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The Sankei West site reports on a Kyoto brewery who are making sake easier to swallow – literally.

With its rapidly ageing population, products aimed at the elderly are big business in Japan. One common problem that develops among older people, particularly those in care, is reduced ability to swallow (dysphagia). Solid food or water tends to go into the trachea (windpipe) instead of down the oesophagus, but thickened liquids are easier to eat/drink.

The 360 year old Kitagawa Honke brewery in the historic sake district of Fushimi in Kyoto are trialling a thickened sake that should be easier for the elderly to drink. Pale yellow in colour, it’s a junmai daiginjo mixed with thickening food additive. The brewery recommends shaking it gently before serving chilled.

Matsumi Toshiaki, head of the brewery’s product department, experimented with different everyday thickeners such as kudzu (arrowroot) starch and dogtooth violet starch (farina) as well as commercially available ones. He commented that many did not dissolve well, and also destroyed the delicate balance of flavour in the sake.

The bottles have to be filled by hand, making it difficult to produce in large volume. The sake is as yet unclassified under the Liquor Tax Law and it’s not clear when it will be released as a product. However, the brewery has had positive responses on Facebook from families of older people who used to enjoy sake.

The project is one initiative of the Keiji Study Group of Dysphagia, which includes doctors studying the condition. The group has previously developed easy-to-swallow versions of classic Kyoto cuisine and traditional sweets. Matsumi hopes that care home residents will soon be able to enjoy some sake with their meals on a sunny day.