Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sake Festival

Last Sunday Joe and I hit an October fest — Japanese style. Rather than imbibing copious amounts of beer we decided to sample the spirits at the Sake Festival in Saijo, about an hour train ride east of Hiroshima. Saijo is known for its sake (rice wine) production and is the main producer of sake in the area.

With about 900 varieties of sake on tap, it's easy to see why this place was so packed. About 200,000 people, nearly double Saijo's population, flocked to the city's streets over the weekend.

The event had all the makings of a typical street festival in America but with a lot more fish food and far fewer vendors hawking garden gnomes and other gaudy lawn ornaments. Perhaps one of the neatest food tents I saw was the one selling battered baby octopi.

I passed on these, but Joe summoned the courage to consume them once they were smothered with barbecue sauce. He claims they were pretty tasty, but his expession says otherwise.

This guy gave a whole new meaning to "fish sticks."

Yes, your eyes don't deceive you, those are whole fish on a stick.

We also watched the cool kids cook some oysters.

Plenty of shrimp was on the grill, too.

And Gorby, this one's for you:

I took a cue from this little guy and enjoyed one of those mini candied apples. My mouth still waters just thinking about it!

Once we'd gotten our fill of festival food on the street, we each paid 1500 yen (a bit under $15) to enter the sake garden. The organizers give you a cute little cup about the size of a half of a shot and you can take it up to the tents for samples of sake from throughout Japan. So I tried four or five different kinds, amusing all the Japanese in my vicinity with wildly contorted facial expressions as I choked it down. Sake's always been a bit too strong for my taste, but I figured I'd try a few kinds anyway in hopes that I'd hit on something palatable. No such luck.

That being the case, there was no drunken train ride back to Hiroshima, which was probably a good thing given how packed the car was.

I have to say, I sure do miss the festivals back home with the hot apple cider and apple butter and pumpkins and corn mazes and whatnot right now. But ... at least now I can say I've seen Joe eat octopus balls.

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