Thursday, 4 March 2010

Japan (2)

On the Monday (22nd Feb), we set off for Chichibu distillery. My friend in Takeshi Mogi in Hachioji had very kindly given me detailed travel instructions with specific trains and timings. His detail was wonderful.
For Chichibu, we had to get on the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line and transfer to the Seibu line at Ikebukuro. At Ikebukuro, we hit our first problem, not bad in 10 rail journeys so far. The English translation of the signs ran out when we reached the platform. There was no train at the platform and the train further down had an "Out of Service" sign over it. I wandered down the platform to see if I could learn anything while Jim looked after the luggage. When I returned, he advised me that a woman sitting in a train at an other platform had come over to him and asked if we needed assistance. She pointed out that the train we were looking for was the one which was currently "Out of Service".
This train duly left and, when it reached Hanno, it reversed out of the station along another section of track. Thus, we were now travelling backwards. The guard announced that our seats would turn around and therefore face forward and all we needed to do was press a button and birl the seat round on a pivot. Effective and imaginative!
When we reached Seibu-Chichibu, it was obvious that I was the first person the locals had seen in a kilt! Needless to say, it went down a bomb!
A half hour taxi ride took us to Chichibu distillery, where Ichiro Akuto, the owner was waiting for us. The first stillhouse - in the world! - where you remove your shoes before entering! Everything is spotless. The stillhouse has no mezzanine, so to examine, and clean the washbacks, the staff have to climb a ladder. See my pics at
I tasted some amazing young spirit, aged in new wood which was astoundingly forward. See my tasting notes at
Back into the city and a meeting with Takeshi Mogi, who has been translating "The Malt Whisky File" into Japanese since 1995. An amazing guy who is fluent in Gaelic, wears the kilt and plays the bagpipes.
Jim had been given a plaque from a Greenock councillor to present to Takeshi. The individual prior to Takeshi who received one of these was the captain of the Queen Mary II when that ship docked in Greenock towards the end of 2009.
We had dinner at Ukai Chikutei, a traditional Japanese restaurant which is spread over a number of cottages. An amazing meal served by a traditionally dressed young waitress.
We spent the night in Hachioji and then caught a Rapide into the city for our last day.

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