On 31st Dec, I went to Osaka Symphony Hall for the Japan Century Symphony Orchestra’s performance at the countdown concert, then took the bullet train back to Yamaguchi at dawn. Following that, I had a drink with my employees who were working on the second day of the New Year holiday; we had osechi (traditional New Year’s dish) which were gifted to me. The rest of the time was spent in idleness. (It’s the last of three days of the New Year, and after greeting the staff who came to work today, I have no ongoing plans.)

In the midst of all this, I thought about my New Year’s resolution, or rather what I want to accomplish this year. The first thing I want to do, of course, is to get the NY brewery off to good start. In order to do so, I am aiming for a slightly more flamboyant profile with a lower alcohol compared to the present DASSAI. Let’s say about 14% alc. (The current DASSAI is roughly at 15.8%).

Don’t you think this is different from what I usually advocate? I always say, “We do not change the quality of our products to suit the local market, be it the U.S. or other countries we export to. We deliver DASSAI of the same quality worldwide.” Isn’t this contradictory to what I’ve said so far?

It may seem contradictory. However, this is an important step for DASSAI produced in Japan as well.

First, what is the American market like? With the exception of a few Japanese living in the U.S. and Americans who are sake connoisseurs, the majority of Americans do not know what sake is. And even if they are familiar with sake, most of them only know about SAKE, which is marketed with the “cheap” strategy and priced at less than 7 USD per bottle.

If we bring the current DASSAI as it is to the market, only a small number of people will appreciate it, so I think it is easier for Americans to understand the quality of sake if it is vivid and flamboyant. If one does not go, “Wow! This is delicious!” they will not reach for a second glass. Besides, I aim towards a lower alcohol content because I think an alcohol content too deviant from that of wine, which they consume on a daily, is a cause that turns them away from sake.

In fact, the need for lower alcohol content is also apparent in Japan. In the future, we would like to reduce the alcohol content of DASSAI in Japan to the 14% range, with the exception of special products. While we are making many prototypes for this purpose, what’s holding us back this time however, are our customers who understand sake very well. But these customers are absolutely right. They make decent remarks like, “This is too watery,” or “It is too sweet.”

However, when delving into a new genre of low-alcohol sake, various experiments for quality control are essential. To do so, we must turn our backs on the opinions of sake connoisseurs, or we will never attain the balance deemed as a finished product in the end.

On the other hand, here comes the perfect opportunity: People in America have limited knowledge about sake compared with the Japanese. In a sense, sake in America is not acknowledged as widely as in Japan, so we are free to challenge the new world of sake without worrying about the existing sake fans. Furthermore, we can bring back to Japan the knowledge of the optimum quality balance of low-alcohol sake that we gained from this challenge in the U.S. market. This will be a turning point for the quality of DASSAI in Japan as well. Ultimately, DASSAI consumed around the world, including DASSAI Blue, will be heading in the same direction.

It is probably easier said than done. A series of failures and amendments should be waiting for us. Isn’t it exciting?

★An Embarrassing Confession for the Old Year★
I have a long list of situations in which I have generally failed or embarrassed myself, and this is the latest addition. At the end of the year, a conversation between Ms. Nana Matsuura (concertmaster of the Japan Century Symphony Orchestra) and myself was to be published in a magazine called “Ongaku no Tomo (Friend of Music)”, so both the writer and Ms. Matsuura came to the brewery for the interview.

The photographer wished to take a picture of Ms. Matsuura playing the violin in DASSAI’s fermentation room, so she played a few bars while surrounded by fermentation tanks.

I thought, “Oh! I know that piece,” and asked Ms. Matsuura, “Is it Kreisler?”. But the answer was “Meditation from Thais”. Oh, how embarrassing! To think that this is the chairman of the orchestra…

Speaking of which, I made a similar mistake in the fall. In response to an interview by a newspaper, I shared my experience of a concert I attended when I came to the U.S. for the NY DASSAI Party held in Manhattan last July. The summer concert was held in a plaza near the Juilliard School. I was impressed by the beautiful blue decorations and the audience seemed to enjoy themselves very much. Since it was outdoors, it was commonplace for ambulances to drive by during the performance. I was surprised that no one, including the performers, batted an eyelid to such situations. What’s more, “a classical orchestra even plays jazz.” I shared that story and my thoughts on how “New York’s classical orchestras have a wide range”, but it didn’t make it into the article.

After putting some thought into it, it’s no wonder that I thought it was jazz, being an ignorant man. I think it must be Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”. It is a classical masterpiece representative of American music. Even though it is played in the style of jazz, one cannot simply say “this is jazz” as it is a classical piece. Only this old man ignorant of music would think that this is jazz. Of course, this was not covered in the article. Man, that was so embarrassing!

By the way, the Japan Century Symphony Orchestra, of which this old music ignoramus sits as the chairman has managed to have good prospects in a single fiscal year. Although the accumulated deficit still weighs heavily on the orchestra that has become like a fatherless child, and Governor Hashimoto disliked it so much that he made an example of it among all the orchestras in Osaka, the Japan Century Symphony Orchestra is expected to survive on its own.

Many people were concerned, and we received both material and spiritual support from a lot of people. The orchestra itself has also undergone a self-sacrificing reform (of course, the reformation is still underway). We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all of you and ask for your continued support for the Japan Century Symphony Orchestra.

And of course, DASSAI too. This year, we will continue to take on the challenge under the “strict eyes of sake connoisseurs” in Japan. We aim to make sake that tastes even better than before.