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This week’s featured article:

(KYODO, STAFF REPORT) The National Tax Agency is considering defining “Japanese sake” as a home-brewed alcoholic drink made from Japanese-grown rice, in order to differentiate it from foreign-brewed sake, according to sources.

The agency is mulling the definition to improve the brand of Japanese sake and help give a boost to its overseas sales, the sources said Tuesday.

Members of the World Trade Organization have agreed to the use of “geographical indications” for products whose origins are linked to their quality.

As there has been no clear definition of sake, the agency is planning to decide by the end of this year on the geographical indication of Japanese sake.

Amid a global Japanese food boom in recent years, moves to produce sake are spreading abroad.

If the envisaged geographical indication is approved by other countries, Japan can ask them not to sell foreign-made sake as Japanese.

A Japanese sake specialist welcomed the proposed move, saying it is worthy of “big applause.”

Toshie Hiraide, who works to promote Japanese sake internationally for domestic sake promotion group Sake Samurai, said the change would push forward a national discussion to encourage Japanese sake brands internationally.

The move is a very important step “for bucking up the value of Japan-made products,” she said, especially given that domestic sales are declining.

But Japanese-made sake is becoming increasingly popular overseas. The value of exports of Japanese sake increased to ¥11.5 billion in 2014, setting a record for the fifth consecutive year, according to statistics provided by the National Tax Agency.

The top three importers are the United States, Hong Kong and South Korea.

The volume of sake exports has also broken the record for five consecutive years. Some 16,316 kiloliters were sent overseas in 2014, according to the agency.

First published in The Japan Times on June 11.

Warm up

One-minute chat about made-in-Japan products.

Game

Collect words related to sake; e.g., “bar,” “rice,” “party.”

New words

1) mull: to consider; e.g., “We need to mull over our next plan.”

2) amid: in the middle of; e.g., “Amid all the noise, I couldn’t hear what you were saying.”

3) envisage: vizualize; e.g., “I can’t envisage what might happen.”

4) consecutive: in succession; e.g., “We have consecutive holidays next week.”

5) statistics: numerical data; e.g., “Statistics show that the number of homeless is increasing.”

Guess the headline

Tax agency may narrow de_ _ _ _tion of ‘Japanese s_ _ _’

Questions

1) What is being considered as a new definition of “Japanese sake”?

2) Why might the definition of Japanese sake be narrowed?

3) Which countries are the main importers of Japanese sake?

Let’s discuss the article

1) Do you think the new definition of Japanese sake is a good idea?

2) How do you rate the value of Japan-made products?

3) What do you think is important for Japanese brands to be internationally popular?

Reference

和食ブームの追い風も受け、SAKEは海外に行ってもそのまま通じる日本語の一つとしてすっかり定着しました。日本酒のパーティーなどに行くと、日本各地から集まった数多くの酒とともに、アメリカなどの海外生まれのSAKEも紹介されていることがあります。しかし、今後はそのような”国際的な”日本酒を見かける機会はなくなりそうです。

この改正が実現すると日本の産業には大きな特権となると同時に、これまで地元生まれのSAKEを気軽に飲んでいた海外の人から見れば日本酒が少し遠い、貴重なものに変わっていくのかもしれません。

それでもその味と魅力によって、SAKEがこれからも世界中の人々にますます愛される存在となっていくことを期待したいものです。

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