June 2012

Sake Promotion - Japanese Government Takes Proactive Role

Posted by Beau Timken in 2012, June, Newsletter
Monday, May 27th, the day before the start of the International Wine Challenge tasting in Tokyo, Japan, several members of the IWC, Judges for the IWC, and representatives of the Sake Samurai Association were summoned to visit the Minister of State for National Policy (Economic and Fiscal Policy, and Science and Technology Policy) Cabinet Office of Minister Motohisa Furukawa.

The point of the meet and greet was two-fold. One it was a chance for the Japanese media to see a minister actively courting and supporting the largest international sake tasting held abroad, and two it was a chance for the sake industry to bend the ear of the head of the newly created Sake and Shochu Export Project which is a governmental endeavor to promote the sales, education and promotion of sake and shochu in other lands.

In a word the meeting was formal. But Westerners have a way of building excitement when it comes to sake, so we had many laughs about the trials and tribulations of sake market currently overseas. As a retailer for almost a decade I have seen the Japanese government in "action" trying to promote sake. Usually it's via local JETRO (Japanese Export and Trade Organizations) who have a history of offering up golden opportunities, but usually get strangled in red tape. This has always been a down up effort - local going back up to the head government who almost always squashed whatever efforts were proposed. What is different about this endeavor is that it is a push down effort that has started at the top and will be implemented (in theory) locally in various countries and cities.

The Minister has assembled seven-member committee to research and make recommendation. It is up to these people to hear and see what the international sake market has been doing and to craft a platform to help further educate the market, help with tax and tariff issues (which are a HUGE problem) and finally to promote sake with vigor. Our very dear friend Kochi Saura from Urakasumi Brewery is on the panel, and I feel great about that. If any of you good people out there in "international sake land" have any recommendations or stories that would lend a hand in this process please send them to me at info @ truesake.com, and I will pass them along. I am dead serious about this! This may be our last shot at getting some serious help on certain aspects of the industry that need tweeking really badly! Do your part, use your own experiences, say whatever, just say things that need to be fixed, or promoted, or extolled in the sake marketplace from importing, distributing, retail to restaurant ownership; we all have a voice in this process and for once there is a window open in the "Big Building" that will hear us. Say it loud say it proud, help make the sake industry a better business.

Here is a piece about our newfound Minister friend:

Japan's New Growth Engine: Sake?

I have been asked to compile a list of issues that could use attention, support, promotion, etc., and this is a great vehicle for you to voice your concerns and comments about the direction of the International sake community. So please help me outline how we can use the direct help of the Japanese government in our pursuit of all things sake overseas!

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