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The Mainichi newspaper reports on efforts to raise funds for disaster recovery through sake.

Under the title “the bonds created by sake“, the article reports that a farmer in Miyagi Prefecture donated sake-specific rice which was used to make a sake sold in the city of Hina in Saga Prefecture.

Miyagi Prefecture was badly damaged in the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, and this sake has been sold for seven years to raise donations for disaster relief. However, 2016 production was dedicated to supporting recovery from the Kumamoto Earthquake, and in 2017 proceeds went to victims of flooding in northern Kyūshū. This is the first year that all the sake-specific rice needed has been donated. 

Commenting that support was coming from an area formerly hit by disaster, Nishimura of the non-profit organisation Chikyū Minzoku no Kai (地球市民の会, Terra People) introduced Chiba, one of the Miyagi farmers who donated the rice, and started sales of the just-brewed junmai ginjō Kizuna Denshin (絆伝心, bonds linking hearts/minds). Seven years previously,  after the incident at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power station, Nishimura heard that Chiba lost a buyer who was supposed to take his sake-specific rice. Nishimura bought it himself after it was certified to be safe and the Amabuki brewery in Miyaki, Saga Prefecture, started brewing with the rice in 2012.

Chiba said that after calming down after his buyer cancelled, he considered disposing of the rice. He never imagined that help would come from somewhere as far away as Kyūshū, but Nishimura said that he was delighted that his beloved sake could help a disaster area. He took some of sake and sweets bought with the profits when he visited Chiba in his temporary housing.

Two years later, he noticed that the sake wasn’t selling out and realised that support was more important now than ever as the disaster started to fade from people’s minds. He vowed to carry on. He started with 30 people, and by the fourth year he had around 300, including student volunteers sticking Nao washi handmade paper labels on the bottles.

Kyūshū has been hit with one natural disaster after another in recent years. Chiba, moved by the support he had from the island in his time of need, donated 600 kg of sake-specific rice, which was used to make 1,000 bottles of sake. Looking back on the tragedy that struck his home seven years ago, he hopes his feelings will turn those affected by disaster into supporters. Nishimura is glad to see the support starting to go both ways, noting that this will also remind people in Saga of the Great East Japan Earthquake.