TAKETO KANO Speaks Out for Japanese Cuisine
TAKETO KANO, President of Kiku-Masamune Sake Brewery in Kobe, Japan.
The President of traditionally made Kiku Masamune sake, Taketo Kano, speaks out for keeping the traditional Japanese diet.
Above please read his winter holiday card’s message in which he gives some details about how he and his company stand with UNESCO’s registration of Japanese cuisine as a cultural heritage that needs to be recognized, cherished and returned to.
Taketo is descended from the Kano family which began Kiku-Masamune sake brewing company in 1659, making Kiku-Masamune (“finest chrysanthemum”) the oldest family-owned and operated sake company in Kobe, Nada, Japan. The 1995 Kobe earthquake which destroyed many Frank Lloyd Wright homes also destroyed the Kano family’s beautifully made and old sake brewery, along with the family’s sake-making museum.
Today Taketo is also speaking out for traditional sake and describes how his company’s sakes are made with Miyamizu water from the mountains of Nada; this water is considered “holy” water, water from the gods; water free of turbidity and any contamination; water containing no iron but rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, all minerals needed for a healthy, robust fermentation process, one which yields a refreshingly dry sake. Sake brewed with Miyamizu water matures over the summer, taking on a “well-rounded” character of aromas and flavors by autumn. These sakes are known as “akibare”, maturing in the fall, and synonymous with delicious sake.
In the photo above you see the traditional “Kimoto” method of brewing sake that produces the smooth, dry character of Kiku Masamune’s sakes. The process requires at least four weeks to complete. Kimoto is difficult-to-accomplish in a stable, consistent manner and has been passed from one generation of sake brew masters to the next at Kiku. Today only a few of the 1000 sake brewers in Japan use this Kimoto method. The sake-brewers themselves are considered a sort-of Shinto priest, and must reside at the brewery during all the fermentation. They sing traditional sake brewing songs while making the brew. This is a tradition worth traveling to experience.
Kiku Masamune produces several traditional sakes, but one of my favorites is “Taru” sake. This ceremonial sake is a sake of Yoshino cedar as it is aged in barrels of this cedar which grows in Yoshino, Nada. Kiku-Masamune uses only products of its region: ‘holy water” also from Nada in Kobe, and Yamada-nishiki brewer’s rice grown in Hyogo, Honshu, near Kobe, and barrels of Yoshino cedar.
I call Taru a ceremonial sake because often large barrels of Taru are offered at weddings and other festivities, and religious ceremonies. Shinto ceremonies which link present-day Japan to its ancient past often begin with the beating of drums and the breaking open a cedar barrel of Kiku-Masamune Taru sake. Served cold this sake is most refreshing in taste with the slight hint of cedar making it delectable and enhancing to traditional Japanese cuisine. I also love it with most fresh cuisine. It is available only on order.
I champion Taketo’s speaking out for maintaining the traditional diet in Japan. In doing this he is trying not only to preserve the ceremonies of the past, but also reaching out against encroaching Western fast-foods, which processed diet compromises health. He is speaking out for maintaining rituals of family meals, for rituals of seasonal ceremonies, for celebrating historic arts. It would be too sad for us in the West and for our children’s memories if our own rituals of family meals at the table, when possible set with Grandmother’s china, went the way of the poor Dodo bird.
In celebrating Taketo Kano’s speaking out, I know Julius Caesar joins me in proclaiming Taketo Kano a Champagne personality. …. By the way, Caesar, Taketo enjoys a well-made Cesar salad too. Taketo and I once shared one, and he brought all what was necessary back to Kobe so he could spread Cesar salad-making in Kobe. Bubbles away! Sante!, Taketo.
HOW TO TASTE SAKE:
The cup used to taste sake at breweries and analysis laboratories is called a
kikichoko. This is a 180 ml white porcelain vessel with two concentric cobalt blue circles on the inside bottom. The white color highlights differences in sake color. If there is turbidity, the edges of the two blue concentric circles become blurred, enabling detection of slight differences in turbidity. Breweries and analysis laboratories look very carefully for turbidity in sake while it is in storage, as this can indicate either inadequate filtration or contamination by lactic acid bacilli.
Sake tasting involves the following sequence of steps. The procedure is basically the same as for wine tasting. (1) Observe the appearance, including color and clarity. (2) Evaluate the uwadachika (orthonasal aroma) by bringing the vessel up to the nose and smelling the aroma given off directly by the sake. (3) Take about 5 ml of sake into the mouth, spread it around on the tongue, breathe in air through the mouth and mix it with the sake. (4) Evaluate the fukumika (retronasal aroma), which is the aroma that reaches the nose via the mouth.
(5) Slowly evaluate the taste on the tongue. (6) After expectorating the sake, quietly sip more sake and allow it to pass down the throat in order to evaluate the aftertaste.
It is important to evaluate both the orthonasal aroma, which is the aroma sensed when the vessel is brought near the nose before tasting, and the retronasal aroma, which is the aroma sensed while the sake is in the mouth.
The entire tongue should be used to evaluate the taste. This is because the tip of the tongue is sensitive to all tastes, and the back of the tongue is sensitive toacidity and bitterness.
Please look on the Internet for a photo of the traditional white cup with a blue swirl. I was unable to insert a photo here.