The Campaign Japan site reports on the recent New Economy Summit Tokyo (NEST), and one headline that caught my eye was from former national football athlete and current sake ambassador Hidetoshi Nakata.
Speaking at the event, he warned that sake brands were at risk of dying out, and the reason behind this terrible crisis is... labels.
Yes, you read that right. Labels.
Nakata pointed out that many Japanese people have trouble reading the labels on sake bottles, let alone non-Japanese who might be interested in trying it. Nakata speculated that the complexity and difficulty of the ideographic kanji characters had an adverse effect on name recognition for sake brands, making it more difficult for potential drinkers to figure out how to have it.
He found it hard to understand why breweries trying to compete overseas don't change their labels, but in the meantime he's involved in developing an app that will translate labels. (Something that the guinea pigs - I mean guests - at my first sake tasting/educational kit tasting also said would be helpful. I'm not sure if he means Sakenomy here, as it doesn't translate labels as such - it can recognise them, not 100% accurately, and pull translated information from a database.)
Hakata also mused that sake brewers could learn a lot about breaking into global markets from the wine industry.
As well as having his own line of sake, Nakata also laments the devaluing of craftspeople in the modern world, so although I know nothing about football I'm definitely a fan of his in his "retirement". He has also developed a sake fridge - optimal temperature is -5°C according to him - and is developing sake glasses with a Japanese glassware company.
- Original article (Japanese, Campaign Japan, 17 April 2018)
- Hidetoshi Nakata official site (Japanese)
- Nakata's Japan Craft Sake Company (English)
- Japan Times article on Nakata's Revalue Nippon Project to promote Japanese culture and industrial crafts (English, 5 April 2016)
- CNN video with Nakata visiting the Takagi brewery and talking about sake and craftsmanship (8 min 21 sec, English, 8 March 2018) Amazing footage of guys stripped to the waist, leaning right into a tank and mixing the shubo with their arms, almost up to the armpit.
- Sakenomy - the existing app that Nakata is involved with. (And it's "sake" + "gastronomy", apparently, not "sake" + "nomi" as in the Japanese for "drinking") (Google Play - Apple App Store)