“Here's Looking at You”: Re-imaging Saké Locally and Globally

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“Here's Looking at You”: Re-imaging Saké Locally and Globally



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Heres Looking at You: Re-imaging Saké Locally and Globally
Patricia Yarrow
Abstract This study examines the relationship between local and global identities associated with Japanese saké as reconfigured in the processes of globalization. Methodology includes visual analysis of saké labels and websites as touchstones to the renewal of cultural identity. Interviews with brewers, promoters, and store owners give personalized insight into the local, regional, and international issues involved. In this paper, I will situate saké in early Japanese literature and myth, and in the emperor ordination ceremonies, in which marriages of saké and food in sacred rites symbolize the union of the new emperor with the people, land, andkamiof Japan. As the Miyako/Kyoto control of Japan established a system of shrines and temples on tax-free land, the local population, property, crops were tallied and taxes collected in the form of rice, which was shipped to storehouses, and led to early banking operations. Accumulated rice converted into saké became a much more efficiently stored, traded, and shipped commodity. The modern era brought bottles, labels, and competition with imported liquors and food. Saké and Japanese food had to share the plate and cup with others. While saké production and farms decreased, increased technological control resulted in more refined products. Another form of saké consumption is through viewing the labels, which communicate information about the sources and producers of the products. The consumer symbolically travels to the place of production through looking at a label. Saké producers and sellers often support local artists, farmers, and food producers by showcasing their products. Local saké associations include several guilds. Regionally, several saké associations and centers continue to display saké and form primary associations for Japanese saké makers and business. Then, taking this outside of Japan for scrutiny of others is the challenge. Strategies include re-localizing products for consumption outside of Japan. This study suggests that saké producers make use of carefully cultivated images. They have established a dialogue between rural and urban indenities by emphasizing the elements of nature and the local dynamics of production on their labels, while situating the products in modern urban settings. The success of that dialogue is now being tested on the plates and cups of the world.
Yarrow, Patricia. 2010. Heres Looking at You: Re-imaging Saké Locally and Globally. In Globalization, Food and Social Identities in the Asia Pacific Region, ed. James Farrer. Tokyo: Sophia University Institute of Comparative Culture. URL: http://icc.fla.sophia.ac.jp/global%20food%20papers/html/yarrow.html Copyright © 2010 by Patricia Yarrow All rights reserved
The developing saké market outside of Japan has not been explored in a comprehensive way. This paper presents my initial foray into forming an overall picture of the globalization of Japanese saké. I undertook an extensive survey of saké websites in Japanese and English, for marketing strategies and export information. The books about saké in English provided further information about the industry and about saké labels. Due to time and resource constraints, a more thorough exploration of the academic theories and arguments has to wait for the follow-up paper to this research. Issues of identity projection and perception, and the trend for the local products to sell more effectively abroad deserve greater attention and articulation.
Yarrow - 1
I used the labels found on the bottles to illustrate my point. Unless noted, the labels and illustrations are from my own archives.
In the following, I refer to the makers of saké (kurabito to indicate )a  sberewsr all persons concerned with the saké making enterprise. The physical locations for making saké (shuzôninn geiwlynrgd.e m    sI aahbevear ifveer  bteog iay )na rIr arte with the local breweries. Shared characteristics, activities, and interests connect the local breweries to a wider regionality and to the consumers who are re-imagining saké beyond regional and national boundaries.
The objective of this paper is to explore issues and trends in the globalization of Japanese saké, primarily artisan premium saké. I examine Japan’s saké breweries as they exist as local and regional entities, neatly enclosed by Japan’s mountains and shores, and also in terms of the portability of Japanese identity markers in the world market. Important issues include language barriers and cultural coding that hinder communication between brewers and foreign consumers.
While the globalization of Japanese saké is influenced by declining market share within Japan, saké has found an unexpected ally: the positive reception on foreign shores due to a confluence of saké enthusiasts and recent trends in international cuisine. The dramatic decline of saké within Japan seems unlikely to reverse; but this fall from dominance is somewhat offset by risk-taking brewers and visionary saké enthusiasts outside Japan. Their strategies may be enough to sustain the remaining artisan saké brewers to emerge as stronger, more interconnected and promising producers on a global scale.
lizalobaGsAaiP cai  nht eonic Regia doS dnnoitoF ,tienestiiaocIdl