I am always pleased to see positive articles about sake in the media. The Japan Times Online recently published an excellent article, Foreign Sake Experts Win Over Hearts, Palates, discussing how passionate, non-Japanese sake lovers have been promoting this fascinating drink.
Two individuals are specifically highlighted: Philip Harper, the first foreign Toji (master sake brewer) and John Gauntner, the only non-Japanese certified Sake Expert Assessor and certified Master of Sake Tasting. Both men have done plenty to spread the love for sake outside of Japan, and John (who I have met) is a very skilled instructor. If the sake industry in Japan, which has been on a decline for many years, is to be saved, it will be through increased exports to the rest of the world. These two men have made significant contributions in this regard, helping to fuel a desire for sake outside of its Japanese borders.
In further good news, Japanese exports of sake hit a record high in 2010, topping the previous record from 2008. Much of this success is due to "steady distribution and to a recovery in the U.S., the world's top importer." In 2010, Japan exported 13,770 kiloliters of sake worth ¥8.50 billion, and the U.S. claimed roughly 25% of that total, about 3,705 kiloliters worth ¥3.2 billion. South Korea was the second highest importer, with 2,590 kiloliters (¥1.17 billion), and Taiwan was in third place, with 1,639 kiloliters (¥501.91 million).
I am doing my own small part to spread a passion for sake, promoting it in the Boston area through classes, seminars, dinners, tastings and more. I have seen some success, the surprise and joy in people's faces when they taste a sake they enjoy. Let us hope that continues.