The first thing offered to me at Suntory's Yamazaki whisky distillery - the birthplace of Japanese whisky - is a glass of water. It's so delicious it comes as a shock.
Even before the reason is explained to me, I'm asking: why does it taste so crisp, so different?
The distillery is surrounded by beautiful bamboo forests on a mountain - they must be getting to my brain.
What linked them, and other famous faces, was their promotion of Japanese whisky, each sipping it in TV advertisements like it was nectar of the gods.
Bill Murray's sardonic character in "Lost in Translation" may have mocked the image of sophistication that Japanese whisky manufacturers liked to portray from the 1970 to the 1990s, but since 2001, Japanese whisky has been steadily picking up awards and gaining the plaudits of international whisky connoisseurs without the need for a knowing smirk or wink.
Being waited on hand and foot now comes at an affordable price in Tokyo. A new butler-themed cafe in the Japanese capital is proving a hit with young females in search for a relaxing afternoon, an English lesson and just as importantly the chance to interact with friendly foreign men.
Shibuya's "Butler Cafe" in the heart of the city has surroundings that bring to mind a Victorian grandmother’s sitting room, with classical music, ample accents of lace and more hearts and roses adorning the furniture than can possibly be counted.
A chopstick making company has whittled down broken baseball bats so sushi can be shoveled with a swing.
Hyozaemon specializes in traditional hand-crafted eating utensils and in 2000 introduced their "kattobashi" chopsticks. The name is a play on words combining the Japanese word for chopsticks, "hashi," with a familiar chant heard at Japanese baseball games.
About 20,000 bats, used and abused by pro and amateur players, turn up at Hyozaemon's workshop each year. So it's a good bet the bats of Godzilla himself, Hideki Matsui, in his pre-Major League Baseball days, will have ended up on a Japanese dining table at some point over the years.
Some sushi lovers are extending their passion for Japanese cuisine into the world of arts and crafts. From clothing to candles and jewelry to children's toys, rice rolls and sashimi are inspiring all manner of crafty marvels.
Giulia Negro, a 24-year-old Italian, fell in love with sushi years before she tasted it. “I love sushi’s elegant shape and vibrant color. I decided to explore making bracelets,” she said.
Sarah Worley lived in Japan, but only when she returned to her native United States, did she find sushi that she had never seen in Japan - uramaki with rice outside the seaweed. Now, her handmade "inside-out" sushi earrings seem to have almost as many fans as the rolls themselves.
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