|Here comes the media|
I spent a week tagging along with four US master sommeliers who decided to visit sake breweries: 10 in 8 days. They came for their education. I came because I love being the least knowledgeable drinker in the room.
Then somebody alerted the media. Instead of gathering the story, suddenly I was being introduced to TV cameras in front of a drunken banquet full of red-faced sake fans as "the story king."
It started with one reporter from a small local paper who came to see us tour Hakkaisan brewery, which is in a remote mountain village in Niigata prefecture called Uonoma, with snowdrifts five feet high beside every road.
There's probably not a lot of news in Uonoma other than the occasional person freezing to death if they don't pay the heating bill.
|That boom mike is getting in the way of my stirring|
We traversed the country on the day the first article appeared, taking two trains for five hours to get to Kobe. News of our presence moved faster, and a reporter from a national financial newspaper was waiting for us at Takara brewery, along with a local TV reporter and a radio reporter. The first story was a pebble; these were the ripples.
The next day, Godzilla rose from the lake. We -- or more properly, they -- were Big in Japan.
Fifteen reporters followed us around Kikumasamune brewery, with lighting assistants and boom mikes. This was in Osaka, Japan's second-largest city; we were big fish in a big pond.
So we figured that when we took a train two hours to considerably smaller Fukui, the media contingent would shrink.
In fact, the opposite: Atsuhide Kato, the ebullient showman responsible for Born sake, reveled in showing off for a different, larger, more prestigious group of media, including two national TV networks. When the TV Tokyo crew realized that their rivals from NHK, the BBC-like national network, were also there, they were bitterly disappointed. I just wondered when the other three networks would show up.
The TV and radio people followed us to dinner with Kato, who had arranged a multi-course French meal, with a half-dozen forks beside the plate and a chef wearing a sash that said he was a disciple of Escoffier. Kato said he was too nervous to eat and hung on our opinions of how well his sakes went with the food (very, very well). He had a microphone and kept explaining how special a Master Sommelier is, leading with the fact that nobody in Japan has ever passed the test. You wouldn't think this would be a selling point in Japan, but apparently it's very intimidating, and the chef said his heart was in his throat.
I bollixed my interview on NHK. I wanted to speak in Japanese, but the reporter wanted me to speak English, and I had given up on tasting notes of Born's exquisite sakes and was just consuming them, so I spoke in elliptical 1200-word sentences. They didn't use any of them.
What's the tail for? Why is it on our front instead of our back? I don't know. But it's appropriate, as for one week, I was Big in Japan.