Okay, Rocketeers, time for a pop quiz: what is Japanese sake? Turns out the question is actually a little more complicated than it looks on the surface.

In Japanese, sake refers to any type of alcoholic beverage. The traditional alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice we call sake in English is called nihonshu in Japanese, literally Japanese liquor.

So “sake” means “nihonshu.” Problem solved, right?

Actually, no. With Japanese food booming internationally, sake producers have been popping up overseas as well to meet local demand. Many of them use traditional Japanese brewing styles, along with Japanese rice, but can the product be called Japanese sake if it’s not made in Japan? Similarly, if a producer in Japan is using imported rice, is his product still “nihonshu” or Japanese sake?

These are the questions currently plaguing Japan’s National Tax Agency, which is considering applying to the World Trade Organization to recognize Japanese sake as a geographical indication, the same way only sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France can be called champagne.

▼ Azuma Kirin, a sake maker in Brazil


It’s expected that the tax agency will begin giving the geographically branded designations of “nihonshu” and “Japanese sake” only to brewers in Japan using local ingredients, thus requiring WTO member countries to crack down on any domestic brewers trying to market beverages under those names.

The final decision is expected to come by the end of the year as part of the government’s wider “Cool Japan” strategy.

Source: Yahoo! Japan News
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