Sake as a Metaphor

A few weeks ago I wrote about the traditional use of sake at ceremonies on Kume Island in Okinawa.  That ceremony was a yearly event with a long history.  This past week, I was present at another, modern event that had a very different, yet interesting use for the local brew of awamori.  Kume Island hosted the third International Ocean Energy Workshop as part of a larger collaboration with Hawai’i County.  The purpose of the meeting was to consider the creation of an OTEC power generator on Kume Island in connection with the Prefectural Deepsea Water Research Institute and other deepsea industries.  The event also marked the one-year anniversary of sister city status between Kumejima Town and Hawai’i County.

You may have noticed there was no Wednesday post this week as well.  That was due to the fact I ended up as co-Master of Ceremonies with the co-host of our Haisai English radio show, and a few other items.  Luckily, this meant I had a front row show to the event, and I have a clear understanding of events since I prepared translations of the program so I could explain it to non-Japanese speakers in the crowd. As always, I had my camera close as well so I could catch a few shots of the ceremony.

New Relationships Set to Cask

The workshops, and perhaps more importantly the kangeikai (gathering), marked the beginning of many new relationships and the start of important new endeavors that may have great impacts on the future of the island.  From simple workshops and talks, the organizers hope the relationship between Kume and Hawai’i will continue to grow and become ever sweeter.

Kume Island’s goal of continued growth and partnership was embodied by an interesting ceremony.  In Okinawa, most sakes are aged in clay casks for at least 3-5 years after production. This helps to mellow and improve the taste.  At the ceremony, two casks were provided by the local Kumejima breweries, Kumesen and Yoneshima.  The two companies also provided several bottles of new sake.

The new sake was poured by representatives from the various delegation members into the casks.  The casks were sealed.  One will remain on Kume Island, while the other will be given to Hawai’i County.

Here’s what I wrote as my explanation of the ceremony for the event.

Awamori, like many drinks, get better with age.  It is an apt symbol then, that we cask fresh sake, a sake that will become ever more delicious as time goes on.  Just as the sake improves, so too will the seed of this partnership between Kumejima Town  and Hawai’i County grow.  In five years, we can join together again to renew our friendship and taste the progress of the sake.  It won’t stop there, though.  The awamori, like our partnership will continue to improve for 10 years, 100 years, and beyond.  As we work towards a future of green energy and intercultural understanding, so too can we enjoy a fine drink that together we helped to create.