Koen’s only request for our trip to Japan was to visit a couple of whisky distilleries, specifically Nikka. Nikka Whisky is actually comprised of 2 distilleries: Miyagikyo in Sendai and Yoichi in Hokkaido – both in northern Japan. Seeing as Yoichi was a 10 hour train ride from Tokyo, Sendai seemed more than doable at 3 hours each way by train (so 6 hours travel in total). Well worth it for whisky lovers!
Masataka Taketsuru is not only the founder of Nikka Whisky, but the whisky industry itself in Japan. He studied the art of whisky making in Scotland and took everything he learned back with him, along with his new wife Rita. His contribution is so big that there’s even a Japanese drama series about his life.
I don’t think there are a lot of foreigners making the trek to Sendai to visit the distillery. The tours are only offered in Japanese and no one speaks English. So it was quite the adventure! Luckily we visited a lot of distilleries in Scotland, so even if we didn’t understand our guide, we could still appreciate all of the sites. After our tour we were able to taste a variety of whisky from Nikka and do some shopping!
We couldn’t leave Sendai without trying the local specialities! The first is Zunda, which is literally everywhere! It’s a sweet paste of ground edamame beans. So delicious! We bought the mochi ice cream and a cookie to sample. The other specialty is gyutan. Sendai is the original home of gyutan – a dish consisting of pieces of thinly sliced beef tongue, cooked over a charcoal grill. Yum!