We would like to end this year by wishing our growing number of readers a Happy New Year. May your cups never be empty in the coming year! In a sharp departure from previous entries, we will not review a particular beverage this week. Instead, we will offer what we believe to be some recommendations that if implemented might significantly expand the overseas market for certain Japanese beverages.
It is well known that rituals and music are, in the words of marketing expert Martin Lindstrom, sticky. Associate a ritual with your product or brand and chances are you will offer consumers “an illusion of comfort and belonging.” This engenders feelings of “stability and familiarity [which causes]…a lot of consumers [to] have almost a religious sense of loyalty to their favorite brands and products.”1 Example, think lime in the neck a la Corona Extra. Songs, especially of the jingles variety, can sometimes be almost impossible to forget and are an excellent vehicle to convey advertising messages, as well as political and religious dogma. Example, “We Shall Overcome.”
One of the most interesting beverages that we reviewed this year was a sake intended to be drunk with lemon and salt. Ah, salt, that marvelous mineral and seasoning that has been much maligned in recent years! How did that happen, anyway? After all, humans and other species need it and enjoy it. The English language has some expressions that reflect favorably on it, attesting to its desirability: old salt, salt of the earth, not worth his salt. And unless you are one of those mainstream economists who believe in deficit spending—don’t try that at your local liquor store, readers—you know the wisdom of salting away funds for future use. So who is responsible for the demonization of this ubiquitous seasoning? Much of the blame can be placed on the late-Senator George McGovern. “In 1977, George McGovern’s Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs published the Dietary Goals, which recommended that all Americans restrict their salt intake to just 3 grams (1.2 grams of sodium [Ouch!]) per day. This guideline was based on expert opinion at the time rather than sound evidence.”2
The insect world is no stranger to salt. Some bugs, including the feisty cricket, contain large amounts of sodium. Five crickets, for instance, contain approximately 152 milligrams of it. “Most likely, certain insects are so high in sodium because it allows them to move and fly faster and thus avoid being eaten by their brethren.”3
Well, what kind of ritual might be appropriate in the marketing of a sake intended to be consumed with lemon and salt? Mr. Yoshida, president of Yoshimotoshuzo, the makers of Kisaki super-premium sake, had it down pat. Drink neat; squeeze three drops of lemon juice; taste the difference; and finally lick a little bit of salt like you would with a shot of tequila. Then, you will experience the flavor go through a metamorphosis. This doesn’t work with any old sake, but it does with Kisaki Rock & Salt, which is a sweet, low-alcohol sake reminiscent of Kijoshu in terms of sweetness, but rather than adding the previous year’s sake into the moromi (mash), as with Kijoshu, fermentation is stopped early for Kisaki Rock & Salt, resulting in higher residual sugar. We cover Kijoshu in a previous post, which is available here. This three step ritual is impressive, but here at drinkingjapan.org, we recommend a fourth step: after adding the salt take a sip while simultaneously clicking a cricket clacker. The sound produced by the cricket clacker expresses the exuberance of the drinker while simultaneously acknowledging the spunkiness of the salt-infused cricket. Admittedly, this might not be the most effective ritual for marketing purposes. However, something that is novel has the potential to broaden market acceptance in places like the USA. (Note: There are no crickets in the sake itself. This is merely a reference to the salt in crickets and how this sake is consumed with a pinch of salt.)
We have also written much about cider (a.k.a., hard cider, cidre) this year. Japan has a number of prefectures that produce outstanding apples and, as you can tell from reading our entries on this subject, a number of cideries producing wonderful beverages therefrom. The United Kingdom is a major, well-known cider producer. It also has a group that sings its praises, The Wurzels, a Scrumpy and Western band from Somerset. Their most famous song is “I Am a Cider Drinker.”4 This song does for Somerset ciders what a similar song could do for prefectures that produce Japanese cider, if such a song existed. How might a cider version of the misnamed “Sukiyaki Song” be found? One possibility would be for a prefectural tourist board or a trade organization to sponsor a contest for an English-language or bilingual (English-Japanese) song having Japanese cider as a theme. After the winning song is selected and recorded, other steps could be implemented, some entailing relatively little expenditure; e.g., Japanese cider webinars aimed at influencers at home and abroad.
1Lindstrom, M. buy-ology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy (New York: Doubleday, 2008).
2Dinicolantonio, J. The Salt Fix: Why the Experts Got it All Wrong and How Eating More Might Save Your Life (London: Piatkus, Little, Brown Book Group, 2017).
4“I Am a Cider Drinker” video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=%22I+Am+a+Cider+Drinker%22