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The Niigata Nippo More news site reports on the founding of the Sakeology Centre, Niigata University (SCNU).

The university held a press conference in the Chuo (central) ward of Niigata City on 9 March to announce that the new centre will open in April 2018, and serve as a focal point for research into the prefecture’s most famous product as viewed through the lens of a range of academic disciplines.

The centre will also hold “sake studies” classes summarising input from related disciplines such as agriculture, economics and medicine. The first of its kind, the centre aims to teach, research, disseminate information and promote international exchange.

Around 40 members of staff from a range of disciplines will be affiliated with the new centre. The university already has brewing and fermentation courses, and the sake studies course will add more on the raw materials for sake – water and sake rice – as well as logistics, marketing, climate, history and culture, and health, ensuring it covers a wide range of topics.

Any student can take the courses, which will cover brewing methods, food pairing, tax, impact on health, etiquette, plus brewery visits and tasting. Lecturers will include staff at Niigata University, the prefectural brewers association, and members of the prefectural sake assessment group.

Niigata University set up a joint academy with the prefectural brewers association and the prefectural government in May 2017 in preparation for opening the centre. Sugata Takahashi, president of the university, commented that he hoped that having the course in a general university would make it more than the sum of the academic departments involved and open up new areas. 

Niigata is home to 90 breweries, the largest number of any prefecture. President Ōhira of the Niigata brewers association, said he hoped the centre would generate lots of new ideas while also supporting producers. Prefectural governor Yoneyama Ryuichi said he hoped that establishing a focal point for sake would generate attention for the prefecture on a global scale.

Governor Gotō Nami of the National Research Institute of Brewing also spoke at the press conference, saying that although sake was facing a difficult battle domestically exports were on the rise, swept along by the increased popularity of Japanese food. She also said that she hoped the sake studies course would communicate the fascination and potential of sake to the next generation.