Table Speech

"Leading by Example"

April 21st, 2004

Ms. Sarah Marie Cummings

Director and Sake taster for the Masuichi Sake Brewery

Ms. Sarah Marie Cummings, Director and Sake taster for the Masuichi Sake Brewery, spoke at the meeting of April 21 on Leading by Example: For my New Year calligraphy I wrote “Lead by Example” in Japanese. I believe that what Japan needs today is strong leadership. A leader must not only think, he must lead and be a leader.

Things change from the scene of activity, so unless the leader himself enters the scene he will not know what is needed. Therefore, I believe that a leader must always be at the scene working as hard as possible.

It is ten years since I came to Japan and started working at Obuse, but I did not work to become a leader. Of course, I tried to do my best. No one joined me in my efforts, but I persevered, and finally, those around me started to move.
In 1845, the 12th generation lord of Obuse built an atelier of Katsushika Hokusai and supported his art. The town prospered and that is why the Obuse sake breweries are still in business today.

In restructuring the Masuichi brewery, we must cherish the 300 year old brewery and see that it will continue to prosper for another 100 or 200 years.

Hokusai came to Obuse because there was a culture salon here where foreign cultures mingled. By sharing ideas, even friction becomes 2 source of energy. This gives a possibility for active work.

Japan has many fine things. In order to preserve the spirit of the countryside, we must allow our culture to be sustained economically. Our alienated culture must be incorporated into our daily life as a thing to be renovated.

Sake is a necessity for Japanese cuisine. That is why we used part of the brewery as an open kitchen and started a restaurant to carry the meaning that it was a cultural salon and part of a brewery.

Needing sake to match the cuisine, we started selling sake in porcelain bottles. To brew sake, we fill cedar barrels to make it tastier. This is the first time in 50 years that this has been done. Today, the barrel makers still exist.

Masuichi’s master brewer is 78 and has been engaged in his profession for 64 years. IT was only because of him that we were able to use cedar barrels for sake brewing. We are only a small brewery and a renaissance of cedar barrel sake could not be achieve by us alone. Therefore, we called upon sake brewers throughout the nation, and 30 breweries have joined us in our efforts, with 25 making their own cedar barrels.

Not only for brewing sake, but for making soy sauce, miso paste, and pickles cedar barrels are indispensable, and I am hopeful of organizing an NPO for the preservation of cedar barrel use.

Then we started an ‘Obusession’ joining the words ‘obsession’ and Obuse.
It is an event held on say, March 3, April 4, May 5…to share seasonal food and drink.

Rural areas lack the opportunities for intellectual exchange. This event provides an occasion for persons of varying professions and ages to come together and be stimulated. It is 4 years since we started, with meeting starting at 6:30pm with a 90 minute talk by a guest speaker, and a party following where home made food is served.There is no closing time, so the people sometimes remain until 2 in the morning. Some 50 persons attend, half from the locality and half from all over Japan. There is no charge, but everyone must help out.

From January 2003, we started a movement to keep the city streets clean, and waste is collected on the 1st and 15th of every month.