It has been a long time coming, but Toronto has a brewery producing high-quality sake likely to impress even the most discerning of critics. The Ontario Spring Water Sake Company currently offers six regular and four limited items.
On a cold winter afternoon I attended a tasting tour of the brewery which is appropriately located in a nineteenth century distillery. Following an explanation of how sake is made and a look at the brewery floor, which was surprisingly compact, I tasted five of the current offerings. Generally, the brewing style is sweet and fragrant and each has its own distinct flavour and character. Choosing a favorite is difficult; each one was excellent. Some would be a perfect accompaniment for food and some best enjoyed on their own.
The nigori zake was smooth and flavourful, but the real treat was the slightly cloudy shiboritate from batch 33. I looked at the snow blowing outside the window an thought this is the perfect way to celebrate winter.
I used to buy and read books. I bought books to enlighten, inform, educate, challenge and entertain me. I also bought newspapers, journals and magazines. I grew up in a literary household in which writing and the thought behind it was a daily topic of conversation. In short, I was a publisher’s dream customer.
A career as a computer programmer and systems analyst ensured that I was always aware, if not a user of technology. I watched computers evolve from large, expensive speciality machines into devices which could be put on a desk or carried in a pocket. I often wondered what we would do with the technology. We had the answer, now it was time to resolve the question. I think we have it now, and it is profound and pervasive; there is little in the world, rich or poor, which has not been permanently changed by digital devolution.
There are many every-day examples of how society has changed in the last fifteen years, but the one which has affected me most is reading. All aspects of how and what I acquire to read has changed. My purchase of books and magazines is a small fraction of what it once was. The modern publishing industry faces great challenges, and although not proud of it, I am part of the problem.
There are few things more enjoyable to me that to sit with book in my hands, but now I also read from a tablet and it too can deliver an enriching experience. There will be tough competition for revenue from publishing. Old models are failing and in some cases have become irrelevant. Of course the industry will survive, but in a very different fashion from the twentieth century. Adaptation and integration of new forms with traditional ways of publishing is key to a future which provides adequate and stable income for authors and publishers. How that will happen is yet to be determined, but one has only to look at the music industry to see how not to do things.
Blogs, tweets, video, photo-sharing and more will not replace books, but will be another way to learn and entertain. It has been exciting to have been an insider at the beginning of the digital age.
Much has happened in my life during the last two years making it seem even longer to me. Absorbed with changes, I have let things slide. So, like the door of the old Naramachi house, it is time to open and let some sunlight in and dust out.
On a Nara summer afternoon walking the paths of 春日大社 (Kasuga Taisha) brings one relief from the heat and sunlight.
As a boy I enjoyed reading my mother’s ikebana books while she created simple, elegant arrangements. It was difficult to imagine that something so beautiful could arise from the newspapers and greenery covering the kitchen table. One book had a chapter on placing 燈籠 (stone lanterns) in a garden and I constantly asked for a lantern.
The paths and grounds of Kasuga Taisha are lined with hundreds of lanterns; the work of masons over centuries. Seeing them with lights flickering inside is an experience beyond words.
In arguably the most important period in Japan since August 1945, in-fighting and power struggles have hijacked the institutions needed to lead and restore the nation post 11th, March.
The cultural qualities which are an important factor in Japan’s future recovery, industrial growth and economic success seem lacking in the political class which rules this nation. In his post of 4th, June, Garren details both the politics and the plight of the large portion of the population directly affected. This article should be required reading for all in the world concerned with public policy and it’s impact.
In the immediate aftermath of the quake, tsunami and nuclear reactor failure I read many articles and posts comparing the effects with previous calamities, almost all of which I felt underestimated the impact. Inaction and indecision will surely result in this effectively becoming the worst natural disaster to affect an industrialized country.
I struggle to understand the aspects of Japanese culture which seem to accept this worst of all possible reactions to the crisis by politicians as being acceptable. Motions of non-confidence and other parliamentary procedures calculated to make problems are not acceptable now, however, those proposing them do so with with apparent impunity. The anger of the mayors and residents of the destroyed cities and towns of Tohoku is apparently irrelevant.
Those qualities mentioned by Garren (diligence, honesty, consensus, community and perseverance) are admirable and even enviable; they are also essential to the rebuilding and restoration of modern life in Japan. Leadership and vision are required; unfortunately it seems that those who should be providing them are otherwise engaged.
Ed. Steve Naegele sent a comment which I will add here. It truly captures the essence of what I was thinking.
仕方がない (shikata ga nai)