What started as a remarkable opportunity to learn about saké became a much greater immersion in Japanese tradition for Hannah Kirshner, an artist and writer who traveled to a part of the country that, once ridiculed for its failure to modernize, is now regarded as a repository of endangered culture. In the town of Yamanaka, she writes, “I had many revelations that what I’d been told about Japan was not exactly right. That there weren’t always analogues in American culture. That translations were often hasty and imprecise.”
Saké is the gateway through which Kirshner begins her exploration of Japanese craftwork among people whose lives are often dedicated to quality over speed and integrity over volume. Although there are many food and drink artisans in her stories, there are woodturners, producers of lacquerware, a charcoal burner, and papermakers as well, all of them working with purpose in a community that understand that purpose.
Kirshner provides a recipe with each chapter, staying away from the commonplace and underscoring a theme of the account she has just shared. It’s very much of a piece with this thoughtful, insightful book.
Hardcover. Line drawings.