Arizona Sake Maker Atsuo Sakurai
Yokohama, Japan and Holbrook, Arizona. Two destinations with nothing in common. Yokohama, with a population of 3.7 million, is a bustling port city on the Pacific Rim. Holbrook is a quiet town on Route 66, home to 5,000 people at last count.
But now the places are linked in a way no one ever imagined. All thanks to a Japanese maker named Atsuo Sakurai.
Yokohama native Sakurai settled in Holbrook in 2014 and began making his native country's most well-known beverage—sake, or Japanese rice wine—out of a garage. Not only has he seen huge success (chefs, restaurateurs and distributors snatch up Sakurai's sake as fast as he can bottle it), but he's received some of the highest honors in the Japanese sake world.
Case in point: In 2018, Sakurai's product, Arizona Sake, was awarded the title "World's Best Sake Made Outside Japan" at Tokyo's Sake Competition. Incredibly, Sakurai had only received his license in January of 2017; Arizona Sake won the award within 18 months of its existence.
Sakurai also received a special commendation from Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, making him the first Japanese person to receive the honor. Local and national media have featured Sakurai, including a recent segment on National Public Radio.