This Month on Maction Planet – March 2024

March 2024 has been a fascinating month in Japan, not least because of the ‘delayed’ Cherry Blossom bloom. Mother Nature certainly kept us on our toes with some volatile weather. Despite that, we held the first outdoor Kanpai Planet x Japan Distilled Hanami Party since the pandemic. I spent one week of the month guiding outside Tokyo. I also released a new video on Kanpai Planet – one that I am very proud of. 100% capacity would be an understatement. We continue…

Featured image: I spent 21 – 31 March with Javier, Justin, Marina and Nacho touring around Japan, visiting Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi. Looking back on the time we spent together, ‘Family’ in all its senses was the word of the trip. Miss you already. Luckily we have thousands of memories and tens of thousands of photos documenting them all… like this one of us under the lantern at the Kaminarimon, Sensoji, Tokyo – a shot which has become a true Maction Planet tradition!

I was thrilled to connect with the team from Brave New Spirits during their latest visit to Tokyo. ✨🥃 From an intimate whisky tasting hosted by Co-Founder and Cask Procurement Director, Alex Springensguth at Aloha Whisky on 2 March to crossing paths at FoodEx Japan 2024 on 8 March (see below), encountering this interesting craft spirits bottler is proving to be a delight. 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿🍸

I enjoyed learning about Brave New Spirits’ quality blended scotch… and their embracement of experimental ageing methods in refreshingly innovative ways! 🏔🌊 Shout out to Yellow Edition #1 and Voodoo Batch #2, two of my favourites. There’s no better way for a foreign brand to enter a new market than to be on the ground, meeting the locals. Cheers to many more visits. Much respect to Brave New Spirits Japan Rep Chanel Nakamura and the team in their quest to expand in Japan. I am looking forward to supporting them on their journey! 🙏 Quality wins out. Kanpai!

On 3 March 2024, the mighty Alvark Tokyo Basketball Team faced off against Shimane Susanoo Magic in a thrilling match. Having fallen short the day before (79-87) it was great to witness Alvark come out on top (90-80) at the 2nd gymnasium of the Yoyogi National Stadium.

This one was 5.5 years in the making. I first chatted to Mindy in September 2018 while I was on my birthday trip in Porto, Portugal. Fast forward to 4 March 2024 and I was finally able to induct them into the cult of Cremia! We spent three days together, topping and tailing their cruise around Japan. Fun is an understatement. I cannot wait to welcome Mindy’s daughter Emily next month!

Jaime and Arlette were from the home of Dr. Pepper, one of my very few (ahem) vices.

7 March was a classic example of how 8 hours can feel like 3 days. We did so much, but we were never rushing. Looking back on the day, even I was pleasantly surprised how much we covered! Breadth and depth is the Maction way!

The aforementioned FoodEx Japan 2024 ran from 5-8 March, and I was able to attend the final day with my guest, David from the UK. You read that right—Sensoji and Meiji Jingu are wonderful, but every so often, the best thing to do in Tokyo is to head to the 49th edition of a world-class food and drink expo with a dual-certified sake sommelier (me) in tow!

Springbank vs Glen Scotia – who wins? Me and the rest of the guests at Aloha Whisky Rising 17, who were able to enjoy a stunning selection of delectable drams from these two esteemed distilleries on 7 March in the company of Aloha Whisky frontman David Tsujimoto and Whisky Legend Stefan van Eycken. I thought I was having some chill drams, but the event was run as a blind-tasting competition! I am happy to say I came fourth out of the twenty attendees. Kanpai!

On 8 March I had the pleasure of guiding Semone around the backstreets of the World’s Greatest Metropolis! An early start meant we covered a huge amount in the short time we had.

13 March 2024. Brown-eared Bulbul. Cherry Blossoms. Ueno Park. Photo by Mac. ‘Nuff said.

Anyone who has ever toured with me knows that one of my favourite phrases is “It’s all connected”. So when I have another Dr. Pepper fan on a tour with me, in the same month as Arlette and Jamie, you know that warrants a photo in This Month on Maction Planet!

This photo was taken at 02:00 on 14 March. There aren’t many people I would hold an evening tour from 21:30 – 02:30 for, but soon-to-be 5x Maction Planet guests Jaime and Renata are exactly those people. Now, that’s what I call a productive use of a 13-hour layover! Oh, and ladies – thank you for recommending me to Javier and Justin (above and below). See, it’s all connected!

On 16 March I managed to attend a Kamui Whisky event at Wine Market Party. Kamui is Japan’s northernmost distillery, situated on tiny Rishiri Island off the coast of Hokkaido. Thank you to Casey (Founder) and Javier (Master Distiller) for your hospitality!

Two tours in one day on 17 March! To be honest, if I am not guiding a Mac-exclusive 14-hour Maction extravaganza, then that is par for the course during Cherry Blossom ultra-peak season. Thank you to Lauren and gang for choosing Maction Planet!

You’ve read enough from me. To find out more about my time with Laura and family, read her review!

The 2024 Kanpai Planet x Japan Distilled Hanami was held on 24 March in Yoyogi Park. The event brought together beer and shochu enthusiasts from all over the world to celebrate the beauty of cherry blossoms and the rich culture of Japanese drinks. Attendees enjoyed a wide variety of premium shochu and delicious craft beer from Baird Beer. And yes, the Yamazakura tree we were under was in bloom! Thank you to my partners-in-edutainment Sam (left) and Christopher Pellegrini (centre) for making this event such a huge success!

This photo has a backstory (don’t they all?). I guided this gang around Tokyo on 20 March. As we parted that evening after a wonderful sake tasting, we thought we had seen the last of each other. Well, it turns out that that was not the case! As I was guiding Javier and family around the Hakone Open-Air Museum, who should I bump into but Regina, Judith, Beverly, Jo, Bo and more. It was an epic coincidence that had us all in stitches. Just look at those smiles!

I arranged an evening with a Geiko and Maiko in Kyoto for Javier and family. They were gracious enough to take this photo of me with our evening’s entertainers. Check out those kimonos!

They still say the 2025 Osaka World Expo will happen! I hope so because I love Myaku Myaku. The mysterious mascot’s name was the catchphrase of the day. No statues of the legend. Instead, in true Osaka fashion, they have decided this 2025 knuckleduster best represents the coming together of nations in peace that is the World Expo.

The latest video on Kanpai Planet answers a question that has puzzled many a visitor to Japan—what is shochu? I take a look at what shochu is, what shochu is not, why few have heard of it outside Japan, how that’s changing, and why you need to know. We’re also going to bust a few myths along the way.

I am extremely proud of this one. It has been three years in the making, and I was finally able to get it executed how I wanted. Kanpai!

I spent 31 March in Yamaguchi. It was my last day with Javier, Justin, Marina and Nacho. This was the final photo we took together, snapped as we were drinking a bottle of sake I made surrounded by the Cherry Blossoms of Kozan Park, home to the Rurikoji Temple Pagoda! Thank you for choosing Maction Planet!

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