Photo/Illutration“Dassai Shima Kosaku” features comic character Kosaku Shima holding a glass of sake on its label. (Yusuke Kato)

  • Photo/Illustraion

One household name is helping out another as a super-salaryman comes to the aid of top sake brand Dassai after torrential rain devastated its brewery in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Kenshi Hirokane, author of the “Shima Kosaku” manga series who is from the prefecture, teamed up with brewer Asahishuzo Co. to release a batch of sake named after his famous character in a charitable project to sell substandard-but-drinkable stock.

“Dassai Shima Kosaku” will go on sale on Aug. 10. For every bottle sold, 200 yen will be donated to areas affected by heavy rain in western Japan in July.

Hiroshi Sakurai, chairman of Asahishuzo, said the company thought it had “no choice but to dispose of the batch” and was delighted to have found a better use for it.

“I believe the taste is up to scratch of ‘junmai daiginjo’ sake, but that cannot be sold under the Dassai brand,” he told a news conference.

Hirokane, who has sampled “Dassai Shima Kosaku,” thinks otherwise.

“For me, it is as tasty as the ordinary Dassai I usually drink,” he said. “I am happy that they employed Shima Kosaku (for the project).”

At Asahishuzo, machinery and rice ingredients were soaked in mud, and power was cut for three days following the deluge, ruining the strict temperature-controlled regime for Dassai in production at the time.

It meant that 500,000 liters of drinkable, tasty sake could not be shipped under the same brand and were at risk of going down the drain.

A lifeline came along in the shape of Kosaku Shima, the protagonist of the long-running manga series and one of the best-known “salarymen” in Japan.

The famous comic book and sake names have some shared history, as Hirokane depicted a fictional sake brand named Kassai--a play on Dassai--in the series after interviewing brewery staff.

Learning about the devastation, Hirokane contacted the company and offered to help in some way, and the plan for the novelty sake line was hatched.

Asahishuzo will ship 650,000 bottles of “Dassai Shima Kosaku” that can be purchased at regular Dassai stockists.

The sake bears a specially drawn picture of Shima drinking the rice wine on label. A 720-milliliter bottle is priced at 1,200 yen ($10), excluding tax, about 250 yen cheaper than the brewery’s popular product.

The “Shima Kosaku” series started in 1983, and it centers on Shima, an ordinary business man, climbing up the corporate ladder. The series still runs, and has seen Shima rise to become chairman of the company he has worked for all these years.