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Exports of Japanese Sake Booming (May 23, 2006)

An event in Beijing showcasing Japanese sake (Jiji)
Now is a great time to be a sake exporter. According to the Ministry of Finance, 9,537 kiloliters of Japanese sake were produced in 2005, an 8% increase over the previous year. The total value of production increased by 18%, or ¥5.3 billion ($48 billion at ¥111 to the dollar) - making 2005 the fifth record year in a row. Interest in Japanese food overseas is one of the factors fueling sake's popularity, and in the United States - the largest export market - sake can now be ordered not just in Japanese restaurants but also in establishments serving French cuisine. Exports to countries like China have also begun in recent years. In particular, provincial makers of high-quality sake brewed from the finest pure rice are putting their efforts into covering slumping domestic sales with exports.

Growing Demand for Chilled Sake
According to statistics from the National Tax Agency, domestic production of sake in fiscal 2004 (April 2004 to March 2005) was 524,000 kiloliters, down 13% from the previous year and less than half the level of 15 years ago. Exports, however, continue to post strong growth, with their value increasing by 50% over the past five years.

The United States is the top importer of Japanese sake, accounting for 31% of the exports. Although many of the major manufacturers already have plants there, most of the sake they produce locally is meant to be drunk hot. But as Japanese restaurants have gone upmarket in recent years, there has been growing demand from top restaurants and bars for sake that is drunk chilled like wine. Makers of fine sake in provincial regions of Japan have therefore begun exporting their wares using refrigerated containers.

Making sake (Jiji)

Sake Tasting in China
Japanese food is presently undergoing a boom in the United States, and the number of Japanese restaurants has increased 180% since the early 1990s to approximately 8,700 as of 2004. Baby boomers looking to enjoy life appreciate the culture of having sake with their meals, and they are playing a major role in fueling its demand.

After the United States, the biggest import markets for Japanese sake are Taiwan and Hong Kong. There is also growing interest in China, particularly in major cities. In March 2006 some 16 provincial brewers that produce high-quality sake held a tasting at a hotel in Beijing, an event that enabled them to introduce the pleasures of sake to a large number of attendees.

The Japan Sake Brewers' Association is holding a sake-tasting event at Tokyo Station from May 16 to August 5. Featuring a standing bar at which visitors can sample 70 fine sakes from all over Japan at the low price of ¥300 ($2.7) per cup, this is the second year of the event, which proved very popular last year.

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Copyright (c) 2006 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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