Suwa, Nagano Sake Breweries

A short trip from Tokyo is Suwa in Nagano. The city of about 50,000 people sits on the shore of lake Suwa and has mountains nearby. We love coming here as it is one train from Tokyo, as the air is refreshing, and Nagano is known for good sake and food, particularly soba.

We are big fans of Masumi sake, which has a lovely tasting room in Suwa. Nearby are four other sake breweries with tasting rooms worth visiting. You can make an afternoon of tasting and exploring sake. Then spend the rest of the day soaking in an onsen hot spring and dining in a ryokan.

Here are the five breweries, all within a few minutes of each other, and walking distance from the city center.

Maihime 舞姫

Nagano-ken, Suwa-shi, Suwa 2-9-25 長野県諏訪市諏訪2-9-25

http://www.maihime.co.jp/

Reijin 麗人

Nagano-ken, Suwa-shi, Suwa 2-9-21 長野県諏訪市諏訪2-9-21

http://www.reijin.com/

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Honkin 本金

Nagano-ken, Suwa-shi, Suwa 2-8-21 長野県諏訪市諏訪2-8-21

http://honkin.net/

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Yokobue 横笛

Nagano-ken, Suwa-shi, Suwa 2-3-6 長野県諏訪市諏訪2-3-6

http://www.yokobue.co.jp/

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Masumi Miyasaka Brewing Company 真澄 宮坂酒造

Nagano-ken, Suwa-shi, Motomachi 1-16 長野県諏訪市元町1-16

https://foodsaketokyo.com/2016/09/29/nagano-masumi/

More information on Suwa City in Nagano in English:

http://en.go-centraljapan.jp/lsc/lsc-upfile/pamphlet/01/40/140_1_file.pdf

More information on sake breweries in Nagano:

http://www.japansake.or.jp/sake/english/kuramoto_map/nagano/

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Tsukiji Wonderland

Tsukiji Wonderland is a documentary on the world’s largest fish market. As Tsukiji Market was scheduled to move to Toyosu on November 7th this year, this movie was a chance for the director to capture the market to share with the world.

The movie currently being shown in Tokyo is only in Japanese with a little bit of English. But, even if you don’t speak Japanese, if you love sushi, seafood, or Tsukiji Market, I highly recommend seeing it. The visuals are beautiful.

Well, the move to Toyosu has been put on hold. A mountain of issues with the new site make this movie all the more precious.

We go to Tsukiji several times a week as we take clients through the market. This movie captures more than I imagined it would. It went back into parts of the market that many will never enter, including the uni auction and the super-freezers housing frozen tuna. I loved seeing where the large blocks of ice are being made. Having seen the large pieces of ice hundreds of time, I never imagined how they are made.

But what really makes this movie special is seeing the interactions between all of the people who make this market work. 19,000 people work at Tsukiji. Another 28,000 come in to buy seafood for restaurants and retail shops.

We see many of the intermediate wholesalers (nakaoroshi), wholesalers, and some of the most famous chefs from top restaurants in Tokyo: Sukiyabashi Jiro, Sushi Sho, Kizushi, Sushi Saito, Daisan Harumi, Mikawa Zezankyo, Ginza Koju, Ishikawa, Higuchi, Ginza Rokusantei, Fugu Ryori Asakusa Miyoshi, as well as foreign chefs Rene Redzepi of Noma and Lionel Beccat of Esquisse. There are seafood retailers, food writers, culinary educators, and Harvard professor Ted Bestor, author of the best book written about Tsukiji in English.

I was moved to tears many times throughout the movie for so many reasons. The most moving part of the movie is the relationships of those interacting at Tsukiji. Even if you don’t speak Japanese, you can see how strong these relationships are.

There are gorgeous displays of sushi and prepared dishes. Viewers can see the many different parts of the market, many that are off limit to visitors. We see the market over 24 hours and over four seasons

I love seeing the intermediate wholesalers interacting with their customers, as well as bidding against each other in the morning auction.

The director has done an outstanding job of capturing and documenting this world famous market. This is a movie that I would like to go back to again and again.

If you love seafood, sushi, Tsukiji, or Japanese food, I hope that you can see this movie. There is no better tribute to the market and those who work and shop there.

 

http://tsukiji-wonderland.jp/en/

Kinukatsugi Satoimo – Boiled Taro Root

kinukatsugi-sato-imo

Kinukatsugi sato imo – boiled taro root

Kinukatsugi are small taro root. All of these fit in my hands. I had been served this in the past and wanted to try them at home. There is a lot of dirt on the skin, so they need to be washed and scrubbed thoroughly. Then a slice is made on the top 1/5 to 1/4 and placed in a steamer. Steam for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Garnish with sea salt and serve with saké.

These are fun to eat. Pick up and squeeze into your mouth. The meat falls out of the skins. The texture is thick and a bit slippery, which I love. I know its not for everyone. This slippery texture is one that many have a hard time with. I grew up with it. It reminds me a bit of nattō. Kinkukatsugi are only in season for about two months.

Food Sake Tokyo Radar – 2016 October

On top of our radar is the Tsukiji to Toyosu move which has been put on hold. I am trying to keep readers up to date on our blog. It’s changing by the hour and I’ll do what I can to update things here: (2nd link)

https://foodsaketokyo.com/2016/06/21/need-to-know-tsukiji-move-to-toyosu/

https://foodsaketokyo.com/2016/09/01/tsukiji-toyosu-move/

There is a new documentary movie out called Tsukiji Wonderland. The movie will be released in mid-October, but is currently being shown at the movie theater near Tsukiji. Shinji saw it and said it’s very good. Speakers in the movie include Harvard professor and author of the best book written about Tsukiji, Ted Bestor, and several famous Japanese chefs.

http://tsukiji-wonderland.jp/en/

We are very excited to hear that Singapore’s Bee Cheng Hiang has opened in Ginza. If you haven’t tried the barbecue minced pork, you are in for a sweet and meaty surprise. We often ate this when we lived in Singapore. Usually as a snack with beer. 🙂

https://www.facebook.com/beechenghiangjapan Ginza 5-6-9

In Ginza, the Tokyu Plaza has finally opened up. Highlights include City Bakery in the basement, Bareburger, Tsurutontan, and a Greek restaurant from Australia, The Apollo.

http://ginza.tokyu-plaza.com/en/

A new coffee shop in Toranomon, Caffeineholic for organic caffeine drink (mattcha for those of you who don’t like coffee) and hot dogs. Minato-ku, Toranomon 1-4-7

http://www.iamcaffeineholic.jp/

A Russian sake sommelier, Dmitry Bulakh, has opened a sake bar, Twelv.. He worked a the popular sake bar Musshu Mizuki in Ginza prior to this. Looks like it’s on the pricey side, so not sure if/when I’ll be making it here, but my friends who have been have said it’s a cool space and that there’s great sake here. Minato-ku, Nishi-Azabu 4-2-4

https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1307/A130702/13199359/

http://www.twelv.in/

A small bit of scandal in the saké world, not by the Japanese, but by non-Japanese trying to perhaps make some money off of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate attempt at ranking Japanese saké. Journalist W. Blake Gray has it all covered on his blog:

http://blog.wblakegray.com/2016/09/some-facts-for-wine-advocates-sake.html

Tomiya Soba in Suwa, Nagano

While in Suwa in Nagano we happened upon this local soba-ya near Suwa station. The noren (curtain outside the shop) that said teuchi (handmade) soba caught our eye.

Nagano is famous for growing soba buckwheat so we try and eat as much soba as we can while in Nagano. During our visit in spring there is also a lot of sansai (wild mountain vegetables) in the mountains. The shop owner hand-harvested the slightly bitter sansai that he fries up as tempura, a great partner for the earthy soba noodles.

The shop is very casual. The walls are lined with autographed square cards from famous visitors. Service is friendly. Soba is also usually also a meal that is affordable, even if the noodles are made from scratch.

A kind follower of the blog posted this message on our Masumi brewery blogpost about Tomiya Soba:

“It’s a soba shop just on the south side of the train tracks. Hook a left out of Kami Suwa stn., walk to the end of the building, go left under the underpass and its on your left. Great place! Very friendly owner and tasty food–especially the horse bacon!”

Arigato, Jason-san!

Teuchi Soba Dokoro Tomiya 手打ちそば処とみや

Nagano-ken, Suwa-shi, Kogandori 3-8-10 長野県諏訪市湖岸通り3-8-10

English website:

http://sobatomiya.com/menu_english.html

Please confirm the hours of operation with the restaurant.

Nodaiwa

I first came across Nodaiwa while working at Nihonbashi Takashimaya. The fifth-generation unagi-ya has a branch at Takashimaya. Here is the fifth-generation shokunin, Kanejiro Kanemoto-san.

Details are in Food Sake Tokyo, my book. I just wanted to share these photos of the storefront and the lovely Kanemoto-san.

http://www.littlebookroom.com/products/food-sake-tokyo

Midori Sushi

Midori Sushi is a sushiya chain, popular both with locals and tourists, that is known for its basement bargain prices. When we query our preschool son to pick what to have for meals out, it is often sushi. Our go-to place is Choshi Maru which is in our area. Choshi is a famous fishing port in Chiba and the restaurant gets a lot of its seafood directly from the port. But this evening we decided to break from routine and check out Midori Sushi.

We arrived before 5:00 p.m. and there was already a line of mostly elderly diners. Yes, it was the retirement crowd. Every time I have passed a Midori Sushi, there is always a line. We waited for about 15 minutes before being seated. One look at the menu and it is apparent why everyone loves coming here, it is very cheap. The question is how is the quality?

The chirashi zushi bowl on the left above was only 1,000 JPY ($10 USD). It was made of tuna, katsuo, kanpachi, two types of squid, shrimp, ikura, tamago, anago, and pickles of takuan and gobo. The sushi set on the right was 1,600 JPY ($16 USD) and included ikura, uni, herring roe, and much more. The neta pieces were very big, so it is a full meal. Is this silly? The two of us could have dinner for about $25 and leave full and satisfied. Lunch is even cheaper.

The rice is Yamagata haenuki and is nice for sushi. This rice is touted for its nice texture, inherent sweetness, and the fact that even if it is cold it still delicious. This is a key point when it comes to take-away sushi. The branch we went to had a small refrigerator in the front of the shop for sushi-to-go. The prices there were even cheaper than dining in, and at the time we were leaving, many of the sushi packs were discounted by about 30%.

So, the quality of the seafood? It was good. The tuna was very nice and the anago seems to be cooked in house was also very good. For the price, it is a great value.

If you are traveling in Tokyo and are on a budget, then put this on your radar. If you do not have a budget, then go elsewhere. This chain is kid-friendly if you are traveling with your family. On this Friday evening the suburban restaurant was filled mostly with retirees when we were seated. As we left, it was filling up with families. Service is friendly and there were a lot of seasonal seafood options as well as many small plates built around seafood starting at about 600 JPY.

The beverage list includes beer, sake, and shochu. We’ll be back. This may become our new go-to sushiya for meals with our son. As long as we avoid the peak dining hours when the wait could be long.

Midori Sushi’s main shop is in Umegaoka in Setagaya-ku is their biggest store. Branches can be found in Ginza, Shibuya, Akasaka, and a standing sushiya in Ikebukuro. Addresses are below in English.

http://www.sushinomidori.co.jp/tenpo_e.html