February snows

Post by Chris Bunting

The extremely heavy snowfall in Eastern Japan was initially poorly reported in the Japanese media. The town of Chichibu, near Ichiro Akuto’s distillery, had 98 cm of snow, the highest in its history, and 1,000 households were completely cut off between February 14th and 15th. The situation was also very serious in Yamanashi Prefecture, where Suntory’s Hakushu distillery is located, with thousands of people isolated. Buildings have collapsed under the weight of snow and at least 19 people had died by the 17th.

Our friends at Hakushu and Chichibu were affected but, thankfully, nobody has been hurt and there has been none of the serious damage sustained, for instance, by the Yamanashi wine industry, which may take years to recover. The Fuji Gotemba and Monde distilleries are also near the most badly affected areas and we hope they also escaped the worst of it.

A spokesperson for Suntory said: “It was a really terrible disaster but, fortunately, all employees in Hakushu have been safe. [The distillery] has been closed since then.
We received so many warm messages from our customers, which has encouraged us in the clean up.”

Suntory hoped to have tours running again this week.

Ichiro Akuto said his staff had not been able to return home for three days during the worst snows. “However, things have started to go back to normal now. The snow has been cleared and the trains are working again.”

Miraculously, the Chichibu Whisky Festival went ahead as planned this weekend (see Stefan’s report). Now, that is worthy of a toast!


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