Thirty Million Yen Awarded in Yamadanishiki Project 2021
Every year the makers of Dassai sake, Asahi Shuzo, hold a contest honoring the farmers who produce the best Yamadanishiki sake rice, and this year the grand prize went to Takada Nosan in Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture.
For winning the Yamadanishiki Project 2021, Asahi Shuzo will purchase 60 bales of rice from Takada Nosan for 30 million yen (US$263,000), which is about 25 times the standard market value. Asahi Shuzo will buy about 10 million yen (US$88,000) worth of rice from second place winner Fujita Seimaindo.
Masato Takada of Takada Nosan said he was surprised to have won first place, adding that he would use the money to buy better machinery and try for back-to-back victories next year. His farm is located in Okayama Prefecture which is more famous for Omachi sake rice, but he hopes this win will help boost the reputation of the area’s Yamadanishiki too.
Yasuaki Sugano of Fujita Seimaindo was especially proud of the achievement. Even though his farm is located in Hyogo Prefecture, which is most famous for Yamadanishiki production, it is outside of the region’s highly reputed “Special A District.” Kanno hopes the award will inspire other farms like his who might feel overshadowed by the more famous rice producing sub-region.
The Yamadanishiki Project has been held since 2019 and is open to all rice growers who have contracts with Asahi Shuzo, with a criteria to create a harvest of Yamadanishiki rice that best suits the brewing of Dassai sake. Previously, a bottle of sake brewed from the 2019 winner sold for 840,000 yen ($7,400) at a Sotheby’s auction.
Taiwanese students craft sake sets inspired by Fushimi, Kyoto
To help raise awareness of sake in Taiwan, the Fushimi Sake Brewery Association and transportation company Keihan Holdings sponsored an art project with Shin Chen University in Taiwan to create sets of sake cups that capture the spirit of sake brewing in Kyoto.
The project launched in May 2021, and Sally Lin, a product designer with Shin Chen University, led a team of Taiwanese students in learning about Kyoto. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 restrictions, travel between the two countries proved too difficult. Instead, students from the Kyoto University of the Arts and the design firm Graf volunteered to research Kyoto’s sake-making Fushimi district, its history and environment, in an effort to provide inspiration to the students in Taiwan.
After the sake sets were created, an examination was held in December of 2021 and a grand prize awarded to a set of glass cups titled “Reflect” by Liu Yu. Yu-Ching Chen won the Fushimi Sake Brewery Association Special Award for the edgy “Repair Bamboo Charcoal” cup design.
Exhibits of the works kicked off on January 19 in both Japan and Taiwan. The Taiwanese exhibit was held at Taipei’s Honghui Ruiguang until January 26, and the Japanese exhibit will continue till February 27 at the Good Nature Station gallery in Kyoto.
Sake-flavored salt hits market in three flavors
Sakata no Shio, a salt maker in Sakata City, Yamagata Prefecture, has developed a salt infused with sake called Tora to Geko.
Tora to Geko comes in three flavors; “Ginjoshu,” with a sweet and highly polished ginjo sake flavor infusion; the more complex taste of aged sake in “Koshu”; and “Sake Kasu,” which uses the leftover sediment from sake-making known as lees. They are all said to have a slight aroma and aftertaste of sake, and while the salts technically do contain alcohol, the amount is so small that even people with a low tolerance can enjoy it freely.
In fact, the name comes from an old use of “tora” (“tiger”) that indicates someone who loves alcohol, and “geko,” meaning a person who can’t handle a lot of drinks. In that way it’s hoped that Tora to Geko will appeal to people who enjoy the taste of sake while also including those who don’t want to endure the alcohol.
The product is also a way to help sake breweries who are struggling to cope with shrinking demand throughout the coronavirus pandemic. By using sake as a raw material to produce this salt it provides breweries with another revenue source while also keeping the pleasures of sake in people’s minds. Sakata no Shio is currently considering retailers to carry the new product.
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