Since 2015, the weeklong sake-making workshop at Obata Shuzo, one of Sado Island’s sake breweries, has attracted aficionados from across the world, drawn by the unique opportunity to delve into the hard work of brewing.

Sadly, this year fifth-generation brewery owner Rumiko Obata had to cancel the popular workshop. Sake-making is a close-quarters affair, not ideal for social distancing and, of course, she also has to take into account the safety of her Niigata Prefecture island community. “I am holding online tours of the brewing process at the moment, however there is so much one misses out on by not being there in person,” she says.

2020 is proving to be a tough year for breweries. While private consumption of Japan’s alcoholic beverages may be unaffected, the drop in international visitors and those dining out has resulted in a massive decline in sales to restaurants and drinking establishments that has deeply affected sake breweries across the country.