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  • My job takes me to Japan somewhat frequently. For many reasons, I love Japan--its culture, food, drink, the feeling and energy...everything. On a trip to Tokyo several of my co-workers met with a few of our colleagues after a long day for a pretty formal dinner at a very traditional Japanese restaurant.

    Now, bear with me while I explain a curious (but understandable) custom.

    I have heard it referred to as "Kill the Americans" (in joking terms). It seems that several of my co-workers proclaim a love for the food and drink of Japan, but when it comes time to sample the "real" cuisine of the country, they often balk. Most of my co-workers are also Mormon, so they don't drink.

    This puts the pressure on those of us who aren't afraid of food and actually do drink. This isn't peer pressure; it's more of a "you represent us all, now do us proud!" kind of pressure.

    I don't mind.

    Back to Tokyo, a traditional Japanese restaurant and my favorite of all Japanese drinks...Shochu.

    We were 47 courses into this dinner. I'd eaten horse that night, which was a delicious first! My beer was a distant aftertaste and I needed something more to help digest the ark in my stomach.

    I reached into my arsenal and pulled the one ace I'd held the entire trip. Without hesitation I boldly ordered a round of sweet potato Shochu.

    Our hosts applauded and rattled off some extended order. I knew there was something "extra" on the way. Within moments the rattle of glasses sounded outside the sliding rice paper door and several trays of various types, brands and values of Shochu were placed upon our tables. One of our hosts emerged as a scholar of the drink. He knew just about every damn thing there was to know about Shochu and proceeded to educate us.

    As an honor, he bestowed upon me a $30 glass of Shochu, his personal favorite. It was good, but not my favorite, regretfully.

    The spirits of alcohol took possession of us and our honored host became known as Shochu-sama; sama being an honorific given to a most revered and knowledgeable individual.

    Sadly, in Utah, there isn't much choice available when it comes to Japanese drink, so I've vowed to haul as much back with me as possible...and I'll probably cram Shochu-sama in my suitcase as well. The guy's just damn handy to have around.
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