A bottle of Mio Sparkling Sake, now familiar to many drinkers the world over A bottle of Mio Sparkling Sake, now familiar to many drinkers the world over

SAKETIMES NEWS – Feb 26th, 2019

In the news this week: Sake producers Hakutsuru and Takara Shuzo duke it out for the top spot, with a new winner taking the title… for now. Then, the amazing art of Nada sake barrel making is crowned a Cultural Heritage. Finally, VR-enhanced tours let you explore sake breweries from the comfort of home!

Takara Shuzo Becomes Top Sake Producer in Japan

Major alcoholic beverage producer Takara Shuzo, known for its wide variety of products from shochu liquor to the sake-based condiment, mirin, has taken the top spot as Japan’s leading sake producer in terms of domestic shipping volume in 2018.

This is the first time any sake producer has unseated frontrunner Hakutsuru since they overtook Kyoto’s Gekkeikan in 2002. This is in part due to Mio Sparkling Sake, new dry sparkling sake concocted by Takara for younger drinkers.

A bottle of Mio Sparkling Sake, now familiar to many drinkers the world overA bottle of Mio Sparkling Sake, now familiar to many drinkers the world over.

But, the shakeup may also be due, in part, to Japan’s overall shrinking sake market – with both producers experiencing domestic sales losses, but Hakutsuru taking the bigger hit.

Luckily for both sake producers, they are also actively working to spread internationally with Takara establishing a production facility, and Hakutsuru setting up an import company in the US, giving them and everyone else in the sake industry plenty of room to grow.

LINK: 日本経済新聞 | 2019/02/25 | 日本酒で16年ぶり首位交代、宝酒造がトップに

Nada Sake Barrel Craftsmanship Deemed Cultural Heritage

Originating in the Edo Era, the traditional handmade barrels of the Nada region of Kobe scored Important Cultural Property status from the Agency of Cultural Affairs on February 8th.

The barrels are a marvel of craftsmanship. Without using any nails or adhesives, the barrel-makers of Nada create watertight vessels for sake distribution. Not only that, they’re also made with Yoshino cedar from Nara Prefecture, said to be the best in Japan.

These barrels were originally used to transport sake between Kobe and Osaka during the Edo era. The smell of the cedar would mix in with the sake, creating a sake with a pleasant aroma that gained traction with drinkers of the time.

As bottling took over in the sake industry, though, demand for Nada barrels gradually faded. But now, thanks in part to its newfound cultural status, this craftsman art will be preserved for generations to come through initiatives such as the Taru Sake Meister Factory, established in 2017 by Kiku-Masamune Sake Brewing. Here visitors can watch and learn the ways of the Nada barrel makers firsthand.

LINK: 神戸新聞NEXT | 2019/02/08 | 江戸から続く「灘の酒樽技術」が選択無形文化財へ

Hinomaru Brewery Holding VR Tours from Anywhere in the World

Like many sake breweries, Hinomaru in Yokote City, Akita Prefecture, struggled with the pros and cons of allowing brewery tours. On one hand, it’s great publicity and an opportunity to connect with customers. On the other hand, letting people into the delicate brewing environment leaves the sake vulnerable to contamination.

So, Hinomaru came up with the next best thing and teamed up with the tech whizzes at 3D + One to create a virtual reality (VR) brewery tour! The best part is you don’t even need special goggles to enjoy all the sights and sounds of Hinomaru’s inner sanctum. Areas never before open to the public can easily be explored from any computer, smartphone, or tablet via the VR experience.

A version of the VR tour with more immersive goggles can also be taken at the brewery itself along with a tasting and small tour around the outside of the historic structure that’s stood since 1908. Users can move around freely with a remote control, mouse, or touch screen and access explanations of equipment during the virtual tour.

Far from a mere PR gimmick, this technology can also help Hinomaru present itself to potential business partners anywhere in the world.

If you’ve ever wanted to take a brewery tour but haven’t been able to come to Japan, Hinomaru Brewery and 3D + One’s VR tours are a surprisingly realistic alternative.

LINK: 酒蔵PRESS | 2019/01/31 | 【取材レポ】日の丸醸造が「VR蔵見学」を導入!記事内で最新VR体験を!

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