There is a whole TV show in Japan devoted to the story of how whiskey came to Japan. It was groundbreaking for its time because of its depiction an asian male/ western woman female couple on Japanese TV.
It became really popular and garnered great ratings. The theme song became quite recognizable.
As for me, whenever Japanese students found out my husband was Japanese their eyes would go wide and they would ask, “Is his name Masan?”
I had disappoint them and say, “No”.
Then they’d try and see if my middle name was Ellie because westerners have more than two names. And again, I’d have to disappoint.
So this TV show actually affected me in an indirect way.
Stranger yet, my husband was also a fan of the TV show which is normally not his cup of tea (he likes stuff about cars and the news). I think deep down he liked seeing a couple on TV that he felt looked like our couple. He would pre-record this show and we would watch it together after he came home from work. That’s how much he liked it.
I thought Ellie was kind of a ditz, but the filming was nice and I liked the struggle to create and sell whiskey in Japan. Apparently, the Japanese didn’t see what was tasty about it until Masan taught them otherwise? They make it quite heroic in the TV show.
While in Hokkaido, we could not pass up visiting the Nikka Whiskey Factory that the main character, Masan, founded. The TV show was based on the true story.
Here is what the real Masan (Masataka?) and Ellie (and her name was actually Rita?) looked like:
I could kind of relate to Rita in another way (she suffered from infertility. I think the TV show depicted her as being pregnant because they wanted a happy ending, but in real life the couple was never able to have children. So I feel sad for the real-life Rita).
This was Rita’s home.
The barrels that whiskey is stored in are important to the flavor. Each of these is custom made to give a smokey flavor.
Nikka Whiskey is now quite popular in Japan.
Do you see those white skirts on the old machinery? Those are to ask for the gods to “bless” the whiskey.
As part of the tour, you get to try samples of whiskey. My husband couldn’t because he was driving, and so he watched me drink these in envy. By the way, did I mention I’m a light weight if I drink on an empty stomach?
I almost never drink. So when I drank these (well party). Whiskey… tastes bad to me, not matter how well it’s prepared. It upset my stomach. My husband got to sniff it and we watched me in envy, but I’m not sure what there was to envy.
It burned on the way down.
I had to wait in line at the vending machine to get this smoked cheese to settle my stomach.
Plus I got quite drunk off those samples. (When did I get so weak?)
I’m a very happy drunk, so in the gift shop I was like a little kid, leaning on my husband’s arm, pointing at the gift shop samples and slurring, “Ooooh my gooossshhh, honey let’s try thaaaat.”
His expression was priceless.
Morale: keep me away from the whiskey.