Japan sake pours overseas as local market dries up

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OME, Japan: Ozawa Shuzo brewery hums with activity as boxed bottles of sake are loaded onto trucks. But with the domestic market shrinking, more and more of it is bound for burgeoning overseas markets where the centuries old drink is all the rage. The small establishment has recently drawn interest from potential new customers in Thailand, Vietnam and South Korea, on top of a coterie of existing ones in the United States, France and Singapore. Sake, a fermented drink made of rice, has hit hard times in its homeland amid changing tastes, but manufacturers are welcoming growing popularity overseas. A steady flow of tourists visiting Ozawa Shuzo could be a sign of things to come. “We cannot easily go abroad to explain what sake is all about, so by doing this (tours) at our brewery I hope visitors will get a better understanding of its value,” Junichiro Ozawa, president of the 300-year-old Ozawa Shuzo, told Agence France-Presse at his brewery on Tokyo’s mountainous western fringe. Underlining sake’s increasing global renown, the influential guide Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate this month issued ratings for the beverage. Sake exports have doubled in the past decade to some 18,180 kilolitres, according to Japanese government figures, with the United States the largest single foreign market, accounting for about one-quarter of the total. Impressive growth, but that is just three percent of total shipments, suggesting plenty of room for further expansion abroad.

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AFP

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