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Nihonshu, or sake as it is known to the rest of the world, is selling well overseas. According to a recent report by Mainichi newspaper, Ministry of Finance trade statistics for January to November exports indicate that more sake than ever before has been flowing out of the country. To be precise, 12,223 kiloliters of sake, breaking the record of set in 2008 of 12,151 kiloliters. An upturn in the global economy and an increase in interest in Japanese cuisine both seem to be factors driving the boom. Countries importing sake included the U.S., China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and North Korea.

“In truth, the trend has been going on for about 15 years or more,” sake expert John Gauntner said in a recent e-mail. “And every year a new record was set, until the Lehman Shock in ’08, and sales dropped again in ’09, only to rebound in 2010. There are a million things behind the long trend, but the gist of it all is that people overseas are finally coming to understand what good sake is all about. At the same time, more and more premium sake is becoming available as the distribution system realizes its potential. The big problem now is the exchange rate. If it were not for that the growth would be much, much better!”

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