There’s a particular practice in Japan arising from the Shinto religion which involves adults going door to door dressed as monsters. The whole purpose of this ritual is to frighten little children. Sounds a little like Halloween, yes? Oh, no. It’s better. And personally, I think it could be of some use here in America.
Shinto, the maxim religion in Japan, is essentially the worship of various gods that govern certain aspects of life such as harvest, fortune, and the like. Additionally, Shinto has a strong doctrine of spiritual connection between the past and the present, taking prominent shape through acknowledging and more or less worshipping ever-existent and ever-present ancestors in spirit form. Some of these ancestors, because of the virtuous conduct of their mortal lives, in death are considered to have become positive spirits that guide and encourage. Those who lived without honor or virtue in this life, it is believed that they have taken the form of negative spirits – demons. Both dwell in a spirit world that parallels our own, and both have the ability to traverse from one world to the other to act in the lives of the living.
The demons are called “Namahage,” and they are to be considered as anything but friendly or pleasant. During the Japanese New Year festival, there are those who will dress up as Namahage in order to scare children who may have been judged as having a tendency toward unindustrious apathy or misbehavior. And so, the Namahage come through in some rather frightening masks and straw capes, beating drums, shouting, waving wooden knives, and threatening an eternal fate of dire consequence to all the selfishly lazy brats.
Sounds good to me. If only we could get a few Namahage to run through the halls of Congress.
On a more serious note, at first I thought the guys there in Japan at the Nikka distillery who formulated the Coffey Grain Whisky were skipped by the Namahage when they should have been paid a visit. More precisely, with the first inhalation came the visualization of an assembly line of folks simply opening bottles of Bulleit and lazily dumping the contents into the Nikka Coffey Grain bottles. It seemed very familiar.
Now, having said that, a little more time with the whisky brought about the conviction that this stuff is by no means a replica of any of the Bourbons I’ve known before, and as I went through with the tasting, I found myself relatively pleased with the dram.
In the glass, the Coffey Grain’s nose is a pleasurable abundance of sun-warmed and drying caramel and allspice berries. It proves itself to be quite polished.
On the tongue, this stuff has an upward trajectory in the sense that following the nose, I didn’t expect much more than what I might find flowing from Kentucky, and yet I was led into a kannagara (pathway) of honey, citrus, spice – more precisely, ginger – and wisp of the grain.
The finish is a leisurely carrying away of the citrus followed by a resurgence of the nose’s allspice and caramel.
Admittedly, while this is not my first sampling of Japanese whisky, it is my first go-round with Nikka, and overall I found the experience to be a pleasant little jaunt with a manifold and well refined Japanese contrivance. I’m looking forward to trying others. And I’m looking forward to the Namahage mask I ordered on eBay. There are a few rascals in my house who are due some “encouragement” with regard to homework and room-cleanliness.