November 25, 2011
Hi everyone, I’m back!
Let me tell you what I was doing all this time, while neglecting this shochu column.
Two months ago, I went back to Japan to take the Shochu Advisor’s test, so I needed to concentrate on studying shochu. I did pass the test, and got the certificate. What is a Shochu Advisor? Yeah, I know, it sounds fake. Why did the Sake Service Institute make up such a silly title for shochu specialists? Nihonshu (sake) Masters are called Kiki-zake-shi in Japan. Kiki-zake-shi sounds so cool and serious, but even my Japanese friends don’t take “Shochu Advisor” seriously.
When I told my friends I was officially a Shochu Advisor, they just said, “Huh? What’s that? Haha! Cool cool!” Hey, just say “congratulations”, my Japanese friends! Thank you everyone for your support! Sometimes I hate the Japanese way! Just be nice! Give me a hug!
Anyway, the certificate makes me a shochu expert — like a sommelier but for shochu. I got textbooks from the Sake Service Institute in Japan two months before the test and studied for a month. I had to learn not only about shochu, but also about sake, all kinds of liquors, fermented foods, history of food culture in the world, liquor tax laws in Japan, etc. It is necessary to know the history of distilled alcohol and the difference between shochu and other spirits, and so one can understand the history of shochu and its characteristics.
When I first got the textbooks, I was very anxious. So much to study! For the first month, I avoided the books entirely — so much that I was afraid of look into my wife’s eyes, which stared at me and said, “Why aren’t you studying? If you fail…” (head shake). In fact, this mission to be a Shochu Advisor was my wife’s order. If I had not passed the exam, I would not have been able to come back to the States and face my wife!
My boss, my wife.
My examination period lasted two days, in which we took three tests, as well as seven classes (including one for tasting). It was pretty intense, because the first day would be from 10am to 9pm, and the second day was from 8:30am to 4pm. I concentrated so hard, and sat in those chairs for so long, my butt still hurts. Here is the program.
・Class 1: Basic knowledge and character of food and beverage (120 minutes)
・Free time to study and lunch (90 minutes)
・Test 1 (40 minutes)
・Class 2: Classification, history, indication, and manufacturing method of shochu (180 minutes)
・Free time to study (60 minutes)
・Class 3: Tasting and classification of shochu (120 minutes)
・Class 4: pairing food with shochu (60 minutes)
・Class 5: How to serve shochu and sell shochu seasonally (60 minutes)
・Free time to study (60 minutes)
・Test 2 (90 minutes)
・Class 6: Tasting shochu and presentation of how to serve shochu (90 minutes)
・Test 3 (60 minutes)
・Class 7: To be a professional of food and beverage (30 minutes)
・Announcement of successful applicants
After I was done, I was exhausted but also so relieved and was ready to drink. I went to a party that my friends were throwing for me and told everyone, “I became a Shochu Advisor!” They all stared at me blankly and asked, “What’s that?” Hey, just say congratulations, my friends.
While I was in Japan, I had shochu just once, the night before the shochu test. After that, I drank sake mostly, because I was tired of shochu, and studying so much of it. I just wanted to drink without thinking.
I enjoyed studying shochu for this exam. I realized that all this time, I had not known anything about the drink, and was only a good drunk.