I was recently talking to a group of sake enthusiasts and had the opportunity to answer the question "how did you become so interested in sake?" My honest answer "I enjoy sake but really it is Japanese culture that I love." So years ago when I learned that Tokyo would be hosting the Olympics in 2020, the excitement started building. The Olympics are a wonderful platform to learn about a country, its people, history, artistry, etc. I could not wait to see how the buildings would be designed and the Opening Ceremonies would be choreographed.
When I visited Japan in February 2020, a mere five months out from the start of the 2020 Games, Olympic fever was in full swing. Hotels had been build all around Tokyo with a more Western aesthetic in anticipation of the attendees. I caught a glimpse of the burgeoning Olympic advertisements starting to pop up in stores. And the people I met with punctuated many of our conversations with their thoughts on the summer events.
Unfortunately COVID hit with such unexpected force and the world was upended, postponing the Olympics to the summer of 2021. So these last few months I, along with so many, have been anxiously awaiting to see how the Olympics would move forward, knowing that any decision would be difficult and met with some degree of criticism.
Understandably, it appears that a more muted version of the Olympics will be presented. The most disappointing aspect for me is that Japan, above all other countries, is the best host. Japanese culture is steeped in presentation. The past is given such reverence that it remains both relevant and otherworldly. And somehow there also remains an enthusiastic energy for modernity, novelty, and futurism. While it is a little disappointing that the world will not get to see Japan as host in full effect, I will still eagerly be watching, curious to see how the beautiful pageantry unfolds.
In that previously mentioned talk with the group of Japanese enthusiast, I shared two fun facts that I recently learned about breweries we have connections to. First, the Ozeki Platinum Junmai Daiginjo comes from the popular Ozeki Brand. In 1964, the Ozeki brewery launched the Ozeki One Cup to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics. That single serving cup of sake was popular enough to change the industry standard. Today, single serving cups and cans of sake, shochu, and beer can easily be purchased in convenience stores and vending machines. This sake trend is starting to make its way into the Western market.
Second, the Kurosawa Nigori brew, developed in the famous Nagano mountain region, was launched into the US Market in 1998, the same year that the winter Olympics were hosted in Nagano, Japan. The brew was a huge success due to its rich flavor, premium quality, reasonable pricing, and its launch coinciding with the Nagano Olympics.