When traveling, many people struggle with the “foreignness” of food and drinks, seeking comfortable (read: familiar) dining options.
While I understand the desire for familiarity, especially where food is concerned, I take the opposite approach in Japan–and discovered some amazing, tasty treats along the way.
Case in point: the local beverages of Magome.
Magome (or Magome-juku) lies in Gifu Prefecture, northeast of Kyoto, in the Japan Alps. This mountainous region is home to many orchards and vineyards, and produces some of Japan’s finest fermented and non-fermented juice-based beverages.
Upon arriving in Magome, I noticed a small beverage store just two doors down from Magomechaya, the minshuku (guesthouse) where I stayed. I wandered in, hoping to find some local drinks to try.
I don’t consume much alcohol–and drink even less when traveling, due to all the hiking (and sleeping) I do on the road–but I’d heard good things about this region’s wines, and when I saw a local apple wine, in little bottles . . .
I love apples in any form, so this was a no-brainer.
I’m lucky the bottle was small, because the wine didn’t taste like alcohol. It tasted like sweet-and-tangy apple juice, without any tannins or aftertaste. While drinking it, I kept checking the bottle to be sure I’d read the label correctly–this didn’t taste like wine! (It tasted delicious – much better than most wines.)
Halfway through the bottle, I realized it was, in fact, alcoholic, so I took my time finishing it off. I’ll buy it again, for certain, when I’m back in Gifu–sadly, I doubt it’s available elsewhere in Japan.
Since I already had one boozy option, I opted to make the second selection non-alcoholic (more than one drink a night, and I’m likely facing a headache in the morning–not the smartest thing on a hiking day). The little shop had five different juices made from local grapes, but I’m a sucker for “Concord” so I chose this lovely, dark purple treat.
100% real juice, from local grapes. It was the best grape juice–and one of the tastiest juices of any kind–I’ve ever tasted. Not too sweet, and filled with flavor. Each sip was like biting into a juicy, perfectly-ripened grape.
When traveling–in Japan or elsewhere–take the time to sample the local treats and beverages. They may not be familiar, but you’ll find some delicious things!