Monday, 30 May 2016

Some of the Best Sherry Bars in Japan

This is a translation of an article by José Luís Jiménez published in Más Jerez. He has been visiting Japan with Tomoko Kimura, a Japanese Sherry Educator who spends a lot of time in Jerez.

“Before describing this amazing tour of the most important Sherry Bars of Japan I would like to mention a cultural association which, in recent years, has played an active role in promoting Sherry in Japan. It is the Sherry Society of Japan.

Tomoko, Kumiko and Jose Luis Jimenez

This not-for-profit institution was created in 2007 and its president is a lady called Kumiko Nishimura. The Society has around 300 members, most of whom are in Tokyo where the Society is based. It could be said that the Sherry Society Japan has been an invigorating force for many of these bars which are dedicated almost exclusively to Sherry.

Our tour takes in cities like Matsumoto in the Japanese Alps, the traditional Kyoto, the lively and modern Osaka, and of course the mega-city of Tokyo. Our guide for this novel trip is a native of Tokyo with an in-depth knowledge of the wines of the Marco de Jerez, Tomoko Kimura.

I urge you to get to know these special places which ooze with love, respect and admiration for Sherry. These are places where Japanese Sherry lovers enjoy their Sherry with passion, forgetting for a while the straitjackets of formality and ritual which mark their everyday lives, even in a big busy city like Tokyo.
Cádiz Bar
Masaru Yokota is the manager of this elegant bar with such a singular name. It is right in the centre of the city at Hamamatsu-cho. Masaru san is an expert bartender who serves a variety of cocktails based on various types of Sherry. As an official venenciador he has travelled to Jerez many times.
Eiji Omori opened his Sherry and tapas bar in 2013 after working for a few years at La Venencia with Takeshiro Naito. The bar, which is situated in the Tanaka building, Gotanda, is named after the Calle Echgaray in Madrid, site of the famous tabanco La Venencia. Omori is also a great fan of flamenco and has visited Jerez a few times to learn more about Sherry and flamenco dancing.
La Venencia
Among the various objects which proudly decorate the walls of expert Takeshiro Naito’s Sherry bar are certificates of merit as a venenciador from the Consejo Regulador and Bodegas Osborne. The bar is named after the famous tabanco in Madrid in calle Echegaray and is a delightful place situated in the Kobayashi building in Nakameguro. This charming little corner of Jerez has been in business for 25 years and is a favourite for lovers of Sherry and Andaluz culture. An essential visit.

Takeshiro & Jose Luis in La Venencia
Bar Ollaría
Toshihiko Watanabe runs this bar and adds his own touch of Andalusian friendship – he has been there many times - to traditional Japanese courtesy. He is an official venenciador. In 2014 he won the Guinness book of Records title for being able to offer his customers the opportunity to try the most Sherries – 293 of them! The previous record holder was also Japanese. The bar’s name comes from the Spanish word “olla” or stew pot as its food speciality is stews. Among the staff are other trained venenciadores, two of whom are winners of the annual competition in Japan, where there are 150 to date. This charming little bar in the Ginza district was established in 2007.
Until a couple of years ago Aki Shimada worked at Ollaría till he decided to open his own Sherry bar. The name (Spanish for “clove”) refers to the aroma of Sherry which abounds in this bar along with its owner’s courtesy. Shimada is, like many of his colleagues in the trade, a Consejo-certified venenciador, but also has certificates from Williams & Humbert and Osborne. He has also visited Jerez on various occasions and really knows the wines.
Sherry Club
Michiko Takahashi could be considered the pioneer of Sherry bars in japan, a veritable “godmother” of Sherry. Her bar, the longest-established of them all, celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. From 2005 till 2014 it held the Guinness Book of Records title for the biggest range of Sherry. Situated in the central district of Ginza, it has three storeys; the ground floor being a wine shop, the first floor being a bar-dining area decorated with barrel heads which customers can sign, while the upper floor is reserved for various types of event. Mrs Takahashi also owns the Sherry Club in Kyoto and everything is top quality in both.
Ricardo Bar de España
This is a restaurant specialising in Spanish food run by Nobuyuki Sasaki. It has a good range of Sherry, especially the wines of Grupo Caballero, and the tapas are varied and carefully made. While it is not particularly central, it is easy to find.

Nobuyuki and some of his Sherries

Bar Hemingway
No visitor to Osaka should miss Bar Hemingway. The well regarded bartender, Naoya Matsuno, greets customers in the Spanish he learned while qualifying with merit as a sommelier and venenciador at González Byass. He has visited Jerez and its bodegas many times and is very knowledgeable. The bar, established in 1998, is well situated in an area popular with locals and tourists alike and has been the subject of numerous television articles.
Bar Quinta
The name of this bar comes from Osborne’s Fino Quinta. Its young and enthusiastic owner, Tatsuya Mankawa trained as a venenciador there. He not only promotes Sherry at his own premises, but for the last two years has coordinated an important promotional event for Sherry in Osaka involving the participation of many other bars.
Sherry bar Venga
A venenciador certified by Osborne, Hideyuki Yamada, owns this bar in a quiet and peaceful side street off the main commercial centre of Kyoto. (“venga” is Spanish for “come on”) Hideyuki Yamada runs the bar and is a certified venenciador by Osborne. The spacious establishment is decorated with numerous posters and promotional items from bodegas which he brought back from Jerez.
Sherry Club
This is the highly recommended Kyoto branch of Sherry Club Tokyo run by Michiko Takahashi, located in the peaceful and charming area of Ishibe-koji. At the entrance customers are greeted by a statue of a venenciador, created by a Japanese artist.
Bar Oku
Not really a Sherry bar per se, this establishment nonetheless has a good range of Sherry on offer, and the manager Yoshimori Miyokawa serves his customers with typical Japanese courtesy. This is a beautiful bar in the best Japanese style and is well worth seeking out by taking a wander through one of the most traditional districts of the city.

Sherry Club in Kyoto has lots of props

Mona Chulos
The city of Matsumoto, in the prefecture of Nagano, is surrounded by mountains which resemble the Swiss Alps. Here, surprisingly, is a unique restaurant dedicated to Spanish cuisine in general and that of Andalucía in particular. Established in 2007 this large restaurant has a real Spanish atmosphere throughout its three areas and is hospitably run by chef Chinami Sakai and her husband Kenichi Sakai who is the bartender. Mona Chulos can be found easily right in the centre of Matsumoto. Some weekdays they hold Flamenco shows performed by students of the local dance academies. Great atmosphere, impeccable service and a varied menu of Spanish dishes with a local touch and plenty of Sherry.

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