Happy New Year! Here's wishing you a year of new wines, new experiences, happiness, and health for you and your family. Here in Japan it's already 2008. Along with three million of our closest friends, Ruth and I visited the Meiji Jingumae shrine in Tokyo to ring in the new year (literally) by ringing the bells at the temple. Seeing the crowd control alone is worth the experience:
Wouldn't police action be so much better if it were always accompanied by such lovable characters?
That's a picture up the main walkway to the shrine, and there are about 40,000 people in front of us waiting to pray at the shrine to welcome in the New Year.
Of course, this is a wine blog, so what I'm really here to tell you about is wine related. Hard to believe there would be a wine angle on three million Japanese queuing for New Year's blessings. But of course, there is!
One of the things that you do after you ring in the New Year is drink fresh sake (namazake), which is provided by thousands of sake breweries all over the country. Donating a cask of sake is quite prestigious, and I'm not sure about the whole protocol or significance of it, but the casks are very prominently displayed at the shrine. This sake is used to consecrate the shrine in some way (Shinto experts, help me out here).
What AREN'T such common sights, however, are several dozen barrels of Burgundy!
My jaw nearly hit the centuries-old cobblestone path when I saw this rack of barriques bearing some of Burgundy's top names sitting opposite the racks of sake casks.
I've been to this shrine dozens of times, and I don't remember seeing these before -- I'm guessing they went up in the last three years. According to the sign posted next to them, it turns out that one of Japan's members of Parliament is not only a wine lover and the head of the Japanese Burgundy society (whatever that is) but he also owns a Chateau in Burgundy himself. And I guess he managed to convince enough Japanese MPs (and Burgundy winemakers) that it would be a good idea to have a bit of Pinot in addition to sake, and voila!
So whether you're ringing in the New Year with wine or sake, you can rest assured that the gods are smiling on you.
Here's to a fabulous 2008!
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. 2015 Roederer Award Winner.Learn more.
Vinography Images: Unglamorous Work A Lesson in the Loss of Denis Malbec I'll Drink to That: Kimberly Prokoshyn of Rebelle Restaurant Wine News: What I'm Reading the Week of 6/19/16 Vinography Unboxed: Week of June 12, 2016 Warm Up: Richebourg I'll Drink to That: Jean-Nicolas Méo of Méo-Camuzet Vinography Images: It's Nice to be King It's Time for American Wineries to Grow Up I'll Drink to That: Joy Kull of La Villana Winery
Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune