#11 From rock bottom to success? by Hiroshi SAKURAI
"Brewing local beer as a countermeasure for summer"
As a child, I wasn't athletic, so I was always last at the 100-meter race. But when I grew up, I came up with a way to win. If you go 90 meters ahead the day before and start from there, then you could win. You may think that it is a stupid idea, but I really believe it. It's the same with school tests. You have to memorize what is taught in class, and there are time limits during the tests. But you see, there is no need to memorize anything to do your job. If you don't know, you can just look it up. And there is no time limit because we have all day.
When I became president of my company in 1984, I would be working 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I never had any hobbies to begin with, I'm not a good golfer and there is no karaoke place around. Some people can forget about work when they get home, but in my case, home and work were the same. Even if you're dumber than others, you can still put in the time to work. That's what I thought at one point, I think it was when I started making daiginjo sake, I thought "We can make it work, just by following sake-making 101 by the book.”
Except for a god-like toji, a really talented toji would follow the recipe and if it did not work, he would be able to fix it. Anyway, after trying to craft sake by the book, it worked, so I became convinced that it was the way. But it must have been uncomfortable for our toji at the time. I kept on asking him to only make daiginjo sake, which took a lot of time and effort. Of course, it would have been much easier to make ordinary, futsu-shu sake. But it paid well! I remember that at the time when the dollar was about 85 yen, I calculated that our toji was paid more than the pilot of a Boeing 747 working at United Airlines. Back then, I thought it was our pride as a sake maker to pay well for the services of a toji, but the toji didn't get it. I don't think he understood. The toji from the Tajima Toji guild would come to craft our sake every season from November until March of the following year. It seemed like he felt like it was too long, he would say he wanted to go back home sooner. The fact was that we actually wanted him to come sooner, to come in September and make a nigori sake. It is a sweet, high-alcohol sake, like doburoku, but it sells very well in December. I would ask him to come earlier in the season, but he never came.
So I asked the local toji to make it, and eventually, I even started to make it myself. The toji, who was initially in his 50s when he started to work with us, was now in his mid-60s. He could quit the job anytime now, so I began to think that I had to train the younger generation somehow. But in order to train young people, then I had to pay their salaries for the summer season. That's when I came up with the idea of making local beer in summer.
Beer is difficult to mass-produce consistently, but on a small scale, not so much. However, I could not possibly ask the Toji to make it, I had no choice but to do this on my own. But when I tried to get a production license, it was difficult to get one just for producing local beer. The authorities would agree to give me the license if I would run a restaurant on the side. It took me more than a year to get a license before I was finally able to get it.
This was the beginning of hell for me.
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