Japanese Government Strives to Make Sake Fans
Shunsuke Takei, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign
Affairs, visited Chicago to strengthen Chicago-Japan relations and promote
Japanese alcoholic beverages, sake and shochu. Consul General Naoki Ito
hosted a sake and shochu event at his official residence on July 24.
Consul General Ito welcomed the guests and said that Japanese Government has promoted exporting sake and other beverages, and sales of sake have increased 10% annually in recent years. “Sake and shochu pair well with Japanese and other cuisines. With a large number of all types of restaurants here, people’s dining experience can be even richer with our beverages, sake and shochu,” he said.
Takei said that sake promotion was one of his Government’s important roles to offer foreign people an opportunity to enjoy Japanese cuisine with sake. “I saw sake is sold at supermarkets in the U.S. and feel that sake has become a familiar item to American people. The size of sake market, however, is only 7% to 8% of the wine, so I would like to ask your cooperation to foster the sake market,” he said.
Takei explained the difference between brewed sake and
distilled shochu, and emphasized that the shochu from his hometown was
made by pure sweet potatoes harvested in the southern Kyushu.
Tona Palomino of TENZING said that most wonderful aspect of sake was many distillations of Japanese culture and the hospitality aspect of Japanese culture through sake. “It is really the most generous way to open yourself,” he said.
Jonathon Edwards of Vine Connection said that the different varieties of sake in Chicago have been deepening connections between sake in Japan and Chicago. He had been educated and trained by professionals in the sake field and said, “Chicago is such a great place for Japanese business as well as food, and people are interested in not only sake but also Japanese food and culture.” “I love most about sake is that we are always trying to communicate to people all the stories, history and tradition behind sake themselves. I encourage all of us who not only working for sake, but also who enjoy sake. That is an avenue towards growing sake even more not only in the U.S., but definitely in the Midwest and Chicago” he concluded.
Interview with Shunsuke Takei
Q: You arrived at Chicago this morning.
Takei: Yes. I met Illinois’ lawmakers and people related to Chicago’s politics and economics. I also visited Japanese companies in this area.
Q: How do you like Chicago?
Takei: It’s a beautiful city with a lot of green. I heard
that someone was saying, “If you go to New York, you will see New York,
but if you go to Chicago, you can see America.” I think that it was really
Q: How is the promotion about sake and Japanese cuisine?
Takei: Promoting sake is very important to revitalize
the local economy in Japan. We have made effort to register Japanese cuisine
as a world cultural heritage. If it were done, I think that sake will
grow together with it..
Takei: I’m going to visit Anchorage tomorrow to meet the people there and of course introducing sake and shochu. I’ve visited about 25 countries since I became Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs last summer. I’m in charge of visiting the North America, Latin America and Africa.
Q: Did you want to become a politician from the beginning?
Takei: I worked in a travel agency after graduated from college. It was an interesting job; however, I began to see people struggling to keep their businesses in my home prefecture, Miyazaki. I thought why those hard-working people had to face such difficulties, so I decided to become a politician.
Q: So, you brought shochu “Kuro Kirishima” today.
Takei: Miyazaki is an agricultural prefecture and losing population due to declining birth rates, so we have to work on revitalizing the economy. There is no easy thing to do, but I want to do one by one and pursue my role.
Q: I heard that you meet Japanese Americans each place you visit.
Takei: Yes. I recently talked with Japanese American people when I went to Colorado. I really think about the hardships that they had endured and worked hard to make strong communities.
Q: Thank you very much.