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I’m going back to the Teikoku Databank December 2017 special report on the sake industry, which has lots of interesting factoids about the state of play in 2017.

The report also says something that Takuma Inagawa’s interviewer mentioned, that overseas demand is contributing to sales, which if it’s true is a great sign. However, the industry also saw the number of companies experiencing increased sales falling for the first time in three years.

As we’ve heard before, the Teikoku Databank report puts increased attention to sake overseas down to it being the perfect match for washoku, Japanese cuisine, which surged in popularity globally after being named a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. Sake brewers are struggling to increase domestic demand because of Japan’s long-term decrease in population and diversification of domestic preference for other drinks, so instead they’re turning to exports and trying to ride the rising tide provided courtesy of their national food culture. Exports of sake in Japanese FY 2016 amounted to JPY 15.5 billion, setting a new record for the seventh year in a row.

The Japanese government has revised guidelines in order to increase sake exports through the Liaison Committee for Export Promotion of Alcohol Produced in Japan (日本産酒類の輸出促進連絡会議, Nihonsan Shurui no Yushutsu Sokushin Renkaku Kaigi). The new Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU will see duties on Japanese alcohol abolished, and there are plans to acquire more Geographical Indications (GI), like the one for Yamagata sake, to protect producing regions.

Teikoku Databank then presents a summary of their findings:

  • There are 1,254 sake breweries in Japan, and Niigata Prefecture has the most with 84 (6.7%) followed by Nagano and Hyōgo.
  • Broken down by the Japanese era in which they were founded, most sake breweries date from the Meiji Period (23 Oct 1968 – 30 July 1912) with 431 tracing their history back to this time. There are 903 breweries over 100 years old, about 7% of the total.
  • Looking at total sales trends for brewers whose main business is sake, sales in FY 2016 (April 2016 to March 2017) were JPY 441.69 billion, an increase of 0.6% on the previous year. However, looking at how the increase was distributed, companies with increased sales fell to 30.6%, the first decrease in three years. Companies with decreased sales made up 20.5% of the total, the lowest in the previous five years, but the proportion of companies at a standstill sales-wise was 48.4%, the highest in five years.
  • Taking the positive export situation into account, the number of companies still experiencing poor sales is significant.

I had the impression that Hyōgo Prefecture was the dominant one for sake production, but that may be because it has larger breweries than Niigata and therefore out-ranks them either in production volume or sales. (Same for Kyoto.)

Interesting to see the breakdown of increased/flat/decreased sales as well. I wonder if there’s any relation to brewery size, or exporting, or whether they produce tokutei meishoshu… or maybe there’s no common element. But it also raises the question of what will happen to the companies with decreasing sales, whether or not they’ll survive.