SAKE review by Mr J C Fisher

There is no such thing as a free lunch, or these days a free conversation. One minute I was chatting with a certain Mr Campbell about the design exhibition exploring the packaging of Sake, 24 hrs later I was being asked to write a response…  I have never drunk Sake and I probably never will. Likewise I have never been to Japan and I probably never will, but if you want to give God a good laugh tell him your plans as they say… I am however interested in a sense of identity and why as humans we can be persuaded to buy things we don’t need. Probably parting with money we can ill afford. I have a fairly strict utilitarian approach to my discretionary purchases; function and necessity being the prime motives. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy a really good unpasteurised artisan cheese such as Kirkham’s Lancashire. I buy it not for the packaging, it usually comes in nothing but plain greaseproof paper from a stall on Durham’s covered market, but for the tastes. Tastes plural for the last Lancashire made with raw milk is an exquisite series of sensations. Conspicuous consumerism largely leaves me cold. So as I wandered around looking at the various different solutions to the packaging brief my minuscule retail therapy itch wasn’t being scratched. Some designs were quickly sidestepped. Others held my attention, mainly for the cultural information that was the raison d'être of the individual response. I might not be a fashion victim but I am a knowledge junkie. I knew nothing of Kinsugi, the art of golden repair on broken ceramics. I was rather attracted to the concept of celebrating the individual journey of the artefacts by emphasising the scars and imperfections in gold. Diametrically opposed to this was the philosophy of the Snow Goose ‘Hakugan’ Festival where the explicit aim was to increase the value of a ‘standard product’. Naked capitalism and most unappealing to this brand of consumer. The technicalities of some of the printing was impressive but in the long run superficial, my momentary thoughts were often little beyond ‘I wonder how that’s done?’  The design I spent most with was for Shimeharitsuru where a Shrine Bell Rope had been combined with a Crane in a balanced flowing brush stroke. Simple to look at but elegant to my western eyes and I suspect technically accomplished. I later read that Shimeharitsuru is made from ‘Ohyakumangoku rice polished down to 50%, and fermented very slowly at low temperatures, which enhances the natural umami of the rice, and produces a subtle aroma, and a round clean flavour’. Perhaps these powerful symbols having awakened the inner food snob I will try a Shimeharitsuru in the future, perhaps not, it would probably give me a headache…

Mr J C Fisher