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Japan honours first French ‘saké samurai’

Latest update : 2012-10-16

A 42-year-old from a Parisian suburb has become the first Frenchman to be granted the title of “saké samurai”, or recognised expert of the Japanese rice-based spirit, saké.

Sylvain Huet, a 42-year-old graphic designer from the Parisian suburb of Poissy, spent the past two years studying the history of saké in order to receive official recognition from the Japanese Saké Brewers’ Association in Kyoto on Friday.

“For me it’s more than recognition, but a reward,” he told AFP on Friday. “After all, samurai means servant.”

SAKÉ GUY

An American from Ohio is considered the world’s best non-Japanese saké expert. Known as “saké guy” in Japan, he has lived in the country for 24 years and gained “saké samurai” status in 2006.

Huet has actually spent a lifetime devoted to all things Japanese, and has already been recognised as an expert on sado (Japanese tea) and aikido (a Japanese martial art). “I remember when I was a kid, I would collect all sorts of pictures of Japan,” he said.

"An elegant Japanese wine"

He became interested in saké, which he describes “wonderful and elegant Japanese wine” during his first visit to Japan in 2001. Since then, he has visited some 40 sakakura (saké producers) across Japan and read “every possible” piece of literature on the subject.

Huet says that he devotes “100% of his time to saké”, and plans to open a saké bar in Paris “like the ones I know in Japan”. He writes a blog called “The passion of saké” and is also planning to publish a book on the subject.

But despite his fascination for the Japanese language, drink and sport, he still feels closest to French culture. "Everytime I go away I learn more about myself," he said. "Besides, saké is much closer to wine than you think!”

Date created : 2012-10-16

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