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The Mainichi Newspaper has an article looking at how sake is being enjoyed in China – and the mysterious absence of sake from the north of the main island of Honshu, traditionally a very strong area as seen by Fukushima’s repeated domination of the National New Sake Appraisal awards.

Sake is gaining in popularity in China for the same reasons as in other countries: buoyed by the rise of Japanese cuisine, considered both healthy and delicious. Drinking sake from wine glasses is seen as stylish, and more and more Chinese and French restaurants are bringing it onto their menus.

Kiyohiro Akama, a sake-loving journalist with a father from Miyagi Prefecture and mother from Niigata Prefecture, couldn’t be happier to see sake appearing in more places and gaining more attention, but… ever since he was sent China two years ago one question keeps bothering him – where’s the sake from the northern prefectures of the main island? Chinese lists are dominated by Dassai, from Yamaguchi, but there’s almost nothing from his own home prefectures.

Turning to importers for an answer, he’s told there’s no way around it – China banned food imports from 10 prefectures in the Tōhoku, Shin-etsu and Kantō regions after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and the incident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. So the Chinese market is dominated by breweries from the west of Japan, focusing even more attention on the already popular Dassai.

The arrival of cross-border e-commerce has led to a huge jump in the range of sake available in China, and the popularity of Japanese cuisine among other things has brought down barriers that previously made Chinese consumers reluctant to embrace Japanese goods. But some walls are as high and as thick as ever.

A Japan-China summit held on 9 May 2018 agreed on the formation of a joint group to discuss relaxation of import restrictions related to the nuclear incident, but there’s no indication of when sake from the northern prefectures will have a clear path to China.