It’s exactly a year since Chris and I were in Osaka visiting my brother, which seems like a good time to assail you with the last of our Japanese photos. Lucky you.
We stayed only five days in Japan (thanks, gainful employment!), so we spent the whole trip in a slightly hysterical jet-lagged state, plus we both picked up terrible colds on the aeroplane. When we got home, it was like we’d had a mutual Lemsip-induced fever dream*.
Chris’ big bucket-list item was to visit Yamazaki distillery, so on our final day we took a train to the town of Yamazaki. What a green and lovely place – those are rice fields in the foreground.
We had to cross railway lines to get to the distillery. The group of mums-with-buggies in front of us just sauntered across, but I ran over that thing like my arse was on fire.
Inside, it was whisky heaven for Chris and Graham. First, the tour group were gathered in the ‘whisky library’, where whiskies of all origins and ages are held for reference and comparison. Here’s Gra demonstrating the whisky library:
Here’s Chris, inside the corridors of his own mind:
After a tour of the (spotless!) factory floor, we were taken to the tasting room, where we realised we’d made a terrible mistake with our timing.
At 10.30am, I drank three single malt highballs (a popular way to drink whisky in Japan’s hot and humid climate. It’s atrocious.), while the boys and a couple of other Europeans in the group insisted on getting their whiskies neat. With only complimentary crackers and a piece of chocolate to steady us, we were then released back into the whisky library, where we could buy tiny drams of dozens of different whiskies to taste. Our most terrible purchase was a 100 yen dram of raw spirit; whisky before it’s been aged. It tasted like it could either kill you or make you immortal.
At barely noon, we staggered back to the station, sat on the train trying to stay awake, then somehow got back to Gra’s flat. All three of us slept on the floor for a few hours, then we had to get up and go to our airport hotel, the impossible Star Gate Kansai**.
So on our final night in Osaka, we sat whey-faced and snotty, hungover and delicate, at a fantastic table overlooking the sparkling city and the black Pacific. We ate fries with chopsticks and retired for the night before 9pm. Gra told me that he’d asked to book the table for a special going-away party – the staff must’ve thought we were the most lacklustre bunch of sadsacks they’d ever seen.
Gra gave us each a fantastic pair of wooden chopsticks from the distillery, carved from Yamazaki barrels, then he disappeared into the night. In the morning we woke up in our dizzyingly high room, then made our way to the airport using a mix of intuition, luck and nodding.
It still feels like a fever dream, but luckily there’s hard evidence – check out Chris’ podcast from the Yamazaki distillery, in which you can hear my distant disgust with the raw spirit. And if you like these photos, you can also see more of his much-better-than-mine photos over on Flickr.
* One of Lemsip’s ingredients is illegal in Japan. A hard-won piece of knowledge. Also, Japanese tissues were too delicate for our boorish western noses. We sneezed them to pieces.
** Don’t miss the deeply charming message at the top-left of the Star Gate homepage.