Japan launches sake app to highlight differences across varieties and breweries

Bottles of Urakasumi Jyunmai Daiginjyo (left) and Urakasumi Jyunmai sake at the Oishii Japan food and beverage trade fair at Suntec City.
Bottles of Urakasumi Jyunmai Daiginjyo (left) and Urakasumi Jyunmai sake at the Oishii Japan food and beverage trade fair at Suntec City.ST PHOTO: SHERWIN LOH
The Sakefan World app, commissioned by the Japanese government, aims to be the online resource for almost all brands from Japanese sake breweries.
The Sakefan World app, commissioned by the Japanese government, aims to be the online resource for almost all brands from Japanese sake breweries. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

If you do not know how rice polishing or rice types affect the varieties of sake made, and cannot tell the difference Junmai Daiginjo-shu (Pure rice, Very Special brew) and Junmai Ginjo-shu ( Pure rice, Special brew) sake, there is now an official app for that from the Japanese government.

Sakefan World aims to be the online resource for almost all brands from Japanese sake breweries, by allowing potential sake connoisseurs to scan the labels on sake bottles. The app then calls up details of that particular bottle, from alcohol content and the type of rice used, to offering food pairing recommendations and even details on where and how that bottle of sake was produced.

Commissioned by the Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the free Apple iOS app, which was launched today at the Oishii Japan food and beverage trade fair at Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre, uses recognition techniques to identify the unique labels of each bottle via the phone's camera, such that it can even identify the variation of sake produced by the same brewery.

Instead of approaching each of the sake breweries in the country, which number between 1,800 and 2,000, the app has partnered with Takakuwa Art Printing, a 103-year-old printing company that prints roughly 80 per cent of all the sake labels used by the many breweries there.


Screengrab of the Sakefan World app.

This allows the app developer to differentiate between the many labels used by the breweries, as Takakuwa Art Printing uses a blend of calligraphy and design to visualise the flavour of the bottled wine. It then works with the breweries in coming up with the sake description, as well as the in-app videos that offer a better look at the bottle of sake.

There are estimated to be close to 100,000 varieties of sake produced in Japan, of which only a small handful are exported.

During the trial stage, 10 breweries were selected to be featured in the app. There are currently details of sake from 19 breweries, with 80 different varieties of sake currently listed.

Sakefan World will start with 200 sake breweries that export products outside of Japan, and it expects to have a total of 40 breweries listed by next spring.

According to Japan's National Tax Agency, the value of Japanese sake exports increased to ¥11.5 billion (S$133.8 million) in 2014, setting a record for the fifth consecutive year. Some 16,316 kiloliters of sake were sent overseas in 2014.

sherwinl@sph.com.sg