Marketing Sake to Age-of-Majority Japanese Youth: A Consultation with the AI Era’s Delphic Oracle

Consulting the Oracle, John William Waterhouse

Towards the end of last year we wrote the following in a private correspondence.

Being passionate about sake is also linked to a concern about the future prosperity of Japan and the survival of things Japanese. This is especially important today given the devastating effect that globalization has had on regionality, which, of course, is integrally connected to the issue of national sovereignty and the concept of terroir. Sake, combined with a creative approach to gastronomic tourism, has a major role to play in securing and maintaining that prosperity. The key word here is “creative”: hackneyed approaches to bringing tourists (both domestic and foreign) to a given location will not achieve the desired results. Thinking outside the box…will.

We went on to assert that an example of this out-of-the-box thinking could be found in “the eight-part series on unagi (eel) that…[appeared on]…” (See entries from September 2, 2022, to October 23, 2022, which begins with “Eel Elision Is a Bad Decision,” and ends with “Eel: The Editorial.”)

Recently we made a metaphorical trip to Delphi and consulted ChatGPT, which Wikipedia defines thus: “ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) is a chatbot launched by OpenAI in November 2022. …ChatGPT…quickly garnered attention for its detailed responses and articulate answers across many domains of knowledge.” At the “gate of Delphi” we logged in, made our obeisance to the Bot, and sought advice on how to market nihonshu to the targeted sector (Japanese youth). In short order (very short, indeed), we received this response:

Sake can be marketed to young Japanese by highlighting its versatility and modernity. This can be done by promoting new and innovative ways to serve and enjoy sake, such as in cocktails or as a pairing with non-traditional foods. Additionally, emphasizing the cultural and historical significance of sake can appeal to young people’s interest in tradition and heritage. Highlighting the craftsmanship and skill involved in making sake can also appeal to young people’s appreciation for authenticity and quality. [emphases added]

At first blush, this appears to be boilerplate, but upon a little reflection the reader can see that the Bot is not proffering cold-reading-like palaver. The emphasized parts of the above citation stress the importance of pairing the traditional with the non-traditional (i.e., sake with non-traditional dishes) and the importance of heritage. These observations are in harmony with what we have been proposing for years—using the gastronomic traditions of the world, both current and obsolete, to promote nihonshu in general and to encourage the younger generation of Japanese to explore this beverage that is so closely connected to Japan’s gastronomy. The Bot suggests linking “non-traditional foods” with sake. Similarly, we argue in our eel series that a dish like Unagi no Kabayaki (a traditional dish) could be pitted against a medieval European recipe for eel (non-traditional dish) in a degustation menu, which would, of course, include nihonshu (a traditional beverage). We would love to invite the Bot to such an event, but we have heard that it does not eat. What a pity!

We will explore the marketing of sake further in future entries.

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