SOAS University of London

Japan Research Centre

Sake Symposium: Understanding the Unique Aspects of Sake


Date: 20 February 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 20 February 2019Time: 7:30 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Khalili Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: Symposium

This seminar will bring together various experts to discuss sake from various perspectives: historically, culturally, commercially and diplomatically.

Followed by sake tasting.


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Sake Symposium: Understanding the Unique Aspects of Sake


Koichi Saura (佐浦弘一)

Heritage of sake making and future
Koichi Saura (13th generation of Kuramoto (owner) of Urakasumi Sake Brewery, Vice president of Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association, Founding Chairman of Sake Samurai Association)

Born in Shiogama City, Miyagi Prefecture, a famous port town facing the Pacific Ocean in the northern part of Japan, Koichi Saura is the 13th generation of his family’s traditional sake making business.  He studied at Keio University in Japan and undertook an MBA course at New York University, gaining an international perspective at a young age. He joined his family business in 1985 and has led Urakasumi to become one of the most famous super-premium sake breweries in Japan.

He served as the chairman of the Sake Samurai Association for 7 years, and has now taken up the position of Chairman of the Sake Sales Promotion Committee, and sits on the board of the ‘Enjoy Sake Project’ to devoting himself to raising the profile of sake internationally.


Yusaku Shimizu

Internationalisation of Sake
Minister Yusaku Shimizu (Minister of Finance at the Embassy of Japan in the UK)

After joining the Ministry of Finance of Japan, he has worked as a director of a regional tax office,  first secretary of the Embassy of Japan in the UK, Counsellor of Cabinet Legislation Bureau and Director of the Treasury Division.

Hirohisa Ichihachi

Sake Export from Japan and overview of the UK sake market
Hirohisa Ichihachi (Director of JETRO London)

Hirohisa Ichihashi is Food Division Director of JETRO London. JETRO is a Japanese governmental body which supports Japanese companies doing business abroad.

Hirohisa has been working for JETRO London since July 2017 and his main mission in London is to expand the export of food and drink, including sake, from Japan to the UK. Before working at JETRO, he spent the most of his career in the Ministry of Agriculture.

He also worked as an economist in the Cabinet Office of the Japanese government for 3 years.


Chris Ashton

International Sake promotion through the IWC wine platform
Chris Ashton (Director of International Wine Challenge (IWC))

Chris have been involved in publishing since 1986 and involved with the International Wine Challenge since 1999. As Director of the IWC he has responsibility for the whole event, including the main IWC in London where we taste 15000 wines. IWC China is launching in June 2019 in Shanghai. Chris has been involved with Sake since 2009 where we have seen the IWC category grow from 300 Sake to over 1600 entries in 2018.

Rie Yoshitake

Promoting sake globally from London
Rie Yoshitake (Sake Promoter, Sake Samurai UK, Rep of Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association)

Rie Yoshitake is the leading Sake ambassador in Europe, where she represents the Sake Samurai Association (SSA) and the Japan Sake and Shochu Maker’s Association (JSS). In her role, she has been instrumental in organising the world’s largest sake competition at the International Wine Challenge (IWC).   Rie is currently spearheading a series of sake campaigns at Japanese embassies, major universities and international corporations across Europe and the UK.  She has come to be known as the "Sake Lady" of London, her adopted home, where she received the Japanese Minister’s Award for her contribution towards raising the profile of Japan’s national drink and cuisine.  She currently runs her international business consultancy Yoshitake & Associates, which acts to bridge businesses between Japan and the UK.

Organiser: SOAS Japan Research Centre and the Japan Foundation London

Contact email:

Contact Tel: +44 (0)20 7898 4893