2015 – A Year of Sake and Fujii Honke 藤居本家

Sake and Fujii Honke 藤居本家

This year has seen an increase in the popularity of Japanese food in London, and there are now nearly 500 Japanese restaurants in the Greater London area. However, and more importantly, there has been a surge of interest in Japanese sake ( Nihonshu日本酒 ).

2015 Restaurant Show

Sake tasting – 2015 Restaurant Show, London

During 2015, there have been many interesting events and tastings to promote this marvellous drink. The IWC 2015 Award Winning Sake Tasting, held at the Embassy of Japan, and events by World Sake Imports: including a talk given by Philip Harper, the first non-Japanese sake master brewer( Toji 杜氏 ) in Japan, from the Kinoshita-Shuzou brewery, Kyoto.

Other London sake events/sampling took place at the IFE and Speciality Fine Food shows and the Restaurant show (over 200 sake available). These events provided opportunities to sample some good Honjozo, discover Namasake and Namagenshu, and to enjoy some of the best Junmai and Junmai Daigino quality sake available. However, in this article instead of describing the many quality sake that I enjoyed this year, I have decided to write about sake from the Fujii Honke brewery in Shiga, and one of their finest sake: Kyokujitsu Fuku Junmai Daiginjo.

Fujii Honke brewery

Fujii Honke brewery (Image courtesy of Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association)

Fujii Honke brewery was established in 1831, in Shiga prefecture, and has since provided sacred sake to the Japanese Imperial Court and sacred shrines. Former owner Fujii Shizuko had to overcome considerable hardship in a strongly male-dominated society and sake brewery industry. Through her enduring effort and passion, she built a successful sake business which now has some twenty-three buildings including the main sake brewery building made of Keyaki (Japanese Elm).

Mr Tetsuya

Mr Fujii Tetsuya, Fujii Honke Owner (Image courtesy of Fujii Honke)

The current owner is Mr Fujii Tetsuya, who carries on the tradition of sake making, like his father, using the same Watari Bune sake rice and brewed in similar style. Wateri Bune varietal rice originated in Shiga, and is the genetic father of Yamada Nishiki rice or the ‘King of sake rice’.

Kiki choko

Kiki choko sake tasting cup (Kyokujitsu seishu)

Wateri Bune is a wild species of rice, which was used with great enthusiasm in the 1920s and 30s. This  rice was difficult to cultivate, and it almost became extinct 50 years ago. However, Mr Fujii Tetsuya sought a local farmer to revive the species, and after four years of trial and error, local Watari Bune sake rice is available again for brewing.

Watari Bune, Gin Fubuki, Tamazakae and Yamada Nishiki are the varietal rice species used at Fujji Honke sake brewery, along with underground aquifer water from the Suzaka mountains.

The Kimoto method, is one of the three methods of making the yeast starter mash ‘Shubo’ ( 酒母 ) or sometimes called ‘Moto’ ( 酛 ). The other sake yeast starter methods are Yamahai and Sokujo. Koji ( 麹菌 ), steamed rice, and water are added to the moto ( or shubo) to produce moromi, after pressing the crude sake can be filtered and pasteurised. The Kimoto method is used at Fujii Honke, but it takes twice as long to make compared to using the Sokujo method. With this ancient organic method, only naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria present in the brewery and local yeasts are used. This then produces sake with a refreshing hint of acidity, being dry and smooth and quite full-bodied in taste. The Fujii Honke sake style is therefore rich and full-bodied with excellent umami ( うま味 – savouriness, a fifth basic taste).

Kyokujitsu Fuku Junmai Daiginjo

Kyokujitsu Fuku Junmai Daiginjo

The Fujii Honke brewery sake brand names are Kyokujitsu ( 旭日 – Rising Sun) and Biwa no mai ( 琵琶の舞 – Dance of Lake Biwa). Each year, for 23rd November, Fujii Honke make a special sake brew to celebrate the Imperial Harvest Festival (Niinamesai 新嘗祭 ): an autumn harvest Shinto rice-tasting and blessing ceremony, to ensure good sake.

Finally, the two superb Fujii Honke sake that I sampled this year and which for me represent the best of 2015 Japanese sake were: the elegant Kyokujitsu Fuku Junmai Daiginjo and the refreshingly dry Kyokujitsu Kimoto Junmaisyu.

This then is the signature of Fujii Honke sake.

Click for Fujii Honke website

© 2015 Dr Robert Frew. All rights reserved.

35th London Wine Fair – 2015

35th London Wine Fair

The 35th London Wine Fair 2015, held at Kensington Olympia – one of the best international events for discerning wine buyers and aficionados.

35th London Wine Fair

35th London Wine Fair

Over 10,000 wines from over 80 countries were available to taste, and which provided every opportunity to discover some real wine gems. As a regular event goer, and with so many wines available to sample, it is often difficult to know where to start on a new journey of wine discovery. But I did, and here are some of my discoveries and an old favourite!

Continue reading

Does the US Need a Reality Check?

‘US needs Reality Check’: A China View of US Foreign Policy

President Xi Jinping with US President Barak Obama

China President Xi Jinping with US President Barak Obama

During my stay in Beijing last year, I came across a thought provoking editorial entitled ‘US needs reality check ‘ (China Daily newspaper, 30th May 2014). Alongside the editorial was another article: ‘Time for China to go it alone’, an interesting juxtaposition. One might interpret this juxtaposition, as the decline of the United States as global leader and the rise of China’s territorial ambitions! Continue reading

IFE 2013 – International Food & Drink Event

IFE 2013 – Japan Pavilion

During March 2013, I attended the International Food & Drink Event (IFE 2013) at ExCel, London. As expected the event turned out to be one of the highlights of the year, showcasing new and innovative products from around the world.

Japan Pavilion, 2013 IFE

IFE 2013 had over 50 countries
represented on the trade stands, and over the four-day event received almost 30000 visitors from nearly 100 countries. In particular, the Japan pavilions and sake bar, sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan (MAFF) were noteworthy – one of the best ever presentations from Japan.

Continue reading

A Council By-Election and that David Cameron EU Speech

A Council By-Election, that David Cameron EU Speech: what’s the message for Eastleigh?

During the first week of February, a council by-election was held in a little known ward in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (LBHF): the Wormholt and White City (WWC) ward. Many people will probably not know where WWC ward is located, or even care. They may also believe that the WWC ward result has no relevance whatsoever for any parliamentary by-election or other parliamentary elections, other than filling a vacant seat on LBHF Council!

Wormholt Park, London W12

Wormholt Park, London W12

The WWC ward has traditionally been a Labour stronghold, and in recent years has always been a three horse race (no horsemeat implication intended), between Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties. Labour historically always edging out Conservative candidates. Well that week, for the first time, the by-election became a six-horse race, and the ward by-election result was interesting. Labour increased its share of the vote to 68% up 7%; Conservatives had 12%, down approx 50%; and Liberal Democrat 10%, down approx 40% of the vote.

Continue reading

At the James Freeman Gallery

‘the islands across the Sea’

Currently showing at the James Freeman Gallery, Islington, is an amazing exhibition of artworks by Claire Partington and Cornelia O’Donovan entitled ‘The Islands Across the Sea’. At a recent private viewing the renowned Upper Street art gallery was packed with art lovers and collectors of the artist’s works.

Claire Partington creates amazing narrative earthenware figures very much in the European tradition,  and her technical skills are a wonder. Claire was shortlisted for the Young Masters Art Prize, London 2012. Well, my personal choice for her best art in this exhibition is ‘Master of the Universe’ (below left).

Beware of False Lambkin

Cornelia O’Donovan – Beware of False Lambkin

Claire Partington - 'Master of the Universe' (detail)

Claire Partington – Master of the Universe (detail)








Art images courtesy of James Freeman Gallery

Continue reading

Taiwan: Representative Dr Lyushun Shen at the CFCC

Last night, I had the privilege of meeting and hearing a presentation given by Ambassador Dr Lyushun Shen, Taipei Representative Office in the UK, at a Conservative Foreign and Commonwealth Council (CFCC) meeting in London (28th January 2013).

Chiang Kai-shek

Chiang Kai-shek President of Taiwan (ROC), 1950 – 1975

Dr Shen gave a thoroughly interesting talk on Taiwan history, which encompassed Britain’s former colonial involvement in China and South China Sea region.

It was interesting to discover that when, in 1949,  Chiang Kai-shek was forced to leave China and establish a government in Taiwan, many thousands of artefacts and China treaties were removed from the Forbidden City to Taiwan. Today, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry is the custodian of 173 original treaties and documents which are preserved in the Ministry archives.

Continue reading

BBC Trust

Due to recent media coverage concerning issues at the BBC, I am republishing my article on the BBC Trust. The article was first published on 25th February 2011.

Dr Robert Frew reflects on the role oF the BBC Trust

BBC Trust Chairman Sir Michael Lyons has recently revealed he will not seek to be re-appointed in the role when his four-year term ends next May.

BBC Broadcasting House

A few weeks ago, in a letter to Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, Sir Michael said the Trust was robust, workable and effective … with much remaining to be done. So what of the background that led to the formation of the BBC Trust and its future ?

The BBC Trust replaced the BBC’s Board of Governors in January 2007. The Government said it was intended to ensure an “unprecedented obligation to openness and transparency”. But one of its first announcements was that the BBC Trust would review the corporation’s UK news coverage, which, whilst seeming even-handed to some, was seen by others as an insidious first step to totalitarianism : more like a politburo flexing its muscles.

Continue reading