#27 From rock bottom to success? by Hiroshi SAKURAI
“Shima Kosaku and the Heavy Rains recovery”
A manga, in which I am the main character, was just published in July of this year. Moreover, the author is Mr. Kenshi Hirokane, the author of the "Kosaku" series. It relates the story of Dassai’s challenges, is published by Sunmark Publishing, and should soon be released overseas as well. Mr. Hirokane has also featured me in his own very popular manga "Chairman Shima Kosaku" in 2016. My company, Asahi Shuzo, is called “Sakuranuma Shuzo” and Dassai is called “Kassai”. This is the story of me working with Shima Kosaku on a sake production project in Myanmar.
Mr. Hirokane is also from our hometown of Iwakuni City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. So because I am a local sake producer, we have been friends for a long time. This friendship and the torrential rains in western Japan back in 2018 have led to the creation of a unique Dassai sake called “Dassai Shima Kosaku” with the famous "Shima Kosaku" character on its label.
It was on the morning of July 7, 2018. The top of the mountain, visible from our sakagura, had collapsed in torrential rain. There were a landslide and driftwood was blocking the river in front of our sakagura, causing it to overflow. When I woke up around 5:00 a.m., I was surprised to see that the road was gone and had become a river. I live on the 12th floor of the sakagura, and soon realized that the electricity and the water were cut off. I had no choice and spent the day drinking bottled water and eating instant noodles. But because the electricity was cut off, I couldn't press and extract the sake that was fermenting in the tanks. We couldn’t even control the sake temperature, it meant that this sake could not be branded as “Dassai” anyway.
In all that trouble, Mr. Hirokane called me and offered to purchase the bottles that were covered in mud, but I refused – I could not possibly sell him such sake. When I told him that there were about 580’000 bottles worth of sake in the tanks, he proposed to use it to help the victims of the heavy rains. I asked him to draw a sake bottle label, with his own manga character “Shima Kosaku” to sell the sake as “Dassai Shima Kosaku”. I sold each bottle 1’200 yen, from which 200 yen would be donated. Because we had to bottle the sake contained in each tank without blending it, some of these bottles we labeled as “Dassai Shima Kosaku” were Dassai usually sold for 1’500 yen like Dassai 45, some worth 5’000 yen like Dassai 23, but there were even some bottles of Dassai Beyond – usually sold for more than 33’000 yen.
Of course, customers that bought this sake could not know which one would get. I found it interesting that most people, when asked later, firmly believed they had Dassai 23. There couldn't have been that much of it, most of it was actually Dassai 45. In the end, we were able to donate 116 million yen to the four prefectures of Yamaguchi, Okayama, Hiroshima, and Ehime – which had suffered the most from the Heavy Rains of 2018.
Apart from the sake, we had suffered from damages to our shop next door, as well as our water drainage system. But all the sake making staff gathered the next day and everyone worked together to restore the surroundings. At first, we couldn't use electricity and cars couldn't get through, so we had to do everything by ourselves. We had to shovel out dirt and sand, and help at the nearby elementary school and homes of the village. Thanks to this, everyone became better at using shovels and wheelbarrows to carry earth and sand. Though personally, I was just giving orders!
Next, and final story: "Our only chance is abroad"