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  • Writer's pictureHarima

Embracing Sustainability: The Story Behind Japan’s Eco-Friendly Sake and Circular Economy—環 Meguru (Circulation)—



Japan is renowned for its rich cultural heritage, stunning landscapes, and, of course, its sake—an iconic alcoholic beverage with deep roots in Japanese tradition. But what if we told you that Japan's sake industry is stepping into a new era of sustainability? Welcome to the story of "Sake Born from Local Energy: "Meguru," a revolutionary project blending traditional craftsmanship with modern eco-consciousness.


From Waste to Wonder: The Genesis of Meguru


Launched in 2019, the Meguru project aims to create a circular economy by harnessing local resources in an innovative way. The project was conceived to connect people and nature through a sustainable resource cycle, reducing environmental burden while producing exceptional sake. But how exactly does this work?


The process begins with biogas production, where food scraps and livestock manure, rich in energy and nutrients, are transformed into heat and electricity. This method not only addresses the daily waste generated from our eating habits but also presents a viable alternative to fossil fuels.


Fermenter producing biogas and digestate



The Power of Biogas


Biogas, produced through the fermentation of organic waste, is a game-changer in the realm of sustainability. In Japan, efforts to repurpose waste into biogas are gradually gaining momentum, with applications spanning food factories, high-rise buildings, and sewage treatment plants. Beyond generating heat and electricity, the fermentation process yields digestate—a nutrient-rich byproduct that serves as an organic fertilizer.


In Europe, renewable energies are well-established. Inspired by this model, the Meguru project leverages digestate to cultivate sake rice, transforming what was once waste into a valuable resource.



Cultivating Sustainability with Yamada-Nishiki


At the heart of this project is the Yamada-Nishiki rice, a premium variety essential for sake production. In 2020, the Meguru project began using digestate from Yuge Farm in Kobe to cultivate this rice. By 2022, the initiative expanded to include five dairy farmers and an increased number of sake rice growers, all committed to environmentally friendly cultivation methods. This approach ensures the rice is grown organically, supporting biodiversity and minimizing environmental impact.


Harvest of Yamada Nishiki, grown with the digestate


Crafting Sake for a Greener Future


The collaboration extends to four sake breweries (kuramoto), which have embraced this sustainable method to produce high-quality sake. By October 2023, six sake brands—Fukuju, Morinori, Fukyu Nishiki, Banshu Ikkyo, Ozeki, and Shirasagi-no-jo—will be available, each representing the essence of a circular economy.

 

A Journey of Discovery


For those passionate about Japan and its culture, the Meguru project offers more than just a taste of sake; it provides a window into a sustainable future. Hyogo Prefecture, the hub of this initiative, offers tours of digestate production sites, Yamada-Nishiki rice cultivation fields, and sake breweries. Visitors can witness firsthand how traditional practices are harmoniously integrated with modern sustainability efforts.


Fukuju, a sake brewery based in Nada, Kobe, renowned for crafting the world's first carbon-neutral sake and featuring its products at the Nobel Prize ceremony, is also a partner in the project.



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