The Birth of Saké

PBS Premiere: Sept. 5, 2016Check the broadcast schedule »

Film Update

In September 2016, POV asked The Birth of Saké filmmaker Erik Shirai what's happened since the camera stopped rolling.

How is Yoshida Brewery doing this year, and what has happened in the lives of the workers since the end of the film?
Yoshida Brewery is going strong. They have extended their production season by a couple of month because of increased work load, and changed the amount of days that each worker gets off. The brewery is now allowing more free time each month which extends the season but in return keeps morale high. A few of the workers left the brewery and did not return:

  • Hideki-san (Brewmasters Toji-san son) found a job as a construction worker closer to home and decided not to return to the brewery.
  • Chi-chan (Toji-san childhood friend), at 71 years young decided to retire from the brewery.
  • Shiyake (the youngest brewery worker in the film) decided not to return to the brewery and dabbled in a few local jobs as post office clerk. He later returned to work at a saké brewery where his father is the brewmaster.
  • Yachan, continuously works the grueling schedule of 6 months of winter making saké and works the remaining time tirelessly promoting his Tedorigawa brand around the world. He is planning to become the next brewery president and head brewmaster.
  • At 70 years old, Toji-san will be entering his 55th year crafting saké. He says he would like to continue making saké until he is 200 years old.

How has the film been received in the United States and in Japan?
The film has been wonderfully received in the United States and Europe. It has been great to hear so many people enjoy watching the film. Unfortunately, the film has had great difficulty finding an outlet in Japan. I think many of the distribution companies in Japan believe that most people in Japan would not be interested in a story and product that is so familiar, even though most people have no idea how saké is made. But what i found interesting is that many Japanese people who live outside of Japan found great interest in the film. Many have said it made them feel nostalgic and made them feel a little regional pride from watching the film.

Do you see any change or shift in the awareness of traditional saké-making since the film?
I think many people in general are finding more interest in things that are handmade/handcrafted. I think when you get to watch a film where you have the opportunity to see the faces of those who dedicate their lives to making something by hand, it brings more awareness and appreciation the next time you have it.

What are you working on next?
I'm working on a couple of different project at the moment. I'm in the process of trying to finish a film about night-time in America called A Shot in the Dark that I started a few years ago. It was filmed across 10,000 miles of nocturnal America, that explores nocturnal creatures and their very personal experiences of life after dark. I'm also working on a dance project that shares the personal and the complex experiences of being a woman.