With the decline in domestic sales of sake, the best the State Minister of National Strategy, Economic and Fiscal Policy, Motohisa Furukawa, could do was to direct the action towards the international market and to attract more exports. His focus on “Enjoy Japanese National Liquors” campaign seems to have paid off, with reports of improved international sales in fiscal 2011, a first in 16 years.
Domestic sales have plummeted mainly because the young prefer other alcoholic beverages to this traditional local, while skeptics believe that 2011 export sales have upped as a solidarity support towards the tsunami devastation. The Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association (JSS) reports that for fiscal 2011, sake shipments were at 601,807 kiloliters (1.2% increase over 2010), which is the first upward swing since 1995. Brewers in the northeastern Tohoku region have reported a steady shipment gain of about 7%, contributing positively for the national numbers.
According to Koichi Saura, president of sake brewer Urakasumi Saura Co. in coastal Shiogama, Miyagi Prefecture, a lot of people are buying Tohoku sake to help out the disaster areas. His unit too bore the brunt of the March ’11 tsunami. However back on its feet, post disaster sales seem to be better than the pre-disaster numbers. Unfortunalety sake has to compete with many other drinks including wine and shochu, a traditional Japanese drink similar to vodka. In the decade past 2002, 52 sake breweries that have been around for a century or more, have filed for liquidation. Under the “Japan revival strategy” the government will try to expand the Asian market for Japanese agricultural, forestry and marine products, and sake exports.