One of our bucket list goals was to witness the 桜 (sakura; cherry blossoms) in full bloom in Japan. If you didn't know, these flowers only bloom for about 2 weeks every year before they start falling off the tree. The blooming period is random and can be anywhere between early March till late May.
Last year I tried but I missed the blooming window by 2 weeks. All the flowers were withered and scattered on the ground. This year we were more lucky and caught the first few days of the blooming season. We visited Shinjuku Gyoen National Park on 25th March 2020 for 花見 (hanami; flower viewing) with our mate, Aaron.
P.s. the photos of us were taken with Mick's Sony Alpha 7RIV.
Japan does it again with the coolest attractions 😍. Ponshukan is a museum dedicated to sake (rice wine). There are three branches, all located in Niigata station, making it the most convenient and cheapest place to get lit on the commute home.
We visited this place after our tour at Imayo Tsukasa Sake Brewery on our day trip to Niigata in March 2020.
A few things to do at Ponshukan:
It was ¥500 for the tasting corner. We got reusable cups and five coins for the vending machine. Once we were done, we could top up for another round. In other words, it was $1 for a shot of sake. SO GOOD!
There were so many options! Each sake had a detailed label of its brewery, with its category and a rating scale of its dryness, complexity, aroma, and fullness.
Mick was smart, reading and picking the most unique sakes out of the 96. I was more focused on a light and slightly dry taste. In the end, it didn't even matter because, after a while, all the sake tasted the same 😂
Mick said the highest record of sake consumption at the Ponshukan in one sitting was 33 shots. Wow! Impressive! I got to 8 before my body cried nooo and my stomach rumbled from the warm sensation. Mick managed to hit 17 but let's just say, he was very tipsy on the train ride back to Tokyo 😂.
If we weren't rushing for our train, we would have definitely tried more shots. Oh wells, there's always next time hehehe. This was such a fun gimmick; highly recommend it for your next Japan trip!
Thanks for reading, jaa-ne.
We love day trips in Japan. One of our highlights of 2020 was a day trip to Niigata, mid March, with our mate, Aaron. This is our travel summary.
We woke up early and departed Tokyo around 9 AM. It was a 2.5 hour commute on the Shinkansen. The return ticket would have costed ¥25,000 but we used our JR passes for the journey. We purchased a few bento boxes for the ride.
I'm always impressed by Japanese bento boxes. Like how does the company produce and deliver such fresh and delicious seafood in a takeaway container? 😲 I'd love for my Sydney sushi to look and taste anywhere near as good...
Once we arrived at Niigata station, we took a 10 minute taxi ride to Hakusan Park and Hakusan Shrine, more HERE. Mick was the one who planned this trip because he had purchased a new Sony Alpha 7RIV and wanted to test out the lens. We spent about an hour here.
The weather was overcast and chilly, making us hungry again by 1PM. After struggling to catch a taxi in this small city, we made it back to Niigata station for the attached CoCoLo department store. We had hegi-soba (a unique type of soba noodle specific to Niigata) at Echigo Nagaoka Kojimaya CoCoLo.
Our next destination was the Imayo Tsukasa Sake Brewery. We did a free guided tour and learned the history and making of sake (rice wine). We weren't able to do the taste testing, due to Covid, but we did leave with lots of gifted sake. The brewery kindly ordered a taxi for us back to the station.
It was about 3:45 PM when we reached Ponshukan, a sake museum with vending machines from all 96 breweries in Niigata. Each shot was ¥100 ($1). The highest recorded consumption was 33. I had 8 and Mick hit 17. Aaron was the responsible one, boo 😗
We bought some snacks and hopped on to our 4:18 PM Shinkansen back to Tokyo.
This was an onigiri with mentaiko. The rice was soft and fat, like it had absorbed every bit of moisture in the pot. Whatever sauce the Japanese used to mix with the rice gave it a subtle sweetness and nice aroma. The mentaiko had a mushy, salty profile.
Mick got this mini katsu onigiri. The rice was similar to the previous nigiri; fat, bouncy and soft. The texture of the pork floss was delicate and fluffy. It tasted very savoury with a hint of sweetness.
I purchased some rice crackers for the road. The left one was like spicy cornflakes. It was actually too spicy for my bitch-white palate. The middle one was like dry cheese puffs, but with rice flavour 🤔 And the right one was salted seaweed crackers.
Thank goodness it's normal to wear a mask in Japanese culture because I always sleep with my mouth open whenever I pass out in transit. Knowing Mick, he would have zoomed in and captured my drooling 😂. Well, as you can see, Aaron and I passed out and Mick, the tipsy one, was drinking 9% alc while taking photos of the scenery.
Niigata was such a beautiful and peaceful city. We loved it a lot. We would definitely want to visit again, maybe stay for a few nights and go brewery-hopping during the day 😉 #degenerates.
Until then, thanks for reading.