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Japan plans to push sake as export hit
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2012-07-04 00:00

Move over cars and high tech. Japan, long renowned for its innovative autos and gadgets, now hopes to turn sake and other local spirits into export hits as well.

Tokyo looks to make its traditional rice wine part of national growth strategy, aiming at an overseas marketing push to help bring tourism and investment to struggling rural areas.

The plan is a brainchild of Economics Minister Motohisa Furukawa, who had a eureka moment at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he witnessed sake's popularity among the attendees.

This led him to set up the "Enjoy Japanese Kokushu" (national alcohol)" project, whose six-member body met in late May for the first time.

Its brief: to enhance international recognition of sake and shochu, distilled spirit made from grains such as barley or potatoes, and promote their export.

Sake experts gave the idea a cautious thumbs up.

"Things that are really valuable to countries are ones that are clearly unique to that particular country, which is certainly truly for sake," Philip Harper, a master sake brewer from Britain. "I think it makes a lot of sense as a national strategy to promote sake in that way."

With a history of over 2,000 years, sake is as much a part of Japan as sumo wrestling and sushi. But a loss of popularity at home in recent years, as more drinkers opt for wine, beer and cocktails, has led many brewers to turn their eyes overseas.

They hope to show Japanese consumers the popularity of their national drink in places like the US, hoping to revive the demand for sake at home.

Harper himself provides a good example of sake winning prominence among non-Japanese. A sake that he produced was presented to British Prime Minister David Cameron when he visited Japan in April.

But government participation is essential since many breweries are too small to market their products overseas by themselves, Harper said.

Source:Shanghai Daily 
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