Water tasting against a water purifier machine”

I once appeared on the Fuji TV-produced variety show [Hoko x Tate], which aired on December 18, 2011. It was a show where some experts had to compete with each other on a specific subject. I was on a business trip when they contacted me to appear on the show. I accepted without asking for much details, thinking it would be good publicity anyway. By the time I got back to my office, they had sent me a proposal for the show, which was essentially a contest where we had to taste different kinds of water and find out which was the filtered water among the natural ones.

We do a lot of tastings in our line of work too but the point is never to guess the brand, it's to find the flaws in our own sake. I believe it is more useful to be able to find the flaws of what you taste than to find the good points. I was not quite sure this could be applied to a “water tasting” or not.

The recording was at Mitsubishi Rayon (now Mitsubishi Chemical) office in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture. It was then and there that I first learned I was dealing with one of their product, “Cleansui”. They asked me to guess the water filtered by Cleansui among five cups of water. There was a bunch of Mitsubishi’s employees and me, alone. That was actually a good thing. I might have been nervous if some of my own staff had been there with me. Because strangely enough, I wasn't nervous at all. Thinking back, I think I was really lucky. You see, the correct answer was the third one from the right; if it was the first one, it would have fooled me into thinking that this was a standard, natural water. If it was the last one, I think I would have been under too much pressure. But while tasting the third one, I found it too “clean”. It did not have the distinctive flavor of the standard, natural water. I could clearly see the difference.

Anyway, I was relieved to have guessed right during the tasting, but the most amazing was yet to come. Right after the broadcast, my staff told me the phone had not stopped ringing back at the office.

 In the same year, we were the first Japanese sake to receive a kosher license. Now all of our sake had a “K” symbol on the label representing it was kosher. I figured that for our sake to be exported and consumed abroad, we could not ignore the need for Jewish people to know they could enjoy our products without worrying. So when we looked into the kosher license standards, it seems as though we just had to show them what we usually do, like using the proper ingredients, no cross-contamination, etc. But as we were the first sake to apply for it, it took us at two whole years. I was surprised when the rabbi suddenly came to our sakagura. He looked at the production process and asked a lot of questions. It was an unannounced inspection. Since then, he still comes twice a year for regular inspections.

In Japan, no one really cares about the kosher mark but in other countries, it's different. Last year, a restaurant in France asked me to supply them with Dassai bottles without the kosher mark on the label. They were saying some customers of them would come to the restaurant and complain they would serve a “kosher sake”. Eventually, I refused, saying that if our sake was posing a problem to some of their customers, they would just have to stop buying our sake.

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