The new thing for hard-working kurabito, according to writer Miki Tonomura on the Zakzak site, is continuous professional development. No longer required only by businesses, these days public figures and celebrities seem to be flocking back to university to keep on learning.
The article reports an increase in brewery workers learning about their industry from the ground up, regardless of the current slump. And why? Apparently so they can explain the basics of sake to visiting foreign tourists, capitalising on the popularity of Japanese restaurants overseas.
One person who knows the field is sake and food journalist Yohko Yamamoto, who recently published "From Zero! Introduction to Sake, Explained in Pictures". The article claims that kurabito at the NEXT5 group of breweries in Akita have formed study groups using the book after it was published, and that some breweries have ordered in bulk so that they can give copies to everyone from office workers to part-time staff, propelling the book to the top spot in the sake books category at Amazon Japan and earning it an offer of a Chinese translation.
Yamamoto went from being chief editor at a lifestyle and food magazine to spending 20 years visiting everywhere from breweries to the rice farmers who supply them all over Japan, doing extensive journalist research, so she's in a position to offer realistic advise about the industry. Following the publication of the book, she's also been asked to speak and teach at breweries and local governments all over the country.
The book looks good (with text and not just pictures!) but I'm not entirely clear on how that's going to help kurabito, if they meet a foreign tourist, tell them about sake. Anyway. I'm a big fan of continuous professional development, and it's probably easier than learning another language in your spare time.