Jun 15 • 22M

Sake Industry News. Issue #66.

Know More. Appreciate More.

Subscribe to listen
Sake Industry News is a twice-monthly newsletter covering news from within the sake industry in Japan.
Episode details

Welcome to Issue #66 of SIN.

Things are definitely starting to warm up here in Japan. Combine that with a slow onset of the rainy season and unbearable humidity slowly creeping in, and it's bound to lead to some bad hair days. 

Sake events continue to go from strength to strength. It's clear that breweries have decided this is the year to get things back on track. Of course there are concessions, limitations and the ubiquitous masks, but it's better than nothing at all, so we'll take it! 

For now, we're going to enjoy the summer sake and the remaining pleasant weather before the heat really sets in. 

Price Hike For Brewing Giant

Hyogo- One of Japan's largest breweries, Hakutsuru has announced its intentions to implement a 5-10% price hike on 150 of its products from October 1.

The products affected by the increase all fall under the brewery's Hakutsuru and Maru labels. The highly popular pack 2-liter Maru pack sake will increase from 1606JPY to 1719JPY, while Hakutsuru junmai daiginjō 720ml will rise from 1093JPY to JPY1153JPY.

The last time Hakutsuru increased its prices was in 2013, however the brewery cites cost increases in energy and distribution among the reasons behind this year's inflation. Transportation and energy costs have risen by as much as 35% compared to last year. Despite rice prices remaining steady, packing costs such as plastic wrapping materials and cardboard packing have also increased, further contributing to the need for the company to raise its prices. Hakutsuru is considering raising its  prices for non-sake related products as well in the near future.

As a highly influential brewery and one of Japan's leading sake producers, it is expected a significant number of other breweries could soon follow suit with price increases.

JG: We have seen this coming, as inflation is affecting everything, so I think there are no surprises here. I really do think that Hakutsuru has no other choice, and most of the industry will necessarily follow suit. Still, it is not much of an increase, and we need to be sure to do our best to support the industry anyway! 

白鶴 , まる

Akita Meijō Get Ahead Of The Game 

Akita- Rice farming in Japan is facing troubled times ahead with an aging workforce and a lack of successors to many farms. As an issue that will ultimately affect brewers as well,  Akita Meijō (Ranman) has seen the writing on the wall and taken matters into its own hands. The brewery has been working to secure its own future rice supply by procuring rice fields and property in the region, in hopes the region can revive its image as "the land of sake rice". 

Akita Meijō first began growing its own rice in 2021, starting with 8.2 ha of land, and plantings of Akita Sakekomachi, Hyakuden and Ichihozumi which produced nearly 45 tons of rice. The brewery is looking to grow its fields to 60 ha by 2026.

According to the Sendai Tax Agency, very few of the 230 breweries in the Tohoku region (made up of Akita, Iwate, Fukushima, Miyagi, Yamagata and Aomori Prefectures) grow their own rice; Ichinokura (Miyagi) and Aramasa (Akita) being among the few notable exceptions.

On average, Akita Meijō used 6,000-7,000 hyō of rice (1 hyō = 60kg) annually. The 2021 harvest produced only 730 hyō - barely 10% of the brewery's total usage. 

The number of rice farmers in Japan has dropped by more than 10,000 from 27,780, since 2015! Aging is one of the major issues facing the industry with 71.6% of farmers over the age of 65. 

Akita Meijō is working to create a sustainable system within the local community by paying rental fees to farmers to cover their expenses and also employing farmers who wish to work for Akita Meijō in either the rice fields or the brewery. 

Source - Nikkei

JG: This short story is a great cross-sectional view of the reality facing the industry now. Many brewers feel the same way, i.e. that they must take their rice supply into their own hands, just like it was long ago. As we have seen, though, those companies doing this can really only produce a small percentage of what they need. But it is a start, and that is courageous.

秋田銘醸 , 秋田酒こまち , 百田 , 一穂積 , 一ノ藏 , 新政 , 爛漫

Miyagi Brewery Pays It Forward

Miyagi- It has been a little over two months since a magnitude 6 earthquake shook Miyagi Prefecture on May 16. 

This episode is for paid subscribers