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John Gauntner
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink
May 30, 2004
Shōchū: The spirit of the times
All it takes is a whiff and a sip of shōchū  to realize it is markedly different from the more common nihonshu (which Westerners call "sake," although in Japanese, sake is a catchall word for all alcoholic drinks).
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / NIHONSHU
Oct 27, 2002
Before I go, these are a few of my favorite things
After precisely eight years, this is to be the final installment of the Nihonshu column. It has been extremely enjoyable write it over the years. The amount I have learned along the way has been nothing less than phenomenal -- and it only got more interesting as time went on.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / NIHONSHU
Oct 13, 2002
You think it's pure -- but is it really?
One of the great debates among sake fans with too much time on their hands is whether sake that has alcohol added to it is real sake. It is interesting to look at the history, technical facets and economics of this issue.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / NIHONSHU
Sep 29, 2002
How to gain flavors and influence yeasts
When looking at what makes sake special, one thing that comes up often is koji mold. It is the heart of the sake-making process -- no beverage in the world uses koji in its production the way that sake does. Of all factors involved in sake brewing, the addition of koji exerts the most influence on the...
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / NIHONSHU
Sep 15, 2002
Sake-shopping picks that really hit the spot
There exists, where you would least expect it, a marvelous oasis for sake shopping. Yoshiike department store, just outside Okachimachi Station and just across from the entrance to Ameyokocho, has a fantastic selection of sake and a plethora of sake utensils to go with it.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / NIHONSHU
Sep 1, 2002
How much do you really need to know?
The choice of yeast in sake brewing exerts marvelous leverage on the aroma and style of the final product. And, while creativity and diversity lead to better sake over time, things can indeed get out of hand. Today, there are so many different yeasts -- and ways of combining them -- that it almost ceases...
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / NIHONSHU
Aug 18, 2002
Drinking without thinking
Although more than half the fun at sake pubs is being an active participant in choosing what you drink, there are times when you don't want to make that effort. There are times when what you want is simply to chat, or even -- heaven forbid -- to talk business. On days like this, Gin no Kura can take...
LIFE / Food & Drink / NIHONSHU
Aug 4, 2002
The sweet, soft option
Fukuoka sake, in general, hovers just below the surface of mass attention. You don't hear about it too much, and it doesn't have an image of overall style in the minds of most folks. But this belies its historical significance and, more importantly, ignores the fact that great sake can be found in Fukuoka....
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / NIHONSHU
Jul 21, 2002
Right down to the nitty-gritty grains
Rice is not, as most readers know, simply rice. Good sake is made from proper sake rice, and cheaper sake is made from much less expensive rice. In fact, most run-of-the-mill sake is made with rice bought from the local agricultural co-op, and often the purchaser knows nothing about it other than it...
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / NIHONSHU
Jul 7, 2002
As benchmarks rise, honjozo takes a hit
Last year, sake production dropped below 1 million kiloliters for the first time since the industry's postwar recovery. Much of this drop was seen in the realm of cheap sake and honjozo, whereas the higher grades of junmaishu and ginjoshu stayed the same or made very modest production gains. Fewer people,...
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / NIHONSHU
Jun 23, 2002
Stand me for a cup of sake?
Almost everyone interested in sake wants to know where to drink great sake at cheap prices. Perhaps you don't always want to settle down for the evening in a nice traditional pub. Perhaps you just want to sample a few decent sake on the cheap or have a quick drink on the way home. Well, assuming you...
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / NIHONSHU
Jun 9, 2002
A taste of pure gold
This year's National New Sake Tasting Competition, or Zenkoku Shinshu Kampyoukai, just wrapped up in Hiroshima. This historically and culturally significant event has been held since 1910, and Japan is the only country in the world that runs such a competition for the indigenous alcoholic beverage.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / NIHONSHU
May 26, 2002
Romancing the sake rice
With wine, it's all about the grape, and this leads to boundless potential for conversation and enjoyment above and beyond flavors and aromas.
LIFE / Food & Drink / NIHONSHU
May 12, 2002
Brewing it naturally isn't so easy
In recent years, there has been increased interest in organic sake. To legally specify something as organic or organically produced is difficult, at least in countries that have begun enforcing the standards that are needed to ensure safety and quality, as well as the protection of the environment.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / NIHONSHU
Apr 28, 2002
When Nada sake ruled the realm
As sake becomes more recognized, not only as a world-class beverage, but also as an enjoyable topic of conversation and study, it can be fun to look at its interesting and culturally rich history.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / NIHONSHU
Apr 14, 2002
Where sake runs wild, unfiltered and free
Over the past few years, there has been a small surge in the popularity of muroka nama genshu sake. While it is hardly shaking the industry to its foundations, quite a few brewers -- usually smaller kura -- have begun to market this kind of sake.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / NIHONSHU
Mar 31, 2002
Sake with a raw bite
With the sakura in bloom -- in some places, anyway -- this is one of the best times for experiencing Japan's wonderful knack for tying just about everything in to the seasons. Clothing, food, drink, design; all seem to resonate with the sakura this time of the year. The sake world's seasonal equivalent...
LIFE / Food & Drink / NIHONSHU
Mar 17, 2002
Favorites that come widely recommended
The information in this column usually covers the gamut of sake nomenclature, types and brewing methods, as well as culture, history and the occasional oddities. But beyond the single recommendation in each column, rarely does it address the question, "So, uh, what are the good sake? What should I be...
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / NIHONSHU
Mar 3, 2002
With foam, brewers call it like they see it
Long before the days of thermometers, hydrometers and barometers, brewers relied entirely on their senses to gauge the progress of a fermenting tank of sake. They might not have known the scientific causes, but experience and intuition told them how to interpret what they saw, tasted and smelled.
LIFE / Food & Drink / NIHONSHU
Feb 17, 2002
Great sake only a hop, skip and a jump away
There are a plethora of pubs in Tokyo where you can enjoy good sake, but all too often we only read about those in the center of town. The truth, of course, is that there are plenty of great venues outside the Yamanote loop and beyond. Here are a few worth the short or midrange trip:

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