Savoring Sake, Snow, and Sado2023.01.31
My local place
This tiny craft sake brewery is excellent for relaxing in the late afternoon, sampling, sipping, and savoring. The rice-flavored drink slips over my tastebuds. In the distance, rivers wind down Niigata’s mountains to meet in Fukushima Lagoon before flowing to the sea. Contemplating the taste and view, I appreciate Niigata so much.
When I speak to Niigata residents about local sake, they rave about their mountains, snow, water, and rice to explain why their sake wins so many awards. Some areas of Niigata receive eight to ten meters of snow yearly. The snowmelt enters streams, rivers, and the immense plain of fields covering vast sections of Niigata with premium rice varieties.
Rivers, snow, and sake fascinate me. On my days off in winter, if I’m not sampling one of the hundreds of Niigata sakes, I’m probably at a ski resort or snowshoeing on snowcapped mountains.
In the mountains with sake
Small family rice farms
I scanned the horizon for the home of my organic-rice-farming friend, Mr. Ueno. Some years ago, when I visited him, he raised ducks in his fields. They eat insects that other farmers would kill with pesticides. Before the pandemic, organic farmers gathered at his home to share alternative rice production techniques. Local friends, students from nearby colleges, and supporters, some from Tokyo, joined the Ueno family to plant young rice by hand and later harvest the mature rice with sickles. Afterward, we shared freshly cooked Niigata rice, miso soup, pickles, and lots of sake. Unfortunately, these gatherings ended because of the pandemic. I hope for these joyous occasions
Sado sake and sea views
Written by Greg Goodmacher
After living in five countries and traveling to about twenty-five countries, I have settled in Japan. Deep snows, refreshing Japanese sake, ancient customs blended with modern technology, regional cuisines, fantastic arts and crafts, unique traditions, and magical festivals combine to create a country that fascinates me so much that I may never return to my home country, the US. Japanese onsens, in particular, have a hold on me. So far, I have bathed in more than six hundred locations between Hokkaido and Okinawa.