Although the production facility at Takara Sake is modern, the process for making sake is traditional. Sake is rice wine, and to develop the delicate flavor profile that reflects high quality sake, considerable care must be given to maintaining the long-perfected methods that Takara Sake brought over from Japan.
The process starts out with steamed rice, which is fermented using a Japanese method that induces the rice grains to yield desired flavor notes. Traditional sake does not have any additional flavors other than those native to rice. The finished product is crisp, clean, and powerful. Takara Sake has added to its traditional sake product line apple, lychee, and other flavors.
It is often evident that the care and commitment a company gives to its kosher program is an indicator of the overall quality of a production program. The seriousness, dedication, and respect that Takara Sake has given to the OU reflect the reverence they have, in general, for principled manufacturing practices.
Rabbi Noach Vogel, a veteran OU representative from San Jose, CA, has been visiting Takara Sake on behalf of the OU for nearly ten years. “The staff is always very cooperative” he says. “They are dedicated to making sure that our requirements are met, and are prompt to show me whatever I need to see.”
The conference room is unlike any conference room a person is likely to find in the United States. It is a Japanese tea and sake drinking room, and it is light, airy and conducive to agreement and creativity. It overlooks the unrelenting activity of the bottling area. To get to the conference room, one must pass through the Sake Museum, which is probably the only one of its kind in the United States — indeed, we recommend visiting this public museum should any BTUS readers happen to find themselves vacationing or otherwise visiting sunny Berkeley, CA.
Anthony Johnson has done a remarkable job as a translator, go-between, and overall coordinator of the program. During one discussion with the production staff, we picked up an important Japanese word. As Mr. Johnson translated what I had been saying, he kept saying “oh-yu.” The expression was peppering his translation with the staff. I was puzzled, because I had not, in my presentation, mentioned the OU so many times; I had only been talking about kosherization. Finally, I asked him: Why do you keep saying “OU”? He thought for a moment, trying to figure out what I was talking about. “Oh,” he said, “‘oh-yu’ means ‘hot water.’ I didn’t mean OU.”