Guide to Kyushu Region


Do you like sake? Yes! I do!
This year I added a new brand, named “Hananoka”, to my list of favorite sakes.

It was about 10 days before Valentine’s Day, and I was glued to the TV set watching a segment on the limited sale of a special chocolate.

On Valentines Day in Japan, it’s customary for women to give men chocolate. It could be to a loved one, a close male friend, or even a coworker. This is a regular custom during Valentines Day. Mind you, this gifted chocolate (if for anyone but your sweetheart) is considered “giri-choco”. The word “choco” is for “chocolate”, and the Japanese word “giri” can mean “debt of gratitude”, “social obligation”, or “courtesy.” So you could call giri-choco, “obligatory chocolate.”

I don’t like to go to the special floor sales for Valentines chocolate. They are so crowded; too much trouble! BUT... this time was an exception!

On the TV program I was watching, they showed a special chocolate which was created as a collaborative effort between a famous Japanese confectionary (Morozoff) and a famous sake brewer (Hananoka). They made so-called , Nihonshu (“sake”) Bonbon!!!!!!!

The TV program explained that Nihonshu Bonbon would be sold exclusively at Hanshin department store in Osaka. What attracted my interest further was the fact that the sake brewer was from my hometown in Kumamoto prefecture!!! Of course, I ran to get some boxes next day. The taste??? Yes!!! Amazingly delicious!!!!!! Right after taking one bite the gentle flowery flavor of the sake “Hananoka” bursted in my mouth, just as the name is translated as “the fragrance of flowers“ in English. So much by way of a long introduction of why I’m so interested in Hananoka Shuzo sake brewery. I visited the brewery in Kumamoto the other day. It is located by a small clear river in the beautiful countryside, about 1 hour away by car from the city center. In their sake manufacturing process, this renowned brewery only uses natural spring water and rice produced from the local region. They have won many different awards from several international competitions. After payment of a fee at the brewery, I tasted three kinds of sake (my friend drove me there! I didn’t drink and drive!), and bought 7 bottles of different kinds of sake including a bottle of special sparkling sake!
Only one thing I kept repeatedly asking the staff: Sell that chocolate again on the next Valentine’s Day!