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更新时间:2014-2-27 13:50:43 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

In Sake, Japan Sees a Potential Stimulus

NIHONMATSU, Japan — As Japan confronts troubling economic data and memories of its stagnant “lost generation,” the country’s government is offering a little something to take the edge off: a bottle or two of sake.


Around the country at international airports, the government is helping to fund tasting booths where travelers can sample sake, an alcoholic brew made from fermented rice. On a recent morning, an attendant at a booth at Narita Airport near Tokyo explained that most high-quality sake is intended to be drunk slightly chilled — not heated, as lower-grade sake is sometimes offered at restaurants outside Japan.

在日本各地的国际机场,日本政府出资帮助设立了品酒摊位,旅客们可以品尝清酒——一种由大米发酵酿成的酒。最近一天早上,东京附近成田机场(Narita Airport)摊位上的一名服务员说,品质最佳的清酒在饮用之前应该微微冰镇一下,而不是加热,日本以外的一些餐厅提供的低档清酒有时就被加热饮用。

The program, set to run at least until March, is part of a broader push by the government to bring the country’s cultural products to the world — and in doing so, hopefully, give a little lift to Japan’s export economy. A government-financed program called Cool Japan looks to champion the country’s softer goods, like anime, music, fashion, food and drink. In December, Japan secured “intangible cultural heritage” status for its traditional cuisine, known as “washoku,” from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

这个项目将至少持续到3月,它是日本政府向全世界推广其文化产品的更大计划的一部分,目的是希望给日本的出口带来一点提振。政府资助的一个叫做“酷日本”(Cool Japan)的项目,旨在对日本的软商品予以支持,比如动画、音乐、时尚和餐饮。去年12月,日本的传统料理“和食”(washoku)获得了联合国教科文组织(Unesco)“非物质文化遗产”的称号。

Japan has been taking a broad approach to reviving its moribund economy. In the face of persistent deflation, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has introduced his “three arrows”: fiscal stimulus, monetary easing and structural reform.

日本一直在采取各种方法来复兴一蹶不振的经济。面对持续的通货紧缩,日本首相安倍晋三(Shinzo Abe)提出了名为“三支箭”的措施:财政刺激、货币宽松和结构性改革。

Sake and other softer goods are hardly going to fill the gap left by an erosion in core industries like electronics. But the government appears to be working on the assumption that every bit counts. In the case of sake and other rice-based products, the government hopes to increase exports fivefold by 2020, to a value of 60 billion yen, or $590 million.


“Until the current government, hardly anything was done to promote sake,” said Hideharu Ohta, chief executive of Daishichi Sake Brewery in Nihonmatsu, a small town in Fukushima Prefecture. “The government concentrated on electronics and cars, and lowering tariffs for those things.”

二本松市的大七酒造株式会社(Daishichi Sake Brewery)的首席执行官太田英晴(Hideharu Ohta)说,“迄今为止,日本历届政府几乎没有为推广清酒做过任何事。”二本松市是福岛县的一个小镇。“政府只关心电子产品和汽车,为这些东西削减关税。”

Sake plays an important role in the culinary traditions of Japan, where it takes center stage in holiday toasts and is consumed by enthusiasts at izakayas, which are hole-in-the-wall bars. Yet consumption has fallen sharply over the last few decades, as many drinkers have switched to wine, much of it imported, or other domestic drinks like beer, whiskey or shochu.


Two decades of deflation and an aging population have caused a major problem for the domestic market. As a result, makers of alcoholic drinks have joined a rush of Japanese companies looking to do more business abroad. Suntory, the Japanese beer brewer and whiskey distiller, recently agreed to buy Beam Inc., the American maker of Jim Beam bourbon and other spirits, for $13.6 billion.

长达20年的通货紧缩,加上日本不断老龄化的人口,为国内市场带来了严重问题。因此,和许多日本公司一道,酿酒商开始寻求扩大海外业务的规模。日本啤酒和威士忌生产商三得利(Suntory)最近同意斥资136亿美元,收购美国比姆公司(Beam Inc.),后者生产占边(Jim Beam)波本威士忌和其他烈酒产品。

But sake producers lack the deep pockets of corporate giants like Suntory. The industry is highly fragmented, with hundreds of small, mostly family-owned producers dotting the countryside, from the island of Hokkaido in the north to Kyushu in the south. Daishichi is one of a handful of sake producers that still uses a time-consuming, laborious, traditional method called kimoto.


With its artisan appeal, the company has managed to break into upmarket food shops like Le Bon Marché in Paris. Even so, Daishichi exports only about 3 percent of its production, about 50 percent above than the national average.

凭借着酿造工艺上的吸引力,这家公司已经进驻高档食品商店,比如巴黎的乐蓬马歇百货公司(Le Bon Marché)。即便如此,大七酒造也只有3%的产品用于出口,比全国平均水平高出大约50%。

In 2012, overall exports of Japanese sake totaled ¥8.9 billion, or about $87 million at current exchange rates, according to the National Tax Agency. While that was up from ¥7.5 billion a decade earlier, it is a tiny fraction of the 5.6 billion euros, or $7.7 billion, worth of wine that France exported in 2012.

根据日本国税厅(National Tax Agency)的数据,2012年,日本出口了价值89亿日元的清酒,按当前汇率计算相当于8700万美元。尽管高于10年前的75亿日元,但是与法国2012年56亿欧元,即77亿美元的葡萄酒出口规模相比仍然微不足道。

Sake producers in Fukushima are suffering even more than their peers elsewhere in Japan, rocked not just by the downturn in domestic consumption but also by fears over safety, after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011. Some Japanese retailers have taken Fukushima sake off their shelves to avoid alarming their customers. China and South Korea do not allow imports of sake and other agricultural produce from the prefecture, citing health concerns.


The government faces a battle as it tries to appeal to palates outside Japan. The United States accounted for more than one-third of Japanese sake exports in 2012. But it has not caught on in a big way anywhere else.


One reason is price. With transport costs and import duties, sake can cost two to three times more as much overseas. Japanese negotiators have reportedly pushed sake into talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade agreement that would cut tariffs on a variety of goods.

一个原因是价格。加上运输成本和进口关税,清酒的价格到海外会达到原价两三倍。据称日本谈判代表曾反复推动把清酒纳入跨太平洋伙伴关系(Trans-Pacific Partnership)的谈判中,这项计划中的贸易协定将削减一系列商品的关税。

Another problem is confusion. Many sake labels are indecipherable to non-Japanese speakers. And much of the “sake” served in Japanese restaurants abroad is little more than cheap distilled alcohol, not the real thing. Once Westerners have been burned by this firewater, it can be difficult to convince them of the charms of real sake.


“I spend more time telling people what sake isn’t than telling them what sake is,” said Sylvain Huët, a French blogger and sommelier who holds the title of sake samurai, awarded by the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association.

法国博客作者、侍酒师西尔万·于埃(Sylvain Huët)拥有日本清酒烧酒酿造商协会(Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association)颁发的“清酒武士”(sake samurai)头衔。他说,“我更多的时间不是在解释清酒是什么,而是在告诉别人清酒不是什么。”