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The Sankei West site reports on a new initiative by the town of Higashi-Hiroshima to open a “sake university”.

Perhaps spurred into action by Niigata University’s new sake studies course and Sakeology centre (see Niigata University founds Sakeology Centre and Sake school success), and seeing to reinforce its status as another sake centre, the city is opening a school offering free courses for beginners from July 2018.

Called the Higashi-Hiroshima City Sake University (東広島市立日本酒大学, Higashi-Hiroshima shiritsu nihonshu daigaku), it’s the city’s first attempt to publicise the appeal of its sake culture and create new fans for its local products. Teaming up with the city’s breweries and sake experts, the city plans to hold classes to teach sake basics and also hold tastings in July, August and November 2018. The organisers hope the events will increase the number of sake fans and by extension boost the city’s tourism and increase awareness of the breweries it is so proud of.

Blessed with suitable water supplies and workforce, Higashi-Hiroshima currently has 10 active breweries. Seven date back to the late Edo (1603 – 1868) and Taishō (1912-1926) periods, and can be found clustered around JR Saijō station, with another two found in Akitsu next to the Seto Inland Sea. These sake centres feature whitewashed or white-lattice plastered walls and red brick chimneys (quite rare in Japan), which has led to them becoming a popular tourist spot named Shuto (酒都, a pun on 首都 which has the same reading but means “capital city”). Akitsu was the home town of brewer Senzaburō Miura (1847 – 1908), who developed soft-water brewing techniques which led to the development of ginjō style sake.

The sake university will teach students from near and far about history and brewing techniques, as well as the little side stories that make sake so interesting. The lectures will be timed to be accessible for young people and employees on their way home from work, with the first held on 20 July at 6:00 – 7:30 pm at Kurara, the Higashi-Hiroshima Arts and Culture Hall. The speakers at the first lecture will be from a prefectural research institute (presumably the National Research Institute for Brewing) who will talk about the particular characteristics of Hiroshima’s sake, and the tōji of local brewery Kamotsuru will talk about brewing before holding a tasting with his company’s sake.

The free lecture will be followed by a paid social event with the speakers and other sake experts, and participants will be given a certificate entitling them to a discount at one of 13 bars and restaurants in Saijō. Each lecture can seat up to 40 people, and applications can be made online or by post. The second and third lectures are scheduled for 24 August and 2 November 2018.