When two foreign nationals dipped their toe into the traditional sake brewing industry as sales staff, they not only discovered the intricacies of the beverage, but they also came to understand the unique aspects of working in one of the country's most traditional industries.

The two women — American Kelley Kaminsky, 28, and Chen Hsiao-jou, 26, from Taiwan — are now working as apprentices to learn the ins and outs of sake brewing from a producer with a more than 160-year history in Hyogo Prefecture.

Nishiyama Shuzojo Co., known worldwide by sake connoisseurs for its award-winning Kotsuzumi brands, has tried to modernize its company practices to respond to the decline in the consumption of alcohol in Japan, including by hiring women and foreign nationals at its kura (brewery) from around 2013.