Monthly Archives: November 2016

Okuhida Vodka

okuhida-vodkaDid you know that you can make vodka from rice? In fact, rice makes a terrific vodka! When done the right way, of course. The right way meaning premium rice and pure water. Okuhida knows the right way.

The German website Drink says:  “The Okuhida Vodka is a Japanese vodka made by Takagi Shuzo. This vodka can look back on 40 years of history.”

From the Tasting Table, commenting on Suntory’s 2014 entry into the rice vodka business:  “Perhaps you’re wondering: How is this [making vodka] any different than sake? The key lies in the process: Vodka is distilled, whereas sake is simply brewed. Really, the only similarity is the addition of koji (rice inoculated with mold spores) and yeast to jump-start the fermentation process.”

Okuhida vodka

This excellent vodka is made from premium rice, and it is quite rare in the world. The Okuhida method for super smoothness is based on the pure Hida spring water, triple distillation, and six years of aging. Finally, it is triply-filtered through しらかば  shirakaba Japanese white birch charcoal. This results in a truly captivating charm. Alcohol 55 percent.



Okuhida Daiginjo: Sake Cake and Hatsumidori


We have become fans of the Okuhida Sake Brewery. Our first post was in May of this year, At our soba party, we had the Okuhida Tokubetsu (Special) Junmai 特別純米. The Tokubetsu Junmai classification is listed here at the Okuhida website,

According to Japansake,

Junmai, Tokubetsu junmai (純米・特別純米)

Junmai-shu and tokubetsu junmai-shu are made only from rice, koji and water, highlighting the flavor of the rice and koji more than other varieties. There are no requirements regarding polishing ratio. Junmai-shu is typically high in acidity and umami, with relatively little sweetness.

In October, we returned to see what’s new there. We found three products to call to your attention. Here are two of them.

Daiginjo Cake (shown above)

This delicate and delicious castella cake is made by Okuhida Brewery using one of their special daiginjo. You can see sake listed sixth among the ingredients: eggs, sugar, flour, margarine, shortening, sake, …

You haven’t really had castella until you’ve had this extra light, delicately fragrant, pound cake from Okuhida!

Daiginjo is explained here by Japansake, 

Daiginjo (大吟醸)

Daiginjo-shu is a form of ginjo-shu made with even more highly polished rice from which at least 50% of the outer layer of the grain has been removed. It has an even more refined taste and stronger ginjo-ka than ginjo-shu. 

Hatsumidori Tobingakoi Daiginjo「初緑 斗瓶囲い大吟醸」 (black label)

We sampled this wonderful daiginjo in the tasting room and were very impressed with the quhatsumidoriality. It is truly an excellent sake, and very handsome in its black bottle. The Hatsumidori Tobingakoi is made of Hyogo Prefecture premium sake brewing rice “Nishiki Yamada” 100%, with polishing ratio 35%.

With a gentle and elegant scent, good refreshing taste, and crisp yet moderately full-bodied, it is to be enjoyed chilled.

The name, “Hatsu-midori” 初緑 translates directly into “First-green.” It’s an appropriate name for the first sake of the new sake year beginning in October and launching in early spring. It reminds us of spring, with freshness and clarity.

We are saving this bottle for New Year’s Day. The best way to start a new year is with Okuhida sake!

Next: Okuhida Vodka


Iwaya-Iwakage October 23, 2016


October 23 is a special date at Iwaya-Iwakage. It is 60 days before the winter solstice, and it marks the beginning of the winter observation period. As usual, we were concerned about the weather because five days before the 23rd we were still having rainy and cloudy skies. We were cheered when 10/19 dawned bright and clear. Inside Iwaya-Iwakage, Shiho Tokuda is showing us the Sekimen stone which will be the surface on which the spotlight will shine. Amazingly, the Sekimen is actually not separate from Stone F; it is sculpted out of the same rock! Its forward face, although buried deep underground, is parallel to the 40-degree face of Stone F. You can glimpse a bit of that face in the space beneath Sekimen in some of the spotlight photos.


In the next photo, Ms. Tokuda is pointing to the triangular spotlight which, in four days, will illuminate the rectangular face of Sekimen. It’s hard to believe, isn’t it?

dsc02808The exterior shot shows the interplay between Stones F and E which will form the shape of the spotlight. The complicated contour of Stone E is what, in part, causes the shape of the spotlight to change depending on the position of the sun.


The next day, we stop by the Solar Calendar Simulator building. From the south side, we see the slits that simulate the gaps of the megaliths that allow sunlight to form beams inside of Iwaya-Iwakage. The bottom-most slit is, of course, for the winter solstice sun. Inside, there are five planks that are oriented to the direction of the sun on five special dates of the year. From left to right, the directions correspond to the sun’s elevation on 6/21 (summer solstice), 8/20 (sixty days after summer solstice), 9/23 (autumn equinox), 10/23 (sixty days before winter solstice), and 12/22 (winter solstice). Of course, the sun reverses its path and will be at the 10/23 position again on 2/19, at the equinox position again on 3/21, and at the 8/20 position on 4/22, before arriving at summer solstice once again. See Basic Calendar chart on page 21 of the Guidebook, previous post.

The sun’s beam is shining on the bottom of 10/23 screen (because it is still three days before the 23rd). You can see it better in the closeup photo.


Next, we show the spotlight on the real Sekimen at 12:50 on 10/20. See how the actual spotlight is low on the stone as well as on the simulated stone. We also show you the gap through which the sunbeam enters, and it is evident that the “roof” formed by Stone F is not resting on Stone E. This is another amazing feature of the megalith arrangement.




The next two days were again cloudy, and on 10/23 there were clouds in the sky. The sun broke through the clouds intermittently, and we were delighted that we could obtain these three photos at 12:46, 12:48, and 12:54.


We dub the sixty-day period before the winter solstice, Early Winter. Our spotlight observations announced that Early Winter has officially begun!


Kanayama Megaliths Guidebook has been published! 



As you know, the Kanayama Megaliths are the home of an extremely accurate solar calendar. This guidebook,


by Yoshiki Kobayashi and Shiho Tokuda, Sangokan, Japan, 2016

was published in September 2016, and has already sold out its first printing at Amazon Japan. Its 72 pages are in full color and lavishly illustrated with Tokuda’s photos, charts, and illustrations. The book takes the reader to all three of the Kanayama Megalith sites: Higashi-no-yama, Senkoku-ishi, and Iwaya-Iwakage, and through all the seasons. The solar calendar of the Jomon who made this megalithic astronomic observatory is explained. Even the recently-analyzed leap-year cycle of 128 years is described. The back cover is the observational solar calendar. It shows at a glance the observations that take place at a given date at each of the three sites. This guidebook is immensely valuable to the many visitors at Kanayama Megaliths. It is an important resource for any one interested in megalithic astronomy. Although the book is written in Japanese, the many images with their dates are easy to follow by even non-Japanese readers. The book can be ordered from Amazon Japan through this link,  It can be delivered to the U.S. at a reazonable cost and very quickly.

Iwaya Rockbat recently interviewed Ms. Tokuda about the book. Ms. Tokuda is concerned not so much about the detailed contents of the book, but rather their significance to people everywhere.

“We want to change the view of the ancient people of Japan. It is erroneously believed by many that Japan received its culture from China. We discovered this error at Kanayama Megaliths.

“Modern people are not so different from ancient ones. However ancient people knew a lot more about nature. And they were extremely capable in many ways.

“Rural people may want to live in big cities. But after trying it, they often return to their home towns. This also happens in Kanayama town in the mountains of Gifu prefecture. Surely there are benefits to being close to nature.

“At Kanayama Megaliths, there is a calendar but no writing. Yet, counting was known and a calendar was created long ago.

“Astronomy at Kanayama Megaliths is not only for scholars, it is for everyone, and may lead us to a more peaceful world. That is my hope.”