Across the Chikuma river

Pulling the next map out of my bicycle basket, I roughly determined which streets I needed to travel to get to the next brewery, Tomono Shuzou (伴野酒造) makers of “Sawa no hana” (澤乃花), or “Mountain creek flower”. Most sake breweries have a name, such as Tomono, attached to shuzou (酒造), which are the kanji characters for “alcohol” and “to make”, stangely enough. Each brewery also has a representative brand (daihyou meigara 代表銘柄), for example “Sawa no hana” is the representative brand of Tomono brewery, which can then have different grades (more on this later).
To get to Tomono brewery, I had to go across a fairly large bridge which spans the Chikuma river. The Chikuma, maybe 20 metres across, was rather shallow but I could imagine it raging in the spring as the snow melts from the mountains which surround Saku city. The famous active volcano, Asamayama (浅間山) also looms to the north with a constant stream of smoke billowing from top. The wind was whipping down the river and almost sent my CVs flying out of the basket, which I was lucky to catch before my job search came to abrupt ending. Shoving the folder holding my documents down my shirt, I pedaled on towards the brewery.

Chikuma river and Mt. Asama

Chikuma river and Mt. Asama

I followed the same routine as last time, parking my mamachari bicycle (the standard issue bicycle in Japan) at the side of the sakagura while surveying the premises. It was hard to judge the size of this brewery as I couldn’t see all the buildings, but it seemed roughly the same size as the previous one. Pausing briefly under the sugidama, I wiped my running nose, took a slow breath to gather myself together and entered the brewery. This shop seemed a little newer, with various displays around the perimeter of the room, some refrigerators holding sake bottles with nice labels, and a large, round wooden table on the right-side of the room. Again, no one was there, but then a middle-aged man came out from the back, and I assumed he was the owner. I asked if he was and prepared to give my speech, but was surprised when he said he was not. Not wanting to waste too much of his time, I gave him a brief introduction and asked if he would give my CV and letter to the shachou (社長) “owner”, and he very nicely said he would. I could feel, however, that something was not quite normal in our exchange- not that my exchanges in Japanese are ever that normal- but something, I could feel, was hanging in the air and that perhaps he was going to say more. I paused, not sure if I should wait a little longer, or go, or wait- but it never came so I thanked him again and left. Back out into the sun and wind- one down, one uncertain, and 12 to go.
to be continued……

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March 2009
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