• Kyodo

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Major sake producing region Niigata is stepping up efforts to promote its sake brands locally and abroad with plans to establish a new sake course at the local university.

In a joint effort between the Niigata Prefectural Government, Niigata University and Niigata Sake Brewers Association, the course will be the first agreement of its kind in Japan, according to the government.

As part of the deal, people from all over the country and overseas can learn about marketing and other business skills to sell sake abroad as well as the culture and history of the alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice.

“I think people’s interest in sake has been growing. We will give (this project) our full support,” Niigata University President Sugata Takahashi said at a signing ceremony in the city of Niigata in early May.

Niigata Prefecture, the third-largest sake producer in Japan after Hyogo and Kyoto prefectures, will help set up a broad academic framework and expand it, Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama said.

Currently, people can learn about brewing techniques at schools and research institutes in the prefecture, but not about how to sell the product.

The three parties are also considering introducing an internship program at breweries as well as holding exchange events with the brewers association.

Niigata is home to 90 sake breweries, the largest among all prefectures in Japan.

The brewers association introduced a set of standards in 1997 to regulate the quality of locally produced sake. Products not meeting the requirements are not allowed to use the brand name Niigata Sake, it said.

Niigata’s sake is often described as crisp and dry as it is less sweet and lighter than the average sake, according to the association’s website.

“We would like to tell people around the world about the great taste of sake,” Shunji Odaira, head of the brewers association, said at the ceremony.

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