Industry goes all-out to promote sake

With the decline in sake consumption apparently tapering off, members of the industry are gearing up to promote sake for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

The Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association is keen to spread the delicate taste of Japan's sake both at home and abroad through various measures, including taking advantage of "Nihonshu no Hi" (sake day) on Oct 1.

The kanji character for the year of the rooster - the 10th animal in the Chinese zodiac - originally represented the shape of a pot and means sake. The association decided to use it as the symbol for Nihonshu no Hi in 1978, and urges the public to make a toast with sake at 7.30pm on that day.

In the evening on Sept. 30, association members gave passersby sake from wooden casks in the Nishi-Shinbashi district in Minato Ward, Tokyo, in a campaign to advertise the next day's Nihonshu no Hi.

According to the National Tax Agency, shipments of refined sake peaked at about 1.77 million kiloliters in fiscal 1973, after which they gradually declined to about 587,000 kilolitres in fiscal 2013, about one-third of the top level. However, the fiscal 2013 figure slightly exceeded that of fiscal 2012.

"We hope this event [Nihonshu no Hi] will help people rediscover the good taste of sake," said association director Yukio Hamada, 66.

Sake gets government boost

Municipalities around the country have established ordinances to promote sake. According to the association, the Kyoto city government enacted the first ordinance in the nation to promote refined sake in January 2013, and similar ordinances, including those for alcoholic drinks other than sake, had been introduced by 109 municipalities nationwide as of Sept. 1.

The municipalities that have established ordinances are making steady efforts to promote sake and other alcoholic drinks, including making toasts with sake at official meetings. A spokesperson for the Fushimi Sake Brewers Association in Kyoto said, "Thanks to the ordinance, the public's interest in sake has been increasing."

The central government is also actively using sake to promote its "Cool Japan" strategy. The Foreign Ministry serves sake at parties at diplomatic establishments abroad, and also teaches ambassadors about sake before they are transferred to overseas posts.

"If sake is served at a party, it becomes a topic of conversation," said a person involved with overseas diplomatic establishments at the ministry.

The number of foreign tourists is expected to increase for the Games, so the Tokyo Sake Brewer's Association based in Tachikawa distributed leaflets in English for foreign tourists at an event in September.