#525 -【Life in New York: Chapter1】
Thanks to your well wishes, I arrived safely at New York’s JFK Airport a little after 10:30 am on March 20. I headed straight for Hyde Park, and began my first day of life in the U.S.
I spent the whole day unpacking and went to the brewery on the following day. The construction of the brewery was almost complete, and the preparation of koji for the trial production sake is also underway. However, the start-up process was quite a slap in our faces. Even the elite brewing team from Japan probably faced some unexpected events.
For example, even though the first- and second-generation brewery managers are here, they were not involved in actual sake brewing tasks for several years, so their practical skills were not very good. (I guess mine would be worse off.) As expected, all three of them were huffing and puffing when making koji.
We were initially concerned about the local American staff, but they had proved themselves worthy of their jobs; following instructions even though they do not understand it yet. Well, it never crossed our minds that it would be so much work giving them instructions.
My “treat” for being an expat, the Ford Mustang, was waiting for me in the parking lot of the brewery. My first new car in 30 years! It is a white coupe because I did not get to choose the exterior color due to the timing. I really wanted a white body with blue stripes, which I had longed for since I was a boy, but I had no choice. Also, the interior is not so stylish as you would expect from an American car. I guess it’s a bit of a stretch to expect something like that.
However, the best part came when I started the engine. The sound of it was amazing. The power is absolutely great too! 475 horsepower, can you imagine? This is the car with the most horsepower in the history of my life. But that’s what makes it good. Since I am not used to driving on the right side of the road, I have difficulty getting into the flow of traffic. I also would have been chased by the cars behind me, but I could catch up with the car in front of me if I stepped on the pedal slightly.
While I was busy doing all these, the annual meeting of the UN Water Conference , the biggest event of the first half of my visit to the States, began its session on March 23~24. You may wonder what the UN and Dassai have to do with each other. The Japan Water Forum (JWF) is an organization chaired by former prime ministers, and His Majesty Emperor Naruhito was an honorary advisor to the JWF when he was Crown Prince.
Through a chance connection with this organization, I was given the opportunity to help host a reception at the Japan Society near the United Nations building. We decided to hold the reception because both the forum secretariat and I agreed that we want to promote Japan’s presence in the world through this event.
Here is a copy of my speech I gave at the reception. It includes some of my thoughts and I would be deeply honored if you will read it.
“First of all, I would like to thank you all for being here.
My name is Hiroshi Sakurai and I am the chairman of a sake brewery called Dassai, which is sponsoring this reception today. In fact, we are in the process of opening a new sake brewery in the beautiful city of Hyde Park, about 93 miles north of Manhattan. The building is already completed and the sake produced there will be available to the American public in summer. The sake will be named DASSAI Blue, and it will be a fusion of Japanese and American culture.
Please lend me your ears.
Sake was born in Japan. It is a product of the history of the Japanese people, and the abundance and quality of water in the Japanese archipelago.
However, this blessing of water can sometimes turn on us.
This was our experience 5 years ago. The area in which our brewery is located was hit by torrential rains. The rainstorm took the life of an elderly man in the neighborhood, and our brewery was also severely damaged.
We are blessed and sustained by water yet we are exposed to the fear of water-related disasters at the same time.
In order to make a comeback, we wanted to achieve something more beautiful and more advanced than it was prior to the catastrophe. Hence, we replaced the previous bridge. In place now is a beautiful bridge with wooden parapets designed by the renowned architect Kengo Kuma.
Since ancient times, mankind has been sustained by the blessings of water. On the other hand, we were also continuously exposed to the destructive force of water. However, we have also evolved as a result of these disasters. We must not forget that the flooding of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers created fertile lands, which led to the dawn of the Mesopotamian civilization.
Water is both a blessing and a great terror to mankind, but it is essential in pushing human civilization to evolve in difficult times, using its disasters as miracles. As the head of a sake brewery whose sake is produced mainly by water, I am proud to be able to assist in JWF’s reception.
Last but not least, we have prepared a lot of Dassai for you today. Please enjoy it and have a lovely day. Thank you very much.”
And that’s about all I said. Did everyone pay attention to me? Well, only about 30 people in the front were listening while the others, some 120 guests, were too busy drinking Dassai. I have to find a more effective way. (Hahaha maybe I should start practicing English?)
Still, these 120 guests hailed from all over the world. Some of the participants, such as those from Asia, said they knew or liked Dassai, but most of them were new to the brand. But that did not stop them from drinking contentedly. I was also a bit surprised that Dassai Sparkling was more well received that Dassai 23.
As I was putting off writing and sharing, koji making for the real brewing has actually started, and we received interviews from several TV stations. It is all thanks to your support, that we managed to officially kick off!!!