METI plans bilingual app that scans sake labels

JIJI

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry plans to develop a free smartphone app that scans sake labels to provide information in Japanese and English.

The app will display such data as alcohol content, the variety of rice used and recommended drinking temperatures, as well as information on where the breweries are located. It will also display videos about the sake-brewing process.

The move is part of the Cool Japan campaign, a government effort to promote Japanese culture overseas. The ministry plans to release the app in October.

The app will initially be tested on about 10 brands of sake, with coverage slated to expand in fiscal 2016 beginning next April, and beyond. The ministry hopes to eventually cover 1,000 or more of the 1,700 to 1,900 brands available in Japan, officials said.

Takakuwa Art Printing, which prints about 70 percent of the sake labels in Japan, will cooperate with the ministry in providing the data.

According to the National Tax Agency, sake exports in 2014 rose about 10 percent to ¥1.15 billion compared with the previous year, breaking the record for the fifth year in a row.

While there are no standards governing the use of sake labels or definitive translations of sake-related words. The ministry hopes that the app will address these issues and help raise sales overseas.

In another effort to promote overseas sales, the tax agency plans to define only sake made in Japan from domestically grown rice as “Japanese sake.”