Book Reviews

Men Without Women Review: Haunting, Beautiful, Playful And Relatable

Haruki Murakami is arguably the most well-known Japanese author for western audiences. With a writing career that spans over forty years, Murakami has been delighting readers for decades with his signature surrealist humour and bittersweet reflection on the transience of life. 

While Murakami has written some wonderful novels, I’ve found myself gravitating towards his short stories lately. One of his most memorable collections is Men Without Women, a poignant series of short stories that delves into the concept of loneliness and what it means for different people. 

In the absence of female company, all of the men in this collection have lost something. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s obvious. The reader feels it in every word and that is Murakami’s talent on full display.

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Guest Posts · Sake Reviews

Guest Post: Hyakunen Mae Kimoto – Mansakuno Hana Junmai Koshu Review

Whilst not quite as simple as pushing a fresh, floral and fruity junmai daigingo to the back of your cupboard and trying to forget it exists for the next five years, aged sake is indeed a real thing. Specially pre-aged nihonshu (known as koshu) makes up a tiny amount of total sake production and sales and as a result is hugely misunderstood, forgotten or ignored.

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Guest Posts

Guest Post: 10 Interesting Historical Facts About Matcha

Matcha has many health benefits.

Today, matcha green tea has grown its popularity and can be easily accessible to tea lovers through cafes, ice cream shops, and restaurants. Even fast-food chains have started offering matcha flavoured desserts.

The tea is considered a popular commodity for the youth and a sought-after alternative drink for health enthusiasts.It’s no secret that the tea powder has high concentrations of nutrients, antioxidants, and essential amino acids.

It has a vital antioxidant called EGCG or Epigallocatechin gallate and a crucial amino acid called L-Theanine, which is a stress-relieving flavonoid that contributes to the tea’s taste.While it’s common knowledge that matcha is of Asian origin, there are many exciting things about it that you might have never heard of.

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Pop Culture and Japan

Ghost Of Tsushima Review: The Samurai Game The World Has Been Waiting For

In popular culture, samurai are often portrayed with a mixture of romanticism and chivalric honour. They are presented with a strict code of honour that’s thought of as heroic, but in reality, the life of a samurai was far more complex. The absolute devotion they had to their code could make them ruthless and cruel to the people they considered to be beneath them.

In many ways, a samurai was a walking contradiction. A warrior who was expected to draw their sword at a moment’s notice, but was also meant to compose haikus, arrange flowers and be the living embodiment of Japanese virtues. This complexity is on full display in Ghost of Tsushima, a game I’ve been waiting to play for a long time and that allowed my inner history geek to run free.

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Of Flowers, The Cherry Blossom; Of Men, The Warrior

When the ronin chose his path

He walked it bravely

To cast aside tradition 

To become his own master

Is a lesson that resonates through time

No matter the situation

Relationships, jobs, money

All fall to the wayside 

In the pursuit of inner peace

A priceless feeling that can never be replicated

The stake that sticks up gets hammered down

And rises again

Stronger than ever before 

Guest Posts · Sake Reviews

Guest Post: Dassai Sparkling 45 Junmai Daiginjo Nigori Review

When it comes to premium sake, the Dassai brand created by the Asahi-Shuzo brewery remains a constant powerhouse. Their junmai daiginjo range has captivated drinkers across the globe and I’ll add myself to that list of evangelists. The Dassai 2345 and 39 rank among my favourite nihonshu and it’s intriguing to see the kind of innovations that the Asahi brewery continues to champion.

Jordan Smithcroft also enjoys Dassai sake and he’s written up a great review of the epic sparkling Dassai 45 junmai daiginjo nigori.

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Guest Posts · Sake Reviews

Guest Post: Kubota Senjyu (1000 Long Lives) Ginjo By Asahi-Shuzo

Considering Asahi-Shuzo is the largest sake producer in Niigata prefecture the washi paper label of its Kubota Senjyu (1000 Long Lives) is a charmingly personal touch. And whilst online retailers seem caught between the technicalities of whether to best market as ginjo or tokubetsu (special) honjozo, the brewery’s own website is happy to promote the Kubota range for its‘subtle flavo[u]r’ and ‘mellow… and gentle taste.’

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Pop Culture and Japan

Pop Culture Pub Crawl: Katana

Being a superhero is a tough gig. There are innocent lives to save, bad guys to stop and ideals to live up to. So, when a character like Katana finds a moment to herself, she’ll want to make the most of it. The Pop Culture Pub Crawl investigates the drinking habits of different superheroes.

With her dedication to Japanese tradition, I’d see Katana carrying out a personal drinking ritual that would bring her closer to her ancestors.

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