Thursday, September 14, 2006

For the Sake of Sake

I bought a digital camera for two reasons: I was sick of paying to develop bad pictures, and I wanted that little preview screen so that I could tell right away if a photo was bad.

I got my wish with the first part—it is indeed easy to avoid sending bad photos to the printer. The second part, though, didn’t work out quite as well as I planned. Lots of photos that looked fine on the tiny screen turned out to be blurry when enlarged to 4x6, or someone had their eyes closed, or was making a face. But I often wouldn’t notice until it was too late to take another, so I’d be stuck with it.

There is one great thing, though, about a digital camera that I didn’t anticipate. Now that I have one, I have to take many fewer notes when I travel.

If I don’t feel like writing down a whole history of a temple I’m visiting, I don’t have to. I just take a picture of the plaque out front. If I can’t read the characters on a street sign on a boulevard in Beijing, I don’t have to transcribe it. I can just take a picture and look up how to pronounce it later.

When I was in Japan, visiting John’s partner’s family, we were served a sake I really liked. That’s a rare thing—most sakes either taste like gasoline to me, or else they’re cloyingly sweet. I knew there had to be a happy medium somewhere, and in Odawara, I found it. I liked it so much I wanted it for myself.

I could have written down the name, and gone to a wine shop and bought a bottle, but then I would have had to lug it across all of Asia and part of Europe. So instead I took a picture of the bottle, so that I’d have a record of the name with no chance of transcription error on my part.

I had a scary moment when I uploaded the photos to my computer the next day, in another town: The shot turned out so blurry that only two big characters on the label were legible.

Just this week, though, I emailed a copy of the photo to a sake store in San Francisco, True Sake. A very helpful person emailed back that he recognized the label, blur and all, and told me that they can get it for me. It turns out to be a brand called Masumi Cho-Karakuchi Ki-ippon Junmai Ginjo. Please don’t laugh at me if you recognize this as a lowbrow brand (though I doubt Daisuke’s family would have served it if it were.) I don’t know much about sake. I just know what I like.

And I know that I’m never going anywhere without my digital camera again.

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