Sunday, November 14, 2010

Harajima Liquors, Otaba (Okutama) (原島商店, 大丹波)

The Woodsman and I had a bit of a walk today. It's a tourist special to take the train west from Shinjuku and go 'hiking' at Mt. Takao (where you have your choice of fully-paved road, cable car or chairlift to get you up and down), but in the same area there are plenty of smaller, less-frequented routes that go up and down jaunty little mountains of similar size. The Woodsman is a dab hand at putting together all-day outings based on this - two hours travel to get out there, 4 hours of hiking, convenient end point near a hot spring, train ride to a fancy dinner, pass out on the long train ride home. If you've got the time and inclination, it's a great way to spend the day.

At the top of Takamizusan (the woman at the this store corrected us on the pronunciation, and she was right. She lives there.) you can take the big path or the little path to get down. Take the little path - you won't see another hiker for the rest of the trip (which is a bonus after you complete one of those Japanese-style summit experiences wherein 50 of your closest friends are already sitting around, drinking beer and eating bento, when you arrive). You'll also see this lone tree, and plenty of other autumn color (if you're quick about it; the coming Nov. 20th weekend looks like it would be perfect out here.).

You'll get down to the bottom near Tama Ohashi; I imagine this is a landmark. As the name implies, it is a big bridge. Woodrow told me that it's unnecessarily long in order to create incrementally more construction-industry dollars for the local area. I would believe anything about Japan's rural construction industry.

Go up the road opposite the bridge, behind the camera in this shot.
As usual, I felt there was no appropriate course of action other than taking a picture of this laundry on the line. And the house, and if you zoom a bit you'll see some nice flowers. But basically laundry. It's a funny thing, but I love being out in the countryside in Japan. I love the sights, I love the smells, and I love the depressed conditions. It's peaceful and relaxing if you don't mind the pervasive sadness. And damp underwear.

Here, I was just so excited that I could read the name that I felt like I had to stop in. In the process, I learned another sake that's made within the borders of Tokyo, other than the well-known Sawanoi. Tamajiman (as mentioned on the sign) is made in Fussa, only a few stops from here. If anyone can tell me why the Tama in the name isn't written the same as the river it's next to, I'll send them a bottle of sake. We're looking for good explanations here, not just "both characters can be read 'man'."

More pertinently, this is a seriously old-fashioned store, of a type you may not have seen before. I like some old-fashioned in my diet (just like I like some European and some modern, although you wouldn't know it from the last 6 months' dining trends. I think we're getting ready for a heavy bistro period.). Wooden doors, old windows, and tatami-covered seating areas in the back for the family to relax while waiting for customers...all nice once in a while.

Unlike many old-fashioned stores, they have a good selection with some interesting stuff. Lots of different types of Sawanoi, and also of Tamajiman (both mostly local). I picked up a bottle of 2007 Tama yamahai junmai; not only did I pick it up, but I paid for it and took it home. In some ways I wish I had put it down - since it wasn't refrigerated, what are the chances that it a) started out good and b) is still worth drinking now? Maybe it's an opportunity to get into hot sake at home. Maybe it's an opportunity to do some cooking. It's wrapped up tight in newspaper, which is actually a sign of serious intent in sake bottling, but I shudder mildly when I think of the potentialities.

I'm pretty sure this is the first post anywhere on this store, so you'll have to give 'em a call. If you do call, be thoughtful. The guy working the counter mus thave been almost deaf - at this point in my Japanese campaign I don't think our lack of mutual understanding was caused by my accent or atrocious grammer (to say nothing of my spelling). Especially not when his wife kept answering my questions from the back of the store while he smiled and said "EH?".

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