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The first "SAKE SAMURAI" person nominated

Mr. Takeshi UESHIBA

President, Wood Work Co., Ltd. and Fujii Cooperage

Born Takeshi Fujii in Sakai-shi, Osaka in 1950. He uses the last name Ueshiba, taken from the area in which he lives, to prevent confusion among family members working in the family business.

Ueshiba graduated in 1972 from the Faculty of Economics at Momoyama Gakuin University. After working for My Home DIY Center (Gifu), Recruit's Mid-Career Employment Division (Tokyo) and Tokyo Shoko Research's Publishing Division (Tokyo), he took over as the third generation head of the family cooperage. In 1983 he established Wood Work Co. Ltd. and then in 1984 revived Fujii Cooperage, which had previously closed its doors.

Between 1991 and 1996, Ueshiba served as contributing editor of the Handbook of Wooden Water Tank Design and Construction in his capacity as a member of the Japan Housing and Wood Technology Center's Wooden Tank Subcommittee. In 2001 he contributed as an expert on barrel making to Kazuo Azuma's Fermentation and Brewing, Vol. I (Tokyo University of Agriculture). In 2002 he joined the Society for the Preservation of Wooden Barrel Brewing and Fermentation as a Founding Member, dedicating himself to the revival of wooden barrels and their practical application in contemporary life. As a young executive acutely aware of the drastic decline in the number of active coopers and the aging of those who remain, Ueshiba is currently working hard to ensure the tradition is passed on.

Mr. Ken'ichiro OTAKE

Deputy President of Shoko Chukin Bank. Adjunct professor at Osaka University and Gakushuin University. Former Director General of the National Tax Agency

Otake was involved with taxes for 20 of his 35 years at the Ministry of Finance, responsible for both the planning and administration of tax policy. In particular, in addition to being responsible for all tax categories at the Tax Bureau, he oversaw the first revision to the certified tax accountant law in 21 years as Deputy Director General (in 2001) and the first overhaul of the US-Japan Tax treaty in 32 years as Director General (in 2004).

A man who enjoys on-site visits and tours, Otake has traveled to 350 locations around the country to speak with and learn from executives and employees. This experience resulted in tax reforms such as a permanent tax cut on research and development to ensure that our cultural legacy is not lost.

Known widely for his love of sake ? bringing his own cup to parties and wearing short livery coats that promote sake ? Otake is a cheerleader for sake who has gone above and beyond the call of duty in contributing to sake's revival.

Otake's publications include: Deta de shimesu nihon no daitenkan (The Transformation of Japan as Seen in the Data) [Kanki Publishing] and Zeizaisei no hondo: kuni no katachi wo misuete (The High Road for Tax and Fiscal Policies: Taking a Hard Look at the Shape of the Country) [Toyo Keizai Shimposha].

Ms. Tokiko KATO
Actress, singer and artist.

Kato made her debut as a singer in 1965, while still a student at the University of Tokyo by winning the Japan Amateur Chanson Contest. Her song Akai fusen (Red Balloon) won her a Japan Record Award for Best New Artist and she received Japan Record Awards for Best Singer for both Hitorine no komoriuta (Lullaby for Sleeping Alone) and Shiretoko ryojo (Traveling in Shiretoko). Since then she has continue to produce numerous hit songs.

The national tours for Kato's Horoyoi Concert series have become a much-anticipated year-end event supported by brewers around the country. The tremendously popular concerts offer a gently intoxicating mix of sake and song that brings both audience and stage together.

Kato is also a special envoy for the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and a Councilor for WWF Japan. Her web site is <>.


Know widely as an American sake evangelist active around the world.

A true lover of sake, Gauntner is active in cultivating and popularizing sake both in Japan and abroad, making a particularly significant contribution overseas.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1962, Gauntner worked at Cincinnati Electronics following his graduation from the University of Cincinnati. He came to Japan with the Ministry of Education's JET Program in 1988 and taught English at a public high school in Kanagawa Prefecture. He later worked as an engineer with Marubeni Plasmatechnic and Asyst Technologies. In 1998 re retired from Asyst Technologies to devote himself to the promotion of sake overseas.

Today, Gauntner is active in his duties as a member of the board of the Japan Sake Export Association, provides consulting services related to sake export, writes for magazines and newspapers both in Japan and overseas, lectures frequently and hosts regular sake seminars for foreign residents of Japan.

Gauntner also publishes the monthly e-mail magazine Sake World Newsletter and writes a sake column for Metropolis, the Tokyo free magazine that is published every weekend. He also produces English menus for pubs and restaurants in Japan and translates web sites for sake breweries around the country. He also drew up the sake lists for restaurants such as Megu in New York and Shibuya at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas.

Gauntner is the only non-Japanese to have been named a kikizake meijin (accomplished sake taster) by the Junsui Nihonshu Kyokai (Pure Sake Association), an honor he has received three times.

Gauntner's publications include Sake Handbook [Running Press], Sake, Pure & Simple [Stone Bridge Press], Sake Companion [Running Press], Nihonjin mo shiranai nihonshu no hanashi (Things Even Japanese Don't Know About Sake) [Shogakukan] and Nihonshu ga umai otona no izakaya (Tokyo Sake Pub Guide) [Ebisu Kosho].


Born in New Zealand, the 34-year old Harrop is a wine consultant active primarily in the UK, where he lives. He earned his qualification as a Master of Wine, an exclusive and difficult examination that no Japanese or other Asian has yet passed, in 2002 on his first attempt. In doing so he also won the Tim DeRouet Award for outstanding marks.

Today he works as a consultant to wineries around the world, as an advisor to the entire Loire region and is a partner in a small organic winery (Domaine Matassa) in the south of France.

In 2006, Harrop was named Co-Chairman of the International Wine Challenge, the world's largest wine competition. In September he began contributing a wine column to the CNBC business monthly.

Harrop first came to Japan after participating in a London seminar run by a Japanese sake brewery and visited breweries in Shizuoka and Kyoto, returning home with a favorable impression of Japan and Japanese sake. Since becoming Co-Chairman of the International Wine Challenge he has been planning the establishment of a sake category to further introduce sake to the world.


Owner of sake specialty shop True Sake in San Francisco

Born in Canton, Ohio on 23 January 1966, Timken received an MBA from the University of Cape Town graduate school in 1994. He gained experience in the financial industry with jobs at Morgan Stanley in New York and Ameritrust in Cleveland. He was also involved in promoting trade between the US and South Africa.

While studying in South Africa, he had a taste of the high-quality sake that some fishermen had brought with them to a sushi restaurant and became an instant convert. He then began educating himself about sake, reading all the English-language books and articles he could find.

He later traveled to Japan to participate in an advanced sake tasting seminar. During his trip, while visiting the warm koji room deep in the storehouse of a brewery in Kobe, he realized what his mission would be: to start the first sake hall of fame, school or shop outside of Japan.

After earning two professional sake-tasting licenses and the sake sommelier qualification, Timken opened True Sake, the first sake specialty shop in the US, in San Francisco on 7 August 2003. He chose the name because he felt that most Americans had yet to encounter true, high-quality sake. He hoped to provide a place where those who wished to learn more about this wonderful drink could buy sake.

Timken is active in sake-related consulting, creating menus and training staff for numerous San Francisco Bay Area restaurants, and offering tasting seminars for individuals, restaurants and the press.

Timken has written Sake: A Modern Guide [Chronicle Books] and writes an Internet-based monthly sake newsletter with 8,000 subscribers. His activities have been profiled in numerous publications.

Today he lives in San Francisco with his wife, two daughters and two dogs. An avid swimmer, Timken has participated in many swimming competitions in San Francisco Bay at Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, in Lake Tahoe and even a relay across the English Channel.

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