The sake industry is filled with people who’re passionate about keeping Japan’s native drink alive domestically and overseas. Kyoko Nagano is one of those champions and works with small sake breweries all over Japan to spread the good word of nihonshu.
It was a pleasure to speak to Kyoko about her sake experiences and she’s got a lot of great information to share.
Throughout Japanese history, powerful women have been at the centre of the culture, constantly defying the odds and carving out a name to be remembered. From Tomoe Gozen to Masami Odate, Japanese women have picked up swords and thrown themselves into fights on their personal journeys to define who they are.
Not every woman has needed to pick up a weapon. In the case of Sei Shōnagon, she created a legacy by picking up the pen. A writer, philosopher and courtly woman of intrigue, Shōnagon’s story is a fascinating tale of how to appreciate the small things in life.
Ukiyo-e, aka Japanese woodblock prints, are among the most recognisable artforms in the world and there are several masters of the medium to be aware of. Perhaps none are more celebrated than Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige, two men who redefined the genre with their breathtaking landscapes and vivid realism of nature.
Hokusai and Hiroshige are both responsible for shifting ukiyo-e from a style of personal portraits of courtesans and actors to the broader lens of landscapes and animals.
While both artists covered similar motifs, their styles were wholly unique. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the artistry of Hokusai and Hiroshige to see what set them apart.
Domestically and internationally, sake has experienced a rise and fall across a period of several decades. Trends have come and gone, attitudes have shifted and a pandemic has caused a huge impact on how sake is sold, consumed and shared all over the world.
The Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association (JSS) recently hosted an event that showed the current state of the sake industry and how it could evolve over the coming years.
Iin this article, we’ll look at the key takeaways from the event.
When it comes to versatility, sake is arguably the best drink to choose in terms of texture, flavour, food pairing and serving temperatures. And while I’ve enjoyed trying plenty of premium ginjo sake, there’s a whole world of other categories to drink my way through and a style I’ve been drawn to lately is futsushu.
As table sake, futsushu isn’t considered a premium grade of nihonshu, but that has nothing to do with its quality and if you’ve never tried futsushu then you’ll want to dive in with the incredible Komachi Sakura.
In Japanese culture, few images are more enduring than the geisha. A romantic symbol of classical Japan, geisha are traditionally shown as enigmatic, elegant, powerful, sexual and even lonely figures who have become a shadow of their former selves in the modern day.
Literature and popular culture has over romanticised geisha, though it’s also made it harder to determine what is fact and what is fiction. So, who are the geisha truly? What makes them stand apart in Japanese culture? What were their duties and how did they function in daily society?
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.
Women Warriors puts the focus on inspirational and legendary Japanese women who’ve left their mark on history. The original female warriors of Japanese culture were the onna-bugeisha and their more secretive cousins, the kunoichi. The latter were female ninjas who earned a fearsome reputation as spies and assassins, striking from the shadows.
All kunoichi traced their history back to the story of Mochizuki Chiyome. The founder of the order, Chiyome is a figure shrouded in mystery and legend.
Japan is known for having some of the most unique art in the world. Building on centuries of feudal culture, Japanese art has its own style. A famous example of Japanese art is jizai okimono, which translates to ‘move freely decorative object.’ Jizai okimono involves the crafting of articulated sculptures. Beginning in 17th century Japan, the art form is highly specialised and fascinating.