Column Projecting the Charm of Japanese KOKUSHU (the National Brew) of the World! | CHAPTER 4

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Projecting the Charm of Japanese KOKUSHU (the National Brew) of the World!

 Have you ever heard of the word “KOKUSHU”? The Japanese word literally means the national brew. The KOKUSHU of Japan is Sake. (According to the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association, square calligraphy cards on which successive prime ministers signed “KOKUSHU” (国酒) with a brush are displayed at their headquarters.) Can Japanese sake be a source of pride for Japan as the KOKUSHU, as wine is for France and Italy?
 Japanese sake has almost become a “face” that represents Japan abroad. In 2011, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched a project to promote award-winning Japanese sake in the sake category of the International Wine Challenge (IWC), the world’s largest wine competition held in London every year, at its overseas missions (Embassies and Consulates-General) overseas. The Ministry sends high-quality sake main of which are the prize-winners to the overseas missions to serve the distinguished guests there. Japanese sake is also selected to make a toast at the Emperor’s Birthday celebration.
 The reason why Japanese sake is used in diplomatic settings is that diplomacy cannot be conducted without close human relationships, and the cuisine would serve as an important tool in building such relationships. Delicious Japanese sake can impress foreign guests and serve as lubricant to build good relations. Japanese sake helps enliven conversations with people from other countries, especially those from wine-culture regions, with its complex brewing process compared to that of wine, and a fruity aroma despite the use of rice as the raw material, .
 Japanese sake is also a Japan Brand item that should be marketed towards the world. It seems that the degree of recognition of Japanese sake is halfway in comparison to the growing popularity of Japanese cuisine around the world. It is my hope to contribute to win wider recognition of Japanese sake through such occasions as receptions and events for promoting Japanese food culture, including Japanese sake.
 The scale of global wine market was over USD100 billion as of 2005. If Japanese sake, the Japanese national brew becomes a global brew and can make inroads into the wine market as another brewed beverage, it will help revitalize local economies in Japan. The Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 devastated the Tohoku Region, which is a major production center for Japanese sake. Since the disaster, large amounts of Japanese sake produced in the region have been sipped to overseas missions, which presents to all over the world a message for reconstruction from the disaster, with food products from the region, including rice.

Hideaki Ishii
Deputy Director, Overseas Establishments Division
(now Principal Deputy Director, Second Africa Division)

An event introducing Japanese sake at the official residence of the Japanese Ambassador to France in June 2011


       The Japanese sake booth at the Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival in
       October 2011