Hidetoshi Nakata can be considered the most famous Japanese footballer of his generation. All eyes were on him when he launched his latest bottle of limited-edition sake “N” 2015 at Pacific Place last week.
Since his retirement, the footballer has been stamping his mark in the design world. Touted as a style icon, he has designed jewellery and sake among other ventures. It may seem like an extremely diverse portfolio, but for Nakata it’s simple: passion is what motivates him.
We’re very excited to try your new sake “N” 2015. Can you tell us more about this year’s sake?
Last year, summer was quite hot [in Japan] so rice became softer which meant that [the final product] became more full-bodied and sweeter. It packs a lot of power. When you drink it after 20 to 30 minutes, the taste can [be very different]. The “N” sake will be limited to 1,000 bottles and sold outside of Japan.
What food would you pair with this sake?
It goes really well with red meat. The sake packs a lot of power. I think it goes better with red meat than fish.
What inspired you to dabble in sake?
I want to promote Japanese culture and sake outside of Japan. Sake makers are less concerned about branding and marketing. I want to help raise awareness of the drink to the rest of the world. That’s why I only sell [my sake] outside of Japan.
This is a passion for me. It’s not about making money. Some people may think that my sake is too expensive, but once they taste it they will appreciate it. For me, it is about bringing sake outside of Japan. My sake is [tailored] for the high-end market, but it gives way for other brands to emerge in the middle-market. I have set up a company to help these middle-market brands promote themselves.
Did you face any difficulties when you first started crafting sake? How did you overcome them?
I tasted a lot of sake [through my visits] to sake makers around Japan. From that, I learnt and understood the different types of sake and which kind I liked.
For me, wine and sake are quite similar. Even before making sake, I enjoyed drinking wine so for me learning about sake was not that difficult because I [could apply the knowledge] I had about wine.
Of course, I’ve never worked in the alcohol industry, so it was not easy to understand the industry and learn about pairing Italian, French, Chinese cuisines with sake. I’m constantly learning and it’s exciting. I can see more and more people are beginning to appreciate and understand sake.
From sake making to jewellery designing, you’ve certainly been involved in a lot of creative ventures. How did you develop this creative flair?
I don’t think there are borders between fashion, food, art and design. It’s very [natural] for me. I like beautiful things.
Have there been any milestone moments or huge successes in your career so far?
That’s a hard question …. I never really think I am working. Whether it’s playing football or making sake, it’s the same. I’m just living my life. There are many things I am proud of, but this is just my life. I’m following my own path.
It’s always important to do things you like. Money doesn’t need to come first – your idea and passions should come first. This is the philosophy I have been following my whole life. I played football not because of the money or to become famous, but because I loved football. I need to love the things I do. I need to have a passion for them. It doesn’t matter what people think – just do what you feel is right.
What is your definition of style?
Style is about being elegant.