery buildings and I was lucky enough to tour the organic brewery facility. It was a beautiful building newly constructed to strict earth-friendly standards. The museum was a vast and beautiful collection of Sake paraphernalia that made the ebay collector in me swoon just a little.
Next is was time to eat! Our hosts at Kikusui whipped up a wonderful lunch topped off by something new to me… I got to try hand pounded fresh mochi for the first time!If you’ve never seen mochi being made, it’s a quasi dangerous process of pounding rice using wooden mallets until the rice becomes a delicious glutenous paste.
So there I was, in the middle of the Niigata countryside, eating fresh sake-rice mochi, drinking fantastic kikusui Sake – I was in 7th heaven! I am so grateful to Mr. Takasawa-san for hosting me and certainly also to Mr. Endo who took such good care of me and showed me around all day long. Without a doubt, this is a day I will remember for the rest of my life. Now, please pass the mochi.