For the Japanese, sake is a part of life, a part of history.
In the town of Rikuzentakata, that history was literally washed away five years ago in March of 2011, when a tsunami laid waste to the town. Not only was the sake brewery of Suisen Shuzo completely destroyed, but seven employees lost their lives. Despite the devastation, the brewery showed its strength by rebuilding and looking forward, rather than back. Now, on the fifth anniversary of the event, the brewery is flourishing, in part due to their 2014 release of a sake, Kibo, which means ‘hope’ in Japanese.
This can sake is a symbol of Suisen Shuzo’s resilience, as well as that of Rikuzentakata. According to the company’s business consultant Hideyuki Kotani,
“Both Suisen employees and the people of Rikuzentakata thought that Suisen had died entirely. But as time went by, the residents of Rikuzentakata started to realize that Suisen sake was the
Rikuzentakata people’s ‘soul’ drink and an important core company in Rikuzentakata. People acknowledged that without Suisen, Rikuzentakata would not recover at all.”
Fueled by both its symbolic and practical role in the region, Suisen Shuzo rebuilt their brewery, or kura as it is known in Japanese, albeit in an adjacent city higher above sea level.
While the building has been downsized, it still produces sake in the traditional manner; its presence and relatively quick recovery (with help from the Japanese government) has been a beacon of hope for the region, whose people still deeply mourn the events of five years past.
This hope is encapsulated in Suisen Shuzo’s ‘Kibo’ sake, a joint project between Suisen and its American distributor SakéOne. SakéOne suggested the name ‘Hope’ for both marketing and emotional reasons, wanting to ensure that the world remembers this disaster while also choosing a name that resonates with Suisen’s story of recovery.
Suisen sees its mission as being two-fold. First, they want to spread an awareness of sake around the world. But, most importantly, they intend to continue to create jobs in their region and encourage people, who fled after the disaster, to return to their homes. They even hope one day to rebuild the kura in its original location.
Thus, through sake comes rebirth.