Love brought Tony Mitchell to Japan, but sake became one of the reasons he stayed — as well as the reason he ultimately left. In 2011, Mitchell, now the production manager of the recently opened Dojima Sake Brewery, situated an hour and a half from London, moved to Fukuoka Prefecture to marry his long-distance sweetheart. He had been bitten by the sake bug on his previous trips to the country, and when a visit to Wakatakeya Sake Brewery in Fukuoka Prefecture resulted in an offer to work there for a season, he jumped at the chance: "I was like, 'Hell, yes!'" he effuses, the enthusiasm palpable even via email.

His new bride, however, was less than thrilled. She balked at the long hours and relatively low pay. He pleaded; she resisted. Eventually she relented, after Mitchell promised to "get a real job" once the stint was over. He kept his word, taking a position at the British Embassy in Tokyo four months later, but the dream of making sake lingered.

"After having a near-religious experience in the brewery, I was always thinking about how to get back to being a brewer," he recalls.