With Mr. Endo of Kikusui

With Mr. Endo of Kikusui

My next stop on the Japan 2008 tour was taking me by Shinkansen to northern Niigata Perfecture, specifically to Shibata city, home of Kikusui Brewery. As you may know, Kikusui imports the much loved Kikusui Funaguchi Honjozo and the delicious Kikusui Junmai Ginjo.

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!

Beautiful Organic Kikusui Sake Rice Field

Beautiful Organic Kikusui Sake Rice Field

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!

Kikusui Rice Harvest in Full Swing

Kikusui Rice Harvest in Full Swing

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.

Beautiful Vintage Masu on Display at the Kikusui Sake Museum

Beautiful Vintage Masu on Display at the Kikusui Sake Museum

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!

Pounding Rice Into Delicious Mochi

Pounding Rice Into Delicious Mochi

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.