Sake and shochu to continue Japan’s UNESCO World Heritage assault

With Japanese food (washoku) already on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, the Japanese government has announced their next staple of Japanese culture to pitch: sake and shochu.

On January 18, Prime Minister Suga revealed that the government intends to submit Japan’s national beverages of sake and shochu to UNESCO for additional to the list of Intangible Cultural Heritages. Japan regularly submits elements of Japanese culture to the list, so much so that they’re currently only allowed to submit one thing every two years. This means that if sake/shochu is accepted, it won’t make the list until 2024.

The motivation, of course, is increasing global recognition of the two categories in hopes to push export volume. 2020 probably saw Japanese whisky overtake sake in terms of value of exports, but I think culturally, Japan would rather have the world drinking sake and shochu.

We’ve talked plenty before about both sake and shochu here on Shochu in particular ought to be Japan’s next big export success story — it varies quite a bit from any other category of spirit in the world. It’s still relatively unknown in most of the world though, so organizations like JSS and events like our near-and-dear Tokyo Whisky & Spirits Competition are trying to bridge the gap.

The above news follows the US TTB’s recent announcement (PDF link) of additional accepted container sizes. 700ml, 720ml, 900ml, and 1.8L bottles are now allowed in the US. Given those bottle sizes are standard for sake and shochu in Japan’s domestic market, this change is a big win for Japanese liquor makers looking at the US market.

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