Hokkaido – Day 3 (Nikka Whisky)

On our third day in Hokkaido we got the chance to see the mountain we missed the day before and to taste some really good whisky.

After breakfast on the third day we were on our way to Muroran, the next stop on our journey. While driving we came through the town Yoichi and made a spontaneous stop at the Nikka Whisky distillery to have a look around.

Hokkaido -3 (15)The demand for Nikka Whisky rose exponentially after a TV-series about the founder and his wife from Scotland aired in 2014/2015. So much so, that the whisky is often sold out in Tokyo. The “morning dramas” from NHK, the national television, are so called, because they are broadcasted every morning over the course of six months. The drama “Massan to Rita no Monogatari” was the first one ever to have a non-japanese female lead.

The founder of Nikka Whisky, Masataka Taketsuru was the son of a sake brewer and had the opportunity to study abroad in Scotland in 1919. There he met Rita and fell in love with her. Despite the opposition of her family against an international wedding they married in 1920 and went back to Japan together. In Japan Masataka continued to pursue his dream of a real japanese whisky until he was able to build the distillery in Yoichi in 1934 and produce the first “Nikka Whisky” in 1940.

The entrance to the distillery grounds is free and you can roam around by yourself or take part in a guided tour. The distillery looks like a little village, where you can learn more about the process of making whisky before you get to taste three of the products.
You can also find a little museum, dedicated not only to the process and history of the Nikka Whisky, but also to the story of the founder and his Scottish wife.

I had heard of the drama before, but since I hadn’t seen it, I didn’t know much about the two.
Even though stories and photos can only paint an inadequate picture of the life of a person, the picture was not less impressive. To not only fall in love and marry into an international marriage in 1920, but also leave your family and homeland behind to travel to an unknown and far away country requires quite a bit of bravery. This is not considering the difficulties arising from the language barrier. When Rita came to Japan she didn’t speak Japanese and almost no one spoke English.
Rita seems to have been an interesting and strong personality, who held on to the love to her husband despite many adversities. Indeed the perfect material for a “morning drama” (which I will try to watch soon).

Before the tasting we decided it would be better to get something to eat first, even though for the drivers there was only apple juice anyway. I think it’s a good idea, that they wanted to make sure no one drinks and drives and you even got a sticker, so the staff knew whom to give the apple juice. I still had a teensy sip and my favorite was the “Apple wine”. Of course there is also a little shop, so a bottle of Apple wine went with us back home 🙂

Since we had a lot more luck with the weather, compared to the day before, we made a detour to the Yotei-san, the mountain we weren’t able to see the other day. It was still a little “cloudy” but such a snow landscape is nevertheless quite beautiful.

Hokkaido -3 (24) This was our rental car and of course it has the “New Driver” stickers (if you haven’t read the story of my Japanese driver’s license, you can find the link here).
The car was big enough for four people plus luggage, so just right for this purpose. But I noticed, that a lot of the cars driving around here in Japan are unusually large, especially for driving around in Tokyo or Yokohama. There are so many little, narrow streets here, that I wouldn’t want to drive on of those Minivans around here on a regular basis.
But for traveling the Rental was a really good idea and I think we will try to do this more often.

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