Kobe Shinbun NEXT reports on the Nada Gogō Brewers Association (based in Kobe) and Kobe University joining forces to offer Nihonshugaku (日本酒学, “sake studies”) seminars aimed at giving people the information they need to work in the sake industry. The first series of seven lectures ran in 2018, with about 100 students attending. The lectures covered sake from a wide variety of perspectives, including history, production, and marketing, and were a great success.

Those involved with the seminars said they hoped to give people the skills to make sake attractive in overseas markets, showing that there was a lot of demand for the subject.

The lecture series that started in October 2018 included a trip by 15 students to the Hakutsuru brewery in late November. They saw enormous rice milling machines, fully automated kōji production in machines with rotating arms, and chilled rooms where the shubo (starter) is made. Shown around by technical staff, they were allowed into production areas usually closed to the public. The students excitedly peered in to one of the tanks in a brewing room with a distinctive smell where 56 20,000 litre stainless steel tanks stand in neat rows.

Atsuhiro Akashi, a researcher at Hakutsuru, introduced five reasons why Nada Gogō became a centre for sake brewing: the Miyamizu (宮水, sacred water) perfectly suited to brewing, the locally grown rice variety Yamada Nishiki, the local Tanba tōji guild, a climate suited to brewing, and a sea transport route to the old capital of Edo – modern day Tokyo.

Hakutsuru also take a scientific approach to brewing, which Akashi focused on with an explanation of the multiple parallel fermentation involving two separate chemical reactions (carbohydrate -> sugar and sugar -> alcohol) particular to sake brewing. Compared to wine or beer brewing, these reactions produce a powerful fermentation process that results in higher alcohol.

Nao Kakusaki (23), a fourth-year student from the International Studies course, enrolled because she was interested in how kura could support regional revitalisation. She was struck by how companies contributed to the cultural resources of their region by establishing schools or museums, how they were learning how to market and the potential of bringing more women into the industry.

Before holding their courses for the first time in 2018, Nada Gogō Brewers Association formed a partnership agreement with the Niigata Brewers Association and Niigata University, who held the first even “sake studies” courses in 2017. Kobe University joined with the aim of revealing the differences between different production areas.

Lecturers for the seminars include employees from breweries and packaging manufacturers, plus researchers from the Brewers Association. Atsushi Yonetani of the Kobe Institute for Promotion of Higher Education commented that the seminars covered a wide range of topics and was more impactful than expected. He hopes to see the courses continue.

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