Yasuhiko Konno, the owner of Suisen sake, stood in front of a pile of debris that was once his famous artisanal sake brewery in Rikuzentakata, Miyagi prefecture. He narrowly escaped the powerful tsunami that completely wiped out his brewery, destroying with it his prize winning hand-brewed sake plant, more than 200 years worth of history and several employees who are now presumed to be dead.
On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake shook Northern Japan, triggering destructive tsunamis that wiped out many towns along the Pacific coast of Japan. This Tohoku earthquake was the strongest earthquake to have ever hit Japan, resulting in 11,532 deaths, 2873 injuries and 16,441 people still missing.
The earthquake and tsunami caused extensive and severe structural damage, including heavy damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plants, a grave problem that still remains an active issue. The Japanese sake industry was not spared in the natural disasters either. Sake has been an important part of Japanese culture for the past 2000 years, playing a central role in religious and spiritual ceremonies as a symbol of purity, good fortune and new beginnings. Sake breweries in Miyagi prefecture, the epicenter of the earthquake, and Iwate and Fukushima prefectures were the hardest hit, many of them small family owned breweries that produce some of the most highest quality aromatic sakes.
Yasuhiko Konno’s story is just 1 of many, with over 200 sake breweries affected and at least 10 being completely wiped out. Our initial hopes were to identify a specific sake brewery to dedicate our charity to, but doing so in this acute post-earthquake stage has been difficult. Suisen, for example, has not been reachable by phone or email, and many others have temporarily shut down their operations, making direct communication impossible.
We have reached out to our friends in the Japan Sake Brewers Association in the hopes of helping the devastated sake industry. They have set up a charity fund where all of the money will go directly into rehabilitation and restoration of all of the affected sake breweries. We feel that donating to this fund is the best way to show our support at this time.
During the 3 day pop-up dinner at Royal/T on April 17-19th, David Haskell and Chef Joseph Mahon of Magnum will be donating 5% of dinner proceeds to this sake charity, in addition to the majority of proceeds from a silent auction that will feature vintage wines, cooking classes and a private dinner by Chef Mahon.
Japan’s sake industry faces a long road ahead to complete revival. Replanting and tending rice fields, repairing damages to breweries, clearing roads of debris for transportation and reorganizing infrastructure are just some of the challenges that the industry faces. Through future charity events, we hope to continue donating to this important cause and showing our ongoing support for the Japanese people.
Please contact David Haskell (firstname.lastname@example.org) for any interest in contributing items for the silent auction, and inquiries about the Magnum event. Please contact Tomo Kurokawa (email@example.com) for questions regarding this sake charity.
Written by Tomo Kurokawa
Magnum will pop-up at Royal-T Cafe in Culver City
April 17-19 2011
Royal T Cafe
8910 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
For reservations please call 323-798-4648 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Japan Sake Brewers Association website: www.japansake.or.jp
Photo: Koji Sasahara / AP via SAE News