[siteorigin_widget class=”SiteOrigin_Widget_Image_Widget”][/siteorigin_widget]

The Zero Tele News 24 site hosts a Nippon News Network interview with Takuma Inagawa of Wakaze, where the interviewer asks him what he thinks is necessary for Japanese sake to enter worldwide markets following the increased popularity of Japanese food.

In what seems to be the shows’s set format, he holds up a card with one word written on it – “diversify”.

The interviewer runs through some figures first, from Teikoku Databank, which indicate that sales of sake from the approximately 1,000 producers in Japan have increased year on year since 2012, albeit gradually. She puts the increase down to exports, although seeing as they make up somewhere around 6% of total production I’m not sure if that’s really the case. (Although the general pall of doom in most articles about the domestic situation for sake don’t seem to make that a likely candidate either.) She also pointed out that the increase in sales is strongest among the more refined types of sake.

There’s a brief ranking on screen of breweries by sales in 2016, topped by Hakutsuru, Gekkeikan and Takara Holdings, but with newcomers and upstarts Dassai moving up to number 8 with sales increasing 65.3% over the previous year.

Asked about his answer, Inagawa agrees that there’s a “boom” for sake and sales are increasing. There have been many “booms” in the past, for tanrei-karakuchi (light and dry), ginjō and now for sweeter sake. However, built into the whole concept of a “boom” is that it’s something that comes, peaks… and then goes. For the current sake industry in particular, where its overall situation is down compared to what it was before, Inagawa thinks it’s essential to cultivate diversity for its own sake and not just to chase trends.

He looks to beer for a model – it used to be all mass-produced but now Japan has a lively craft beer scene, where passionate craftspeople brew with pre-mass production processes. There is now a much greater variety of beers than ever before, and wine is also still developing with styles such as natural wine. To his mind, that’s something that sake also needs to do.

The interviewer comments that although she hears about this diversity in beer and wine, she doesn’t hear much about it for sake. Inagawa gives one example, a new botanical sake where yuzu or sansho pepper are added during brewing (adding anything after brewing turns the sake into a liqueur).