• Jiji


Peanuts grown in an area hit hard by powerful typhoons last year are being used to make distilled shōchū spirits in another prefecture affected by torrential rains in July this year.

The product, connecting typhoon-hit Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, with deluge-affected Kumamoto Prefecture in southwestern Japan, has been named “Kinohana,” made up of two kanji characters, one meaning bonds and the other flowers.

In September and October last year, Typhoon Faxai and Typhoon Hagibis, the 15th and 19th typhoons of the year, respectively, damaged more than 60,000 houses in Chiba.

Yoishigotookoshi Network, which offers business opportunities with cooperation from credit union banks across Japan, launched a project to make shōchū in Kumamoto from peanuts grown in Chiba, the country’s largest production site for the crop, as part of reconstruction efforts.

Kazusaya, a processor and seller of peanuts based in Kisarazu, Chiba Prefecture, has provided some 200 kilograms of peanuts for the project, after suffering damage at its property from typhoon winds.

Workers at Kazusaya removed the brown skins of roasted peanuts manually so the raw material inside could be processed more easily.

“It was hard work with a time limit,” Hisatoshi Suzuki, the 65-year-old president of Kazusaya, recalled.

The production of Kinohana started as soon as the processed peanuts were delivered to the long-established Fukano Shuzo sake brewery in Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto Prefecture, in early March.

“As if passing a baton, I felt like helping Chiba next,” Seiichi Fukano, the 48-year-old president of Fukano Shuzo, said, referring to the support Kumamoto received from Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, when it was hit by powerful earthquakes in 2016.

But heavy rains devastated southern parts of Kumamoto in July, causing the Kuma River to overflow and the deaths of 20 people in Hitoyoshi.

According to the Kuma Shochu Distillation Union, around half of the eight sake breweries in Hitoyoshi were destroyed or heavily damaged by the disaster, with Fukano Shuzo having a narrow escape.

“I’m happy the disaster didn’t ruin the shōchū we made for reconstruction,” Fukano said.

A total of 1,000 bottles of Kinohana, with a hint of the scent of peanuts, are expected to be distributed to people linked to the project.

Kyoji Kawamoto, the 58-year-old head of Johnan Shinkin Bank, which serves as secretariat for the project, expressed hopes that Kinohana “will spread support for Chiba and Kumamoto, which are both still in recovery.”

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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