Savouring new wine in old wineskins, the Japanese way

Savouring new wine in old wineskins, the Japanese way

I have long been of the view that most Japanese sake brewers are long on rice polishing, fermenting and koji (yeast) selection skills but short on branding, packaging and marketing.

This display by Kyoto’s Sasaki brewery, which I spotted yesterday in prime position in a popular gourmet and import store in Osaka, further reinforced these impressions.

The Sasaki brewery dates back to 1893 and is a boutique, artisanal producer, sourcing water from Lake Biwa, and uses manufacturing practises passed down by family members. The current President trained in agriculture at a top Japanese university and even wrote a thesis on sake brewing. No doubt a veritable “toji” or sake master.

One of the heirs apparent decided that sake brewing was not his destiny and left for a career in advertising before becoming a rather famous drama actor. A career move that at first was frowned upon by the family, by all accounts. He even adopted a stage name, Kuranosuke Sasaki which cleverly has its roots in “sake” (Kura is a word meaning brewery). 

Lately the brewery has been leveraging the son’s celebrity status to promote their beverages.

So why is the display of Sasaki’s winter sake series wrapped in newspaper? I could not fathom it and neither could my Japanese wife.

If anyone knows, I am interested to learn!

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