2017-Aug-04, Friday

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2017-Aug-04, Friday 09:52
dorchadas: (Chiyoda)
Last night at [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's suggestion we watched a documentary called The Birth of Sake, about the Yoshida sake distillery in Ishikawa Prefecture, while we drank some sake ourselves and ate Japanese snacks.

Sake is my favorite alcohol but I knew basically nothing about the process of making it, so everything in the documentary was new to me. The workers live at the brewery from October to April, tending the sake around the clock from rice through to finished product, and then need to find other work for the rest of the year. They could automate the process and leave the measuring and tending to machines, but the workers value the human approach and believe that their customers value that aspect of the process. The brewery has been open for six generations, and there's a 神棚 (kamidana, "household shrine") up on the wall in the main room of the brewery and some scenes of the workers gathering together to pray.

Over the course of the documentary, one of the workers died of a sudden heart attack and two quit due to the grueling schedule, inability to find good work the rest of the year, and being away from their families, so one worker who was going to retire came back for another year. There's a note that sake consumption has been in decline since the 70s and that now there are only about 1000 breweries down from 4600 a few decades ago. That does match with my experience--though there was a brewery in Chiyoda, everyone we knew drank beer or shōchū most of the time.

I really liked it! It was all in Japanese with subtitles, though I could barely understand anything the older workers said (they might have been speaking Hokuriku dialect). It was immersion-style, with the filmmakers taking scenes from the workers' dormitory, the five a.m. waking period to tend the sake, the parties, the quickly-scarfed-down meals of miso soup and tamago kake gohan before going back to the floor. It's up on Netflix if you want to watch.

I looked into where to get Tedorigawa sake, and while there are some stores, none of them are nearby. Maybe I should get some shipped to us while [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd is still at home and can sign for the shipment...

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