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Japanese sake looks overseas as local market dries up

By Natsuko Fukue

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I saw an alcohol-free chuhai on the menu.

Wouldn't that just be fruit juice?

Saké is becoming more popular in the US because places are not limiting it to Japanese food. A few nice restaurants recommend different sakés for different meals — like a certain wine with a certain meal. And people are beginning to warm to the idea. Plus, the number of saké brewers in the US is increasing so Japanese brewers better get going.

They definitely need to go to their market. Is Ozawa saying they can't easily go abroad because of language? Because of cost? Because the brewing process requires time? That's why they need to hire an English (or Korean, Chinese)-speaking saké sommelier and get in touch with restaurant industry exhibitions. Not just one brewer but a brewers' association.

Check out Ichishima Saké from Niigata and a podcast called Japan Eats from New York that discusses Japanese-related food and drink.



5 ( +5 / -0 )

sake is great and it pairs very well with Japanese food and a lot of other food besides - but it just doesn't have the taste complexity of good wine.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

We cannot easily go abroad to explain what sake is all about,

Actually it is not as hard as you think, if your market here is getting smaller and you want to stay in business you go to where your customers are, and in this case, overseas. You also have the Sake Brewer's association to work with as well, as the industry as a whole should be working together.

“We have this image that sake is a drink for older men,” said Shinobu Yashiro, who was accompanying her mother on a visit to Ozawa Shuzo........Younger people see the drink as decidedly uncool.

You should take a page from the Awamori (Okinawan sake)brewers down here. As recently as 3 decades ago awamori was pretty much only drank by "older men", and believe me that the awamori back then was..shudder...strong to say the least.

The brewers got together started brewing different types of awamori, made it more appealing to younger people, the taste became milder, the marketing and advertising were improved (tremendously) they continue to come out with new products (awamori based/shikwasa carbonated chuchi) and a ton of other innovations as well.

Now a day's awamori is the most popular and commonly drank alcohol at every izakaya even more popular than beer as it is typical for folks to only drink one or two beers and switch to awamori, it's cheaper!

Not to mention that the awamori brewers association also took THEIR product overseas, and built awamori factories in foreign countries, increasing the popularity of the beverage in some parts of Asia.

The "traditions" and culture of the sake brewers will have to adapt to change for the market.

3 ( +4 / -1 )


So, you're ok with Hoppy? I don't know if you were a scrumpy drinker but the hangover I got from mixing cheap shochu with Hoppy in a session in Shimbashi was the kind of thing scrumpy did to you the next day. I liked the fact the staff didn't even bother disguising the huge plastic bottle of this drain cleaner. It was nostalgic. Not the dicky tummy after a touch too much Merlot - this was at the being smashed over the head by a cricket bat level.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I recently rediscovered sake. It is a pretty cool drink. I know its image has suffered in Japan over the years, and it is too bad. It is pretty crisp and clean and goes well with a lot of foods. I certainly did not come to Japan for the sake, as some do, apparently.

I have been enjoying the rush to westernization that has produced and improved great whisky and beer and wine in Japan, and that has brought a lot of improvement to all of those beverages. Sake got left behind.

Advice to nobody in particular: now that Japan has more or less "caught up," it is time to switch to only drinking the best. There is no reason to drink one of the dozen or so popular imported beers that taste terrible. All southeast Asian beers are good for nostalgia and nothing else. Have a high quality domestic. Or some sake, or a whisky. And don't get a crummy whisky with ice or water or as a high ball. Why bother? Get a good single malt and enjoy it.

Chuhai? Beer cocktails? High-balls? These are all dumb fads designed to get people to move down-market to artless concoctions and cheap ingredients. Don't be a sucker. Move the other direction.

At a restaurant last night, I saw an alcohol-free chuhai on the menu. WHY? Who would think this is a good idea?

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Chuhai? Beer cocktails? High-balls? These are all dumb fads designed to get people to move down-market to artless concoctions and cheap ingredients. Don't be a sucker. Move the other direction.

You know, I drink awamori, but there are times when I enjoy a cocktail that may be a little sweeter than I normally drink. Nothing wrong with these drinks and I know plenty of men and women who like the soothing affects of alcohol but dont like the taste itself.

To each his or her own. There are some pretty damn easy to drink, rather high alcohol content, chu-hais on the market today that taste like juice. Once in a while they are great!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Wandering about alone in Baltimore years ago, I popped into a bar which happened to be next to a Japanese restaurant with no liquor license. Nursing my beer, I overheard this conversation from a woman who'd popped over from the restaurant for a bottle: Customer: "Can I buy a bottle of sake?" Bartender: "Sorry, we're all out. Why don't you try this - umeshu?" Customer: "What's umeshu?" Bartender: "Oh ... it's like sake."

Almost completely lost it but decided not to get involved as the bartender made the sale.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I like the white stuff. So bitter.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@jaymann: but it just doesn't have the taste complexity of good wine

You haven't drunk enough sake from different sakaguras then. The taste of sake ranges from very clear easy-to-drink-a-lot tastes to very complex, fruity, bouquet types which easily match the gratenes of good red wine.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I'd just like to say that I think it's great that there is no stigma about drinking beer with very high class food in Japan and anyone that thinks you need to be having certain sake with Japanese food as a proxy for wine with French food is a know-nothing snob.

I like sake but I don't want Western prejudices against beer to pressurize people into thinking you must have sake with Japanese food when beer is seen as completely acceptable by Japanese people themselves.

0 ( +1 / -1 )


Not seen it down here in Kyushu. I'd try it with shochu though; that cricket bat over the head feeling sounds pretty tempting!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Got to give the Japanese credit for their production of local alcohols, there brilliant.

Japanese sake beats anything the Chinese make and the shochu puts its Korean rivals to shame.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Awamori is shochu?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

All sake is Japanese.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Is Awamori considered sake now?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Nice. Increased sales which promoting culture. It's killing two birds with one stone. Good Luck!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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