Arigato Travel has recently had the pleasure of interviewing Yuki Imanishi, the CEO of Sakelovers, a company that sells craft sake. They have a passion for bringing awareness to sake breweries and the cultural ties they have to Japan. Let’s hear more about them!
Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello, I’m Yuki Imanishi – After graduating from college, I joined NEC and worked in accounting for 25 years.
There was a system within the company that allowed me to prepare for starting my own business, and I took advantage of it so that for about the last year before I left the company, I was half working for the company and half taking time off while receiving a salary to prepare for starting my own business. At the time, I was assisting a sake retailer in Kanda with purchasing sake, introducing sake breweries, and helping them stock sake. I then founded the company in January 2018. I am in charge of contacting sake breweries and managing the company.
Can you explain what Sakelovers is?
We chose the company name “Sake Lovers” because we wanted the name to be instantly recognizable as a lover of sake. Our business is to introduce sake breweries and sake in English and to plan and escort sake brewery tours for foreigners in order to meet the export needs and inbound demand for sake. Recently, we have been doing saké tasting tours. In 2020, we are also launching a company called Sake Communication Co., Ltd. to promote sake to a wider audience, specifically to Japanese people.
SAKE COMMUNICATIONS is a company that retails sake to Japanese restaurants and others and organizes events such as social gatherings with sake breweries and sake-drinking contests. Although the two companies share the same axis of sake, they operate in different fields of business from different perspectives.
What made you start Sakelovers?
I have always loved sake, but I also like to travel, and I used to travel around the countryside in the name of visiting sake breweries. As I talked with various sake breweries, I realized that the number of sake breweries was decreasing and that the breweries I had actually visited were disappearing, so I thought it would be great if I could help promote sake. This is the biggest reason I started my own business.
Sakelovers offers a virtual sake tasting and sake brewery tour. Do you feel any competition in virtual tastings, and what drives you to stand out?
I don’t think there are many breweries that offer this service, except for those that are individually designated by the brewery. In particular, we are the only company that provides English interpretation services for foreigners.
How do you support the sake industry and promote sake appreciation beyond your tastings and online store? Are there any specific partnerships with small breweries that have contributed to a greater appreciation of sake?
We believe that the virtual sake tasting and sake brewery tours have been most active in spreading the word during Corona. Now we are mainly working on real experiences. We have partnerships with a number of small sake breweries.
Sake is undeniably a source of joy and adds smiles to any dining experience. What is your best memory of drinking sake?
We invite sake breweries from all over Japan and ask them to bring some of their sake, which is rarely drunk, and serve it to the attendees while learning about the breweries and their sake. I like this kind of party the best because it is a great opportunity for me to interact with a lot of people in a fun and lively atmosphere over sake. Events where I can enjoy toasting with people from other countries are the most exciting and enjoyable. Once a month, we hold an event where we invite Mr. Mikami, a professional tuna chef, to enjoy tuna sashimi and sake. You can also watch a performance where he processes the tuna on the spot and enjoy the freshness of the tuna. The event is announced through the Sake Communication website, so you can apply on the web. This is a very popular event among foreigners, and the earlier the better.
What is your favorite sake, and what food pairing would you recommend with it?
As commented above, tuna or sashimi and sake is a great pairing!
What type of Japanese sake would you suggest for people who want to try sake for the first time?
The above-mentioned “Rei-washu” is a slight sparkling sake created based on the concept of making a sake that is easy to drink even for sake beginners who have never drank sake before. It is a refreshing sake with a subtle aroma of peaches, a little sweet champagne-like sake, and since it is made with a low alcohol content of 5%, it can be used to toast with a wine glass. We launched this sake in the hope that more people will start drinking sake from such a point of view.
You have a wide selection of sake on your online store! Are you planning to expand the menu? What is the most unique one on the menu that everyone should try?
We are planning to increase the number. We are currently doing a tasting tour with inbound visitors and are now in the process of asking everyone’s tastes and preferences. The above sparkling sake is very popular.
Sakelovers currently has brewery tours and tastings both in person and online, and an online store! Are you currently working on a new project? (If yes: Can you give us some small details about it?)
As we export sake, we would like to conduct more and more activities to make sake more popular around the world, and we would like to increase the number of tours, such as brewery tours and hands-on sake-making tours.
Thank you so much for taking the time to be interviewed! We truly appreciate you giving us the chance to introduce you on our blog.
Main Website: https://sakelovers.co.jp/
Sake information website: http://sakegeek.com/
Featured Photo: Modern Style Sake from Sakelovers’ Namazake Paul
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