TEL AVIV – A sake brewery in Fukui Prefecture is looking to bring the taste of rice wine to Israel to strengthen relations with a prefecture that has strong historical links to the Jewish nation, links that date back to the 1940s.
Jewish refugees passed through Fukui Prefecture after fleeing Europe with transit visas issued by Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who served as Vice Consul at the Consulate in Lithuania during World War II.
“I’ll be glad if the people of Israel can enjoy the taste of Born sake, and I hope this will lift their interest in Japan,” said Atsuhide Kato of the Kato Kichibee Shoten, producer of a series of special sake brews from Sabae, Fukui Prefecture. Born is a flagship product in its line-up.
Kato added that, knowing the historical connection between Fukui and Israel, he had thought about distributing the brand in the Israeli market since the time he first began planning to turn his business into an international brand.
Sugihara’s rescue of the Jews has been dubbed “Visas for Life.” It has been honored by the Israeli government.
Disobeying orders from the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo, Sugihara issued transit visas to Jews who faced persecution by the Nazis, enabling them to flee to Japan.
Many traveled to Vladivostok, Russia, on the Trans-Siberian Railway, from where they were transported to Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture.
Their stories are showcased at the Port of Humanity Tsuruga Museum, which documents the history of the city as a landing place for refugees.
In the hopes of meeting the strict standards of Jewish dietary laws, Kato Kichibee’s founder applied for kosher certification.
He described the taste of the brewery’s flagship product, Born, as “characterized by its refined aroma and velvety flavor with umami depth.”
Kato also revealed he plans to use local companies to distribute Born to eateries and other facilities all over the country.