They call him "the sake savant," but that doesn't bother Philip Harper, a 42-year-old native of another rugged coastline, thousands of miles away: Cornwall, in southwest England.
For 18 years, this unlikely foreigner has stubbornly endured both hard labor and silent resistance, studying Japanese and the brewing craft until he was eventually accepted -- and celebrated -- by even the most traditional brewers.
In sake-drinking circles across Japan and abroad, Harper is considered a cross-cultural pioneer: the only non-Japanese sake-maker to rise to the rank of toji, or master brewer. This "miracle" of the conservative world of Japanese brewing has people scratching their heads that a foreigner has emerged as the boss of a factory floor.
"Philip loves sake, but he also loves Japanese traditional culture," says Hiroshi Ujita, a Kyoto brewery owner. "His character is almost Japanese. He understands the Japanese way of thinking, our style of daily life. You can taste it in his sake."
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