Sake Silver Linings - What Good Has Come Out of The Disaster? | True Sake
May 2011

Sake Silver Linings - What Good Has Come Out of The Disaster?

Posted by Beau Timken in 2011, May, Newsletter
Amongst any tragedy and any massive case of misfortune something good must escape - some little twig of positive energy, some form of goodness, some minuscule smile that reminds us that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Some call this a "silver lining." Are there or have there been any silver linings in the horrible Fukushima triple disaster? You bet! Amazing stories of survival, amazing stories of how buildings stood when gravity wanted otherwise, amazing stories of humanity, and of course civility in the face of pure pain and anguish. In a sense the Japanese response to their incredible misfortune has been a silver lining.

But what about in a sake sense? Have there been any silver linings in and around the sake industry that we can see as a positive, semi- positive, or a "well that's sort of okay" outcome? To a certain degree I feel that there are a few, perceived and otherwise. But to venture here I do not want to discount the emotional and painful side of the story. I do not want to belittle the seriousness of the shocking events by thinking in terms of what's good for the "business" side of the equation. So please forgive my absence of taste by thinking in terms of what's good for the betterment of sake in the face of pure hell.

Herewith are my personal silver linings for the sake industry in the midst of one of the most trying periods in the amazing history of this ancient and glorious libation.
  • People are thinking about sake!
    What's the old expression - even bad news is good news if people are talking about you. At least sake is in the news.
  • Sake has a newfound responsibility!
    Yes indeed! As sake is Japan's drink, similar to beer to Germany and wine to France, all the eyes of the world are on this beverage as it represents a way to help a nation. I would drink lots of German beer or French wine if the tables were turned. I would feel an honor to help in some small capacity. Sake has a real chance to help the recovery process for an entire nation. It's liquid pride - it's liquid aid! (Please read the section "Sake Support" in this newsletter)
  • The sake community has come together!
    I am in awe of how tight an already tight community has come together. The brewers have always been close and very affable to each other from huge breweries to those that have 5 or less employees. The camaraderie of the industry is unquestionable, but this devastation has brought about a new depth in brother/sisterhood. I was and still continue to be amazed at the selflessness, the support the family-like hug that has been occurring. These competitors - these business opponents - are all locking arms in support for one another in such a dire time period in the existence of their very own family breweries. What is the phrase, "If it doesn't kill you it makes you stronger." Well a very tight bond has been made even stronger. It's inspiring.
  • The secondary sake community has come together!
    Sake is a business, and as such it has a structure like all businesses - sell more than the other guy. In the west we have many partners in the business of sake. At times, as I have noted here in the newsletter it can be bitchy, mean spirited, selfish and not great for the betterment of sake. Importers, distributors, retailers and restaurants all competing to sell more sake even if that means ill will on the "other guy." We too have a family/brotherhood, but it pales in comparison to the brotherhood of the brewers. But, I am deeply moved by how close we have come together in the face of this festering disaster. The tragedy has brought us together more than I have seen in the last ten years of studying the sake industry. Only good can come of this. Once closed lines of communication have been opened for such a glorious cause. We all have a common bond, but that bond has become so much tighter and more pure, and with all of the adversities out there before the tragedy it has created a new "betterment" environment.
  • A chance to clean up the inventory backlog!
    Of course my early thoughts were, "How will I get sake to my customers if it's being blocked from arriving in the US?" My immediate response was, "Wow! I hope my importers and distributors have enough stock." This was followed by the knowledge that they are sitting on a lot of inventory. And this was - smirking - followed by my next thought that, "Man! They have a lot of old inventory, and perhaps old sake may be all that we will be drinking." Follow me here! The subsequent thoughts are that we owe it to the industry to consume this "long in the tooth" supply of older sakes. In a sense, this tragedy represents an opportunity to clean up our reserves. This is a good chance for distributors/importers to plow through the older inventory to make room for "fresher" sake.
  • A painful introduction to Northern Japanese (Tohuku) sakes!
    If you are a sake drinker you owe it to yourself to drink up Tohoku sake. There was an instantaneous rush to buy "Northern" sake in Japan right after the disaster. Sake souls felt compelled to help those who needed help the most, so they didn't buy their favorite sakes, but rather tried new sakes (or old familiars) from a different region outside of their sake comfort zone. And we at True Sake will do the same. We will encourage you to drink sakes from Tohoku, which are some amazing brews. And as such, you may come to really enjoy sakes from a region that may be damaged for quite some time. (Again please see the section "Sake Support" in this newsletter)
  • Sake has given us the ability and responsibility to lead!
    This tragedy has given Americans the chance to be proactive and the ability to lead by example. Two days after the realization that "radioactivity" was part of the equation, a very dear friend who sells retail sake in Germany sent me an email saying that the very hypersensitive Germans have shunned everything from Japan. She warned that it was a full block based on mental perception, rather than fact. She lamented that Americans don't over-react like the Germans and other European nations. In a word she was envious that we don't panic. Now couple this with the fact that the Japanese, who themselves are "the" most hypersensitive folks on the planet and would ban everything through and through from a nation facing similar problems, and you get a scenario where we must lead by example. This crisis has given us a brilliant opportunity to remain calm and drink strong! And for this I believe the best silver lining is our chance to help the best way that we can - to drink for an industry and a nation that needs our calm heads and our stellar sake constitution.

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