At the beginning of the new year, there have been difficult events, especially the  earthquake that struck the Noto Peninsula, which is truly heartbreaking. I pray for the  souls of those who have passed away. It pains my heart to think about how difficult it  must still be for everyone affected and facing challenges. 

There's not much we can do, but we wanted to contribute in some way, so we  made a monetary donation. I don't want to appear self-important in our donation. We  decided to donate from the profits of the sales of Dassai that you all purchased. We  donated a significant amount of one hundred million yen, and we fully understand the  weight of this sum. Thank you all very much. 

For Dassai, standing with the support of everyone in this way, it is truly crucial to  see how Japan can be vibrant. As one of the things we can do, we have been thinking  about "energizing agriculture." It may seem trivial to others what Dassai can do, but we  have taken this seriously. 

For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic when sales were expected to halve,  it was a significant challenge for us to figure out how to maintain the purchase volume of  Yamada Nishiki and, consequently, sustain payments to farmers. We even made sweet  sake with Yamada Nishiki, planned initiatives for purchasing Yamada Nishiki as table  rice, and went as far as producing disinfectant ethanol using Yamada Nishiki as raw  material. Although we thought making alcohol was straightforward, the resulting ethanol  had a surprisingly good aroma, thanks to the power of Yamada Nishiki. Despite its  pleasant fragrance, when asked if it could be consumed, we had to make awkward  excuses like, "It's safe to drink, but please refrain due to alcohol tax regulations." In the  end, we are proud that we managed to maintain the purchase quantity of Yamada Nishiki  in 2020 and 2021. 

The contest to determine the best Yamada Nishiki in Japan was held again this  year at the Imperial Hotel. This year, with a return to our roots, we also organized panel  discussions with the intention of revitalizing Japanese agriculture.

Addressing the issue raised on the day, "Japanese farmers have no right to decide  how much to produce or the power to determine prices. As a result, farmers feel  overwhelmed by a sense of stagnation." Mr. Ebihara, a cultivation farmer from Tochigi,  spoke from the perspective of a farmer, Mr. Nakata Hiroshi, a member of the House of  Councillors and former mayor of Yokohama, spoke from a political standpoint, and Mr.  Katsushi Hirokane, a manga artist who has written about agriculture, shared his thoughts  from a broad perspective on the issues and the ideal state of Japanese agriculture. 

It may sound like self-praise, but even journalists who attended said, "I didn't  realize there was such a perspective," and we believe it was a good discussion. 

And this year's grand prize goes to none other than Mr. Kitajima from Amagi,  Fukuoka, the winner of the second round. The rice from the second-place winner, Mr.  Kunisada from Okayama, was also excellent, but Mr. Kitajima's rice surpassed it. Mr.  Kunisada seemed disappointed. We believe in the resurgence of Okayama. 

By the way, regarding the Yamada Nishiki price increase mentioned in Sake  Brewery Diary Vol.556, we unilaterally informed our business partners in each prefecture  about the price increase. There may be variations depending on the region, but taking  the example of the top-grade rice from Okayama, the prefecture with the second-highest  purchase volume after Hyogo and Yamaguchi, the price per 60kg increased to 2,500 yen,  an increase of just over 11%.  

As a result, the purchase price of Dassai from Yamada Nishiki produced in other  prefectures, such as Okayama and Yamaguchi, became higher than the self-regulated  Hyogo Yamada Nishiki, which had a price increase of 650 yen. I believe this price  increase is justified to ensure that farmers can continue to sustain their businesses and  not fall into the trap of "exploiting enthusiasm."