Sake makers to get prominent boost from JTA

by Hiroko Nakata

Staff Writer

The Japan Tourism Agency wants to promote sake breweries to foreign tourists to tap the drink’s growing popularity abroad and bolster regional economies, the agency said Thursday.

At a meeting Tuesday, JTA will urge sake makers, tourism bodies and transportation companies to network and share information on any successes they’ve had marketing the fermented beverage. Some of the breweries leading the way are in Kashima, Saga Prefecture, Kobe’s Nada Ward and Kyoto’s Fushimi Ward.

“The Japan Tourism Agency is promoting a new type of tourism, and sake cellars are part of the country’s tourism resources,” JTA official Koji Minakuchi said.

Kashima has been actively promoting combined tours to cover not only the facilities themselves, but its regional history as well. The city is planning several events involving sake makers and is designing a map to show their locations.

Although sake’s popularity has been steadily declining for years within Japan, it is gaining attention around the globe along with a growing appetite for Japanese cuisine.

Sake exports more than doubled in the past decade, hitting ¥8.78 billion in fiscal 2012 compared with ¥3.52 billion in fiscal 2002. The United States, South Korea and Taiwan are ranked as the top three sake importers in the latest data.

Meanwhile, the number of domestic sake makers fell by 19 percent in the same period, with licensed brewers dwindling to 1,736 in 2010, from 2,152 in 2000.

The JTA plans to attract 10 million travelers this year, bringing the number of foreigners back to predisaster levels.