The number of infected people in other countries and regions has been kept under control by their democratic governments, however the number of infected people in Japan is clearly much higher than its closest neighbors, twice as much as South Korea when comparing the population. As a Japanese, I am a bit shocked to see us revealing such weaknesses.
Many say the Prime Minister is to blame, or that the Liberal Democratic Party is to blame, or that the Ministry of Health and Welfare hasn’t managed the situation well enough, or that politicians and media are to blame for stirring up a sense of crisis in society. I believe that blaming someone for some sort of relief to unload, is not going to solve our problems at all.
Lately, I’ve been thinking that when you get right down to it, I guess it comes down to the inherent problems of our own society.
For example, the fact that PCR tests in Japan haven’t been increasing is probably because of our society, too serious: we just had to do every PCR test properly, checking every small little detail, which does not make sense in the end.
But vaccines also, could have been developed by Japanese companies with our own technology, right? Well no. The Japanese society requires its Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) that no risks should be taken: in turn, restricting any development from national pharmaceutical companies.
As a result, it is not clear whether the vaccine will really be supplied in the required quantities by overseas pharmaceutical companies, and it remains unclear when the vaccination will really start in Japan, while it has already started in Europe and the USA. It seems to me that we, the Japanese people, are the only ones who have brought about this situation upon us.
The end of this story is that if our society is the problem, then solving the problem of coronaviruses will be quite a long process. I think we should be prepared for at least four or five more years.
So what does this mean for Dassai? We're not politicians, so we can't change the structure of society, but we do hope to contribute to it through our sake making.
The first thing we must do is to survive in this difficult situation. It means to firstly protect the jobs of our employees. Secondly, we must protect the farmers who have worked with us to ensure on keeping purchasing about 8,000 to 10,000 tons of Yamada Nishiki from them to make Dassai. It's about protecting the economy where we can.
In order to achieve this, the most important thing is to make sake that our customers would support: in other words, a good sake. But also, and it has become a noticeable trend over the last year, we will be shifting the weight of our sales from Japan to overseas. I think that in this year's results, overseas sales will be almost 60% of the total. There is some subtle resistance to that around us, but I think it is inevitable.
And, persistent as it may seem, I believe that what makes this possible is "how much we can maintain excellence in quality". We are aware that some people have been critical of our approach in sake making: while pursuing the best sake, we use the best rice available, the best and most up-to-date techniques, and we believe that there is no tradition in sake making.
We know that some criticism comes from not wanting to break the framework of the current sake industry: "We don't want to drink sake made with data and technology", "We want to drink sake made with local rice", "We want to drink sake made by a toji wearing a happi coat, breathing white breath on a cold winter morning". But we're not going to give in to that. If we give in to it, we'll end up like the Japanese measures against the coronavirus, which don't work very well.
To change the subject a little bit, recently I have been thinking a lot about the composition of the world wine market, and I think that it is thanks to the Bordeaux wines, which acted as a pillar, that the world wine market was formed. If there had been no Bordeaux wines and only Burgundy wines, then the wine world would have been a bit weaker. The South of France, for example, has good wine but no leaders on the market. And without France, I think California and Chile wines would have been very different from what they are today.
In baseball, if you don't throw a fastball straight down the middle, no matter how good your change of pace is, it won't shine. If sake is going to go out into the world and there are no straight pitches and only changing pitches, the sake market will not be healthy. At Dassai, we want to throw a fastball right down the middle.
And there are things that we can do especially because we are Dassai, things that only Dassai can do, and we see it as our mission to do them. In my next article, I will talk a bit about what we should be doing now.
By the way, this month's issue of Nikkei Trendy magazine has a special feature on "Predicting the breakthrough of drinking at home”. And in a survey of 1,000 Nikkei readers, Dassai came out on top in both the "sake you'd want to order when entertaining important clients" and the "sake you thought was the best you'd ever had" rankings.
It's a great reward for all the hard work of our staff who, despite my occasional outbursts, have been building up their skills to produce the best possible sake. I'd also like to thank all of you for choosing Dassai as the winner by an almost unbeatable margin. Thank you very much.