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Excite News reports that Jun Koike (24 years old), an online editor for sake news and one of only 400 people to gain the sakashō (酒匠) qualification awarded by the SSI to tasters of sake and shochu, was covered by the NHK eTV documentary Life Design U-29, which focuses on the worries and uncertainties facing the under-29s and how new challenges can help them to overcome their fears. 

After falling in love with sake at university, Koike started writing articles explaining technical terms, reviewing products, covering breweries and sharing event information. He didn’t stop at the SSI kikizake-shi (sake sommelier) qualification, moving on to tackle the ferociously difficult sakashō as well. The program covered his determination to be an online editor for sake news after graduating from university.

Koike says that he doesn’t want a girlfriend because his work is too important. Impressed by his dedication, his boss promoted him to head of the editorial department – leaving Koike in a quandary as he hates talking to people face-to-face. The show covers Koike’s boss challenging him to get over that reluctance.

The sakashō qualification involves tasting over 200 samples in two days, and is open to persons who submit a set format CV and report. Anyone who has already studied for certain courses or been a member of SSI’s parent organisation FBO for three years or more does not have to submit the report. After two days of tasting practice (day one 9:30 – 21:00, basic tasting and tasting skills, day two 8:30 – 17:00, shōchū tasting skills) candidates face four exams, the first shared with other students aiming to get the kikizake-shi or shōchū kikizake-shi qualification (40 minutes) and the other three (75, 60 and 45 minutes) only for the sakashō candidates.