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December 2005 Archives

The World of SAKE
[mongip's Essay on Japanese Rice Wine]

Only after vast, intense hours of imbibing SAKE and deeply contemplating its nature (and a whole lotta other unrelated stuff) could such an informative tome be written on the nuances of Japan's most prominent and omnipresent "spirit". As a devoted vehicle of Japanese culture to you, the wide-eyed Westerner, I felt a moral obligation to explore (to the dregs, so to speak) the wide world of SAKE -- purely, of course, with the sole intent of providing you with the following informative information:

[But first] I sincerely hope you appreciate the time and effort I have spent (drinking) in order to bring you the following information...

I've been in this "vintage" brownstone cubby-hole for almost 8 years now, living contentedly and quietly amongst a mutually indetectable collection of like-minded souls.

But recently all HELL has broken loose.

First, my nearby "neighbors" recently moved in along with their obviously retarded dog who barks, yelps, and whines in an impressive wealth of varietal tones NON-STOP once its oblivious owners vacate the premises. I have been forced to buy a "dog training whistle" which I screech (with approximately 75% efficiency) out my icy window whenever my patience is exhausted. I swear, I've never encountered a more brain-damaged animal.


My lovely (and hard-working) downstairs neighbor finally got herself a steady boyfriend. I was quite happy for her until hippy-guy MOVED IN and quickly demonstrated to us all (ie every adjacent and remotely proximate unit) that he fashions himself to be a BONGO DRUMMER. (I'm not making this up!) And I'm not talking about those tiny little bongos. This slacker irrythmically drums on one or more of those big CONGO DRUMS.

So "boyfriend hippy dude" plays the BIG BONGOS at his leisure throughout the day. (Of course, bongo meisters such as himself do not need a real 9 to 5 job...). And when he's not self-consciously botching his wonka bongo sequences, he's blaring his stereo. He's a musician, you know.

This TRUE samurai tale is by far the best known in Japan and has for centuries exemplified the ideal of Bushido spirit. After only a few decades of its occurrence it became immortalized in Japanese stage drama and later appeared numerous times in cinema. It is a tale of hierarchical injustice resulting in the forced death of a just leader followed by the very patient and calculated revenge by his 47 samurai subordinates. The core of this tale is the fact that these 47 ronin (ie, "masterless samurai") fully realize that their plan of revenge will certainly result in their death. Thus the preeminent sense of honor and sacrifice of self in order to achieve a higher end has been the enduring value.

For an excellent cinematic retelling of this tale, please check out the (Region 1, subtitled) 1962 Chushingura by director Inagaki Hiroshi and starring Mifune Toshiro.

Tonight's beverage of choice:
a BIG bottle and a very SMALL cup.

Tonight I'm drinking "Nigori" sake (rice wine) or, more properly pronounced, "Nigori Zake". Nigori Zake is unfiltered rice wine which gives it a very opaque white appearance. That whiteness is due to (unfiltered) rice broth still in the wine causes a much fuller and sweeter flavor. Nigori Zake is better served cold as opposed to its filtered, drier cousins which can actually be served heated. The all important alcohol content remains the same as filtered sake, in this case 15%.

In Ode to my night of Nigori Zake, I have composed the following short poem. (Who now can dare say SaruDama is a site lacking "culture"???)

Please take a moment to contemplatively inhale the fragrance of this metered, soul-searching nuance. And then let's all get back to our beverages.

oh nigori, oh nigori
how you bring such quick satori

silently I watch the clouds
wondering what the daylight shrouds

voices, murmurs, heartfelt love
floating from beneath, above

who am I to say I'm here
when my mind's eye is nowhere near

cold is day and dark is night
far horizons left and right

I was not born of my free will
yet fascinated am I still

thick the air and strong the wind
a sense of awe my heart within

At the very least, that makes you want to grab a bigger sake cup, doesn't it?

I'm here all night. The name's monGip, poetist extraordinaire...

Here are a few (non-digital, scanned) photos I took of Sensoji Shrine in Akakusa Tokyo. Forgive me for the quality of these pics, but I took these with a disposal camera purchased on locale.

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