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The Nikkei newspaper reports on a heated battle for fourth place in sake shipped from a Japanese prefecture.

The top three are clear, but it gets interesting for numbers four, five and six. Here are the volumes of sake shipped in Jan – Dec 2017, in kilolitres:

  1. Hyogo 140,298
  2. Kyoto 98,559
  3. Niigata 42,637
  4. Saitama 21,153
  5. Chiba 20,925
  6. Akita 20,219

Saitama and Chiba are neighbours in the eastern Kantō region, so this means they’re battling it out for local supremacy. 

Saitama Prefecture predicted that the battle for first in the region would be close, so encouraged their 35 breweries and now have another push from a new specialist attraction where the prefecture’s sake can be tasted and bought.

Chiba has more larger breweries, and its small and medium-sized breweries are also making efforts to compete overseas, trying to grow in a shrinking domestic market. It rose up from sixth place in 2016 and was just a hair’s breadth away from Saitama’s 2017 result, so there’s every chance that it could catch up by April.

According to the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association, Saitama was in fifth place in 2016 with exports of 20,787 kilolitres. It dropped from the previous year, when it had overtaken Akita, but all of the breweries pulled together in 2017 to take back their place in the charts. They hope to sustain this level of activity and stay in fourth place in the 2017-2018 financial year results (the Japanese fiscal/school/official year runs from April to March).

Saitama breweries have an ally in the Kikizake-sho, a new area in the Koedo Kurari tourist attraction in Kawagoe.  It will have vending machines dispensing 40 types of sake from the prefecture’s 35 breweries, and sell you your favourite to take home.