Masa Shiroki, Granville Island’s Artisan Sake Maker, calls to say the last of the sake rice crop is coming off his Abbotsford fields. Do I want to drop by?
This crop, his second planting, went in on time. The first, after a long wet spring and cold summer in 2011 yielded only seed-rice. However, the 2012 season was long and hot. To Shiroki’s relief, the birds which seriously threatened the whole enterprise eventually abandoned hard grains for juicy berries in neighbouring fields.
Shiroki’s experiment is a project several years in the making and comes with no guarantees. His dream has seen its share of challenges, hopes and setbacks. At last he will be able to craft the first 100% Canadian jizake (hand-crafted local rice wine).
When I arrive Eiji, one of Shiroki’s employees is already out in the field cutting and bundling the crop.
Luckily the sun shines on Shiroki’s wife Yukiko and the crew of volunteers. They’re excited to participate in a project that is part of their cultural heritage transplanted to Canada. Alas, this morning the clouds cover Mt. Baker which presides over Shiroki’s fields–so uncannily reminiscent of Mt. Fuji.
Yukiko, Yui, Fumi and Sayaka carry bundles from the field and stack them before racking them for drying. Just as I’m leaving, Raymond shows up to lend a hand.
By day’s end Sayaka’s photos capture the crew covered in mud, but their spirits are not dampened.
Now follows a winter of intense labour during which new hopes and uncertainties confront the vintner. Early next spring this harvest will be 100% Canadian jizake wine.