Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association | JSS
In 2022, Japan submitted an application for traditional Japanese sake brewing techniques, including Japanese sake, honkaku shochu and awamori, to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. The deliberations of the UNESCO Committee are expected to take place during the year 2024.
On this occasion, the Japanese Government decided to organize a symposium followed by a reception, with the theme “the traditional brewing of Japanese sake: a heritage to be preserved”. This event, which aimed to raise awareness of Japanese sake and other Japanese authentic drinks, took place on 2 February 2023 at Maison de la Culture du Japon à Paris (the House of Japanese Culture in Paris), the city where the UNESCO headquarters are located. This symposium was closely followed by sommeliers, wine professionals, the media, journalists, as well as members of UNESCO delegations from 26 countries.
During the first part of the symposium, following the screening of a short introductory video, His Excellency, Makita Shimokawa, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to France, delivered the opening address. Then followed a presentation by Prof. Nami Gotô, former President of the National Research Institute of Brewing, who enlightened the audience on the techniques of making Japanese sake, and the relationship it has with Japanese culture.
In the second part of the symposium, Prof. Nami Gotô was joined at the round table by Prof. Patrick Lucas, professor and researcher in wine microbiology at the Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences, Mr. Grégoire Bœuf, sake producer and founder of the French sakagura “Les Larmes du Levant”, and Mr. Gautier Roussille, agronomist, oenologist, educator and adviser in Japanese sake. The following topics were discussed: “the technical and regional aspects of wines and sake, the question of diversity”, “Sake, Japanese cultural events and traditions” and, finally, “Sake and gastronomy (food-pairing)”.
The reception opened with a speech by His Excellency Atsuyuki Oike, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Permanent Delegation of Japan to UNESCO, followed by the ritual opening of sake casks (Kagami-Biraki). Kagami-Biraki is a traditional ceremony performed in Japan on the occasion of celebrations. It is intended to open the door to “good fortune”.
The Japanese sake tasting session began with a toast by Mr. Shinuemon Konishi, President of the Preservation Society of Japanese Koji-based Sake Making Craftsmanship, which looks after the preservation and use of traditional Japanese sake brewing techniques. An assortment of 7 Japanese sake, 2 honkaku shochu, and one awamori were served with appetizers to introduce participants to the food and sake pairings. Guests enjoyed the opportunity to compare different sake, and were delighted to leave with an ochoko sake glass that was offered to them as a souvenir.
The event was a great success, with participants from all over the world who had previously had very little contact with Japanese sake, as well as journalists from the local press. Guests at the symposium told us that they were delighted to receive detailed and clear explanations on how sake is made, and to have the opportunity to taste the real flavors of Japanese sake thanks to the proposed pairings.
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