Japanese sake is more than just a drink. It’s a story, a tradition, a culture, a lifestyle choice and a passion. From the people who brew nihonshu to the distributors and importers who sell it, there’s a real love for promoting something that’s been on a decline throughout Japan.
There’s roughly about 1600 sake breweries in Japan, yet that number used to be much higher and preserving this tradition has become paramount for many small-scale breweries.
Yuki Imanishi and Kyoko Nagano are on a mission to keep the livelihood of small sake breweries alive with Sake Lovers. Built on a love of craft production and heritage, Sake Lovers has a great story to tell.
Championing the little guy
Sake Lovers was founded in 2018 by Imanishi, who decided to leave her job in electric machinery to champion sake breweries.
Working with 100 small breweries that are mostly located in rural areas, Sake Lovers aims to address the issues of dwindling sales due to local population decline. These breweries include places such as Kamigokoro Shuzo, Isaka Shuzo and Ishizuka.
In an interview with The Japan Times, Imanishi stated how she wants to help the breweries to keep operating. “These days, those breweries have to try and sell their sake in far-away places like Tokyo or foreign countries, but they don’t have the staff or budget to do that. That’s where I can help. They need help telling their story.”
Kyoko Nagano is also helping Sake Lovers gain awareness in western markets through producing content in English and creating partnerships. Both women are extremely passionate about what they do and they are telling the stories of small breweries in different ways.
Brewery tours and virtual tastings
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Imanishi has been running several virtual sake tastings to help promote nihonshu to people in different countries. When restrictions ease, there’s also going to be a focus on brewery tours so there will be the opportunity to see how nihonshu is produced.
It’s thanks to the efforts of brands like Sake Lovers that the story of nihonshu can continue to be told and niche breweries are able to survive. Be sure to check out the online store and order a bottle to show your support.