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Issue 69 - Lost in a nation

Whisky Magazine Issue 69
January 2008


This article is 10 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Lost in a nation

Dave visits the new rebuilt Hanyu distillery and takes in some Japanese culture.

“Would you like some octopus balls?” “Never knew they had any...but yes, thank you.” As ever, Japan had caught me unaware. Maybe I was just distracted by the explosions which intially I believed might have been part of the Japan Defence Force's much-publicised show of strength against perceived North Korea aggression. It turned out to be fireworks which were being detonated in a seemingly random sequence above the town.

This made more sense. This after all was the 3rd of December in Chichibu and as everyone knows on this day for over 300 years the town celebrates. In style. Hence the fireworks...not to mention the octopus ball vendors, and the noodle salesmen, and the fish grillers and the suppliers of chocolate bananas. Children wearing cartoon masks on their father's shoulders, girls with back-combed hair sucking lollipops, saké-filled men trying to work out how to use their mobile phones, “sorry dear, I'll be a bit late.” Chichibu's festival commemorates the time when the god who lived on the summit of nearby Mount Fuku descended and met with (to speak euphemistically) the goddess of the Shinto shrine. Who knows, in the future it may also celebrate the founding of the town's first malt whisky distillery and a return to his roots for Ichiro Akuto whose family was brewing saké here before the first festival took place.

Akuto-san's story has already been told in these pages: the scion of a saké brewing family whose father branched into whisky, built the Hanyu...

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