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Monday, March 5, 2012

Saving sake: Struggling to restore confidence in Fukushima's liquor-destined rice

"It really brought tears to my eyes," said Fukushima Prefecture sake producer Yasuhiro Watanabe, recalling the moment he saw a brand new bottle of sake and vegetables from the prefecture discarded in a station rubbish bin in Tokyo.

Watanabe, the 46-year-old president of Fukushima sake manufacturing company Watanabe Shuzo Honten was on his way back from a June 2011 campaign with friends to promote Fukushima Prefecture produce in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis when he saw the discarded products. He guessed someone had bought them under obligation and then thrown them away.

After the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Watanabe took part in several "revival campaigns," promoting Fukushima Prefecture produce in a bid to curb rumors about radiation from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. However, his efforts were not always well received. On one occasion an angry person confronted him and shouted "Don't sell things like that here" -- even though he had strived to let people know that all the sake, or rice wine, had been tested and no radioactive materials had been detected.

He recalls thinking: "Next year I'm going to produce rice that contains absolutely no radioactive materials." Read More