Expanding consumption areas for Japanese sake and shochu

By Yuji Matsumoto

Recently in the U.S., wine discount stores like BevMo and Total Wine and More, etc., are prosperous. Also, rural areas have local large liquor stores that sell various alcoholic beverages (tequila, ji-beer (local craft beers), champagne, whiskey, etc.) in addition to wine. When I went to Las Vegas last week, I stopped by the largest local liquor chain store, where I was surprised to see the very limited selections of Japanese sake. With various foreign tequilas, wines, and ji-beer lining the shelves, why were there so little selections of Japanese sake offered? Also, the few selections available were without tages and lost in the “Asian” alcoholic section.

With the current Sake Tour indicating high public interest in Japanese sake and shochu, it’s disappointing to see so few outlets offering the products. The question I’m most often asked is, “This sake is delicious. Where can I buy it?” However, as of yet, the only answer I can provide is our restaurant. I’m also surprised to see customers who wish to purchase by the bottle.

Over ninety-percent of Japanese sake and shochu consumption takes place at Japanese restaurants. However, as long as this is the case, the market will not expand. Japan-affiliated markets are available only in some major cities. To have Americans consume sake and shochu “at home,” it is necessary for these products to be distributed more and more to specialty liquor stores and their staff trained.

The other day, I participated in a wine sampling held at a liquor store in Pasadena, Calif. I paid five dollars at the front, then enjoyed various red wines and cheese with various customers in a small crowded corner no more than 107 ft2. I thought for a second, “This would be fun to try with Japanese sake.”


最近米国ではBevmoやTotal Wine and Moreなどのワインディスカウント店が繁盛している。また地方に行くと地元の大型リカーショップ店があり、これらの店にはワイン以外にありとあらゆるアルコール飲料(テキーラ、地ビール、シャンペン、ウィスキー等)が陳列されている。先週ラスベガスに行った際にも地元最大のリカーチェーン店に足を運んでみたが、日本酒の種類の乏しさに唖然とした。海外産のテキーラやワイン、地ビールがこんなにあるのになぜ日本酒がこんなに少ないのか、また、何もタグがなく、ただ「Asian」のアルコールの中に埋もれていた。

現在行っているSake Tourでこれだけ日本酒や焼酎に興味を持っている人がいるのに、購入する場所がないのはとても残念なことだ。一番多く受ける質問は、「この酒美味しいですね、どこで買えるのか?」である。しかし、現状としては当店のレストランのみ、ということしか言えない。ボトルで購入したい、という顧客の多さには驚くばかりだ。


#alljapannews #sake #shochu


Bizarre labels on Japanese Sake bottles

By Yuji Matsumoto

While I’ve written repeatedly in the past about the lack of marketing efforts in branding Japanese sake bottles, it’s very disappointing that most breweries still haven’t implemented my suggestions. Every time a new Japanese sake product is introduced, many manufacturers still use labels very different from previous ones.

The bizarre marketing strategy is evident as soon as one picks up a product. Take vodka for example. While colors of the bottles may change, neither the label design nor the fonts of corporate logos ever change. Wine, whiskey, beer, etc., no matter what product you grab, the branding is such that customers immediately recognizes the manufacturer at first glance.

Wine labels share the same design, but different shapes of bottles and colors depending on the variety of grapes. For vodka, the shapes of the bottles are the same, and only the color of the label is changed according to the flavor. For beers, light vs. regular is differentiated by color, while the design is the same.

Designs of alcohol products are standardized in this manner. However, why not so with Japanese sake? Considering the cost and time required to launch a product, the lack of standardization in design for marketing purposes is “bizarre” to say the least.

I once heard from a sake manufacturer that when displaying sake bottles in small retail shops, various products by the same brand lining the shelves would confuse consumers, thus there was no choice but to change the labels. Another’s opinion was that if one brand fails, sales of other products under the same brand would also suffer due to chain reaction.

Looking at the current brands of Japanese sake, there isn’t one manufacturer whose labels are standardized among Nigori, Junmai, Ginjo, and Daiginjo. The changes in design and fonts are easy to notice.

American consumers are very loyal to brands. While the majority of them cannot read Japanese, using a standardized logo design would help consumers who happened to like Junmai to next sample Ginjo, Daiginjo, or Nigori sake.








#alljapannews #Japanese #sake #branding #sommelier


“Best in the World! International Wine Challenge (IWC) Champion” Part 1

By Kosuke Kuji 

At this year’s International Wine Challenge (IWC) 2017, “Nanbu Bijin Tokubetsu Junmai” is honored to win the “Champion Sake” title!!

From all the entries of total 1245 brands from 390 companies including foreign brands in 9 categories, the brewery master of the first prize (trophy) winner of each category came to the awards ceremony in London and just only one sake would be selected as the Champion Sake from 9 first prizes (trophy). You can see the reason why the champion sake of IWC which is the first prize (champion) from 1245 entries would be named the #1 Japanese sake in the world.

I received the first prize (trophy) for Honjozo last year and attended the award ceremony in London for the first time. When Dewazakura Sake Brewery Co was announced as Champion Sake at last year’s ceremony and while I was watching president Nakano from behind who was representing the future of Japan and walking onto the stage, I thought: I would like to bring this championship back to Nanbu Bijin, have Brewery Master Matsumori along with manufacturing staff that have been working hard until now and all supporting staff to feel the pride and excitement that their work lead them to become the world’s best, and show my appreciation to Iwate prefecture and Ninohe city that has brought us this far.

I certainly didn’t believe that my dream of these thoughts would become a reality. It was the reforming and efforts to improve the sake quality these last few years and result of persistent challenging that has lead us to this achievement. You can also say that the Nanbu Bijin team became as one to win this ultimate achievement.





#alljapannews #sake #nation #wine #challenge


Timing and content of communication

By Yuji Matsumoto

No matter how good a product is, the message needs to be communicated for customers to try the product. Also, the timing and message must be appropriate to lead to sales. Therefore, let’s consider when the appropriate timing is and how to communicate the appeal of Japanese sake in a way that leads to sales.

Consider who the message is directed to
Are chefs, servers, and bartenders trained appropriately? Giving them a small sample to try will not help them adequately describe and communicate the appeal of sake to customers appropriately. Training the staff to thoroughly understand why a brand of sake tastes delicious and why customers should try it is important because a single try will not be sufficient to understand even ten percent of the appeal of a brand. Therefore, please have staff try the sake paired with the cuisine.

During a food pairing session, Junmai was the least popular, yet when served with beef, all attendees unanimously agreed that Junmai was the most complimentary. The important part is to communicate why the recommended sake is most suitable for that particular customer. Please be mindful of the sake’s compatibility with the menu selection.

Of course, a good place to start would be to have the servers change their ordering from “What can I get you to drink?” to “It’s cold outside, would you like to try some hot sake?” This suggestion alone is a major difference. Also, please mention two to three different brands of Japanese sake during the recommendation.

Speak informatively to customers in a way that generates a response like “Oh really?” For example, “How about AAA, a dry and refreshing sake from Niigata that goes great with sushi?” Or “Would you like to try BBB, a brand of sake from Akita that has body and goes great with teriyaki?” The point is to word the recommendations into easy-to-understand sales pitches that makes customers want to try the brand. Offer two to three different brands that range from reasonable to mid-range prices. Also, pay attention to the weather. On cold days, anyone would prefer a warm beverage; therefore, it’s more effective to offer hot sake over cold.





やはり、サーバーがドリンクオーダーを取る時に顧客に「お飲み物をいかがいたしましょうか?」という一言を、「寒いので美味しい熱燗(hot sake)は、いかがですか」と変えてみること。この一言で大きな違いが生まれる。また、この際、2~3銘柄お薦めの日本酒も伝えること。

#alljapannews #sake #communication #food #pairing


Sake Nation Kosher Certification Part 5

By Kosuke Kuji

Just as I mentioned in the last column, Nanbu Bijin cleared different hurdles to receive Kosher certification for 2 types of liquor of Japanese sake and plum wine to lead the way. For the announcement of our company receiving certification, the first announcement was made in the Holy Land of Judaism, Israel.

Next, focusing on Israelis living in Los Angeles and New York in the U.S., we had the Kosher announcement and tasting events. We are planning to also have these kind of tasting events in Japan in the future.

The reason why Nanbu Bijin wanted to apply for Kosher certification in the first place was the Great East Japan Earthquake and at that time we received much support from Israel including Rabi Edelhi. Also as a company that exports, sake is known to be reliable and safe, but I was thinking for a long time what might be needed to make it possibly more acceptable worldwide as a guarantee or decision making factor. During such a time I met up with this “Kosher.”

Even though Japanese sake has the image of being healthy or safe and reliable worldwide, that image is very much limited to foreigners that know Japanese or Japan very well. So you may say, to conclusively prove that abstractive healthy image was the motive to challenge this Kosher certification.

For a small country brewery like Nanbu Bijin to receive certification when the hurdle was first so high to reach the Kosher level, I believe that there will be an increase of breweries that will plan to receive Kosher certification in the Japan Sake making industry from now on.

I believe that Kosher sake will break down the wall of religion, put aside the concept of Japanese food, and be the key to make Japanese sake spread across the world with a true meaning. This might be a story slightly ahead in the future instead of right away, but I will dream that such a time will come and continue to work hard to achieve that.

酒豪大陸「コーシャ認定 その5」







#alljapannews #sake #kosher #certification


The disruption of the Sho Chu Market

By Yuji Matsumoto

While sake is renown as an alcoholic beverage unique to Japan, there is very little recognition of shochu among American consumers. Because there is little information on the difference between the Korean Soju and traditional Japanese shochu, consumers are confused. This is a unique case particular to California, but despite shochu being a distilled spirit, if imported with alcohol level below 24%, then restaurants with Beer & Wine licenses can sell them as “Soju” as long as they’re imported and registered accordingly. Because over 90% of Japanese restaurants in California only hold Beer & Wine licenses, the term “Soju” must be used over “Shochu.” Depending on the manufacturers, some register two different labels for the same brand: the term “Soju” is used for alcohol level of 24%, while alcohol level of 25% and above is referred to as “Shochu.” The root of all confusion is this law. While the vendor wants to sell as Shochu, the market becomes so limited by the naming that vendors are forced to sell them as “Soju” instead. Since the label reads “Soju,” there’s no point in trying to explain that “Japanese Shochu is different from Soju,” since most American consumers don’t read Japanese and won’t understand the difference. I’m also troubled about how to train my employees.

The root of all confusion is this law. While the vendor wants to sell as Shochu, the market becomes so limited by the naming that vendors are forced to sell them as “Soju” instead. Since the label reads “Soju,” there’s no point in trying to explain that “Japanese Shochu is different from Soju,” since most American consumers don’t read Japanese and won’t understand the difference. I’m also troubled about how to train my employees.

While the Japanese are well aware of the obvious difference between the Korean Soju and traditional Japanese shochu by the name, it’s still a notable problem that American consumers who hold the key to expansion into future markets don’t know this difference. Since it seems unlikely that this law will be revised anytime soon, the only option is to advocate the ingredients, processing methods and ways to enjoy shochu as Japanese Premium Soju. Also, for import and distribution companies, one suggestion would be to distinguish Shochu as Japanese Premium Soju, or to include the subtitle “Honkaku Soju.”


日本固有の酒文化として日本酒(サケ)は大分知られるようになったが、まだまだ焼酎の知名度はアメリカ人にとって低い。また、韓国Sojuと日本の本格焼酎の違いについても情報提供がないため、消費者は困惑するばかりだ。カリフォルニア州での例外話しだが、日本の焼酎は蒸留酒にもかかわらず、アルコール度数が24度以下で「Soju」として輸入登録すればBeer & Wineライセンスのレストランでも売れる面白い法がある。9割以上のカリフォルニア州の日本食レストランは、Beer & Wineのライセンスしか保有していないので、ここで飲めるのは焼酎という名前ではなくSojuということになる。




日本人にとってはその違いは文字で端的に韓国Sojuと日本の本格焼酎の区別が理解できるが、今後の市場の拡大を握っているアメリカ人消費者には分からないのが大きな課題だ。この法律規制は、当面解消されることがないので、とりあえずはJapanese Premium Sojuとしてその原料や製法、飲み方を提唱していくことしかないのである。また、輸入や販売会社においては、Japanese Premium Soju、もしくは、サブタイトルに「Honkaku Soju」と入れるといいかもしれない。
#alljapannews #soju #sake #shochu


Sake Nation  “Kosher Certification Part 4”

By Kosuke Kuji

For Kosher certification, we start by having the Rabbi, leader of Judaism religion, observe the raw materials and manufacturing processes. After Nanbu Bijin planned to apply for Kosher certification for about 1 and ½ years, we had Rabbi Edelhi (exact spelling not sure) of Chabad of Japan come to our brewery many times. Certification for plum wine and other liquors besides sake were involved so the number of visits were more than usual, and we also had him observe the raw material of rice(s), fruit producer(s), and processing facilities etc. During the processing, even though indications of temperature of sterilization or as a raw material it is not certified, he carefully observed the contents of the extract that are used to culture the yeast etc, and strictly checked to see if any animal product or dairy product was used. In addition, regarding the raw materials, they all needed to be separated as ‘Kosher use’ in their records and must easily be identified at a glance. During this process, there was a problem with “distilled alcohol” which had the highest hurdle of Kosher certification for Japanese sake. At first we were told that we would not be able to receive Kosher certification if distilled alcohol was used due to difficulty of identifying the raw material(s) of distilled alcohol. Also, we had to show the condition of the distilled alcohol before it was mixed, and to put it strictly, this could not be achieved without having 2 separate facilities to make the sake.

However a large light of hope beamed on us here. One kind of distilled alcohol made by a distilled alcohol company in Shizuoka prefecture unbelievably succeeded in receiving Kosher certification as is.

In other words, if you use that Kosher certified distilled alcohol, the hurdle would immediately get lowered and the brewer of the Japanese sake got lucky to receive Kosher certification.

酒豪大陸「コーシャ認定 その4」


南部美人としてコーシャの認定を受けようと計画してから約1年半かけて、何度もCHABAD OF JAPANのラビのエデリーさんに蔵にきていただきました。日本酒だけではなく、梅酒などのリキュールの認定もあるので、その回数は通常よりも多く、さらには、原材料の米や果実の生産者、加工の施設なども視察していただきました。





#alljapannews #sake #koshercertification


Replicating authentic Japanese izakaya with the food, service and ambience

Replicating authentic Japanese ... Replicating authentic Japanese ... Replicating authentic Japanese ... Replicating authentic Japanese ... Replicating authentic Japanese ...
By Keiko Fukuda

There is a restaurant in Torrance that has gained popularity quickly in the past few years for its vivid ambiance, in which you enjoy fresh seafood and meat dishes. It is “Izakaya Hachi”. Another Hachi restaurant also opened in Costa Mesa in Orange County a year ago. They opened their first restaurant in Santa Monica about 9 years ago as an affiliated restaurant of the Manpuku Group, and their popularity grew when they moved to Torrance in April of 2013.

“Back then, my goal was to make a restaurant where people can feel the true essence of Japan in Torrance where many people from Japan live, and many of them are corporate business people on assignments. My image for this place was a typical izakaya in the Shinbashi area of Tokyo. Lately, more and more local people started to come by word of mouth. I was not expecting that, but I heard that good reviews on social media such as Yelp spread widely,” says Tomohisa Kawachi, the Supervisor.
Their meat is procured from the same vendor which the Manpuku Group uses. Hachi’s most recommended meat dish is the thickly sliced beef tongue. The slowly charcoal-broiled tongue is flavorful and has a hint of sweetness. Their solid confidence in the freshness of the ingredients is represented by having beef sashimi on the menu. The seafood ingredients are directly sent by air from Japan.

There are so many items of seafood, meat, vegetables, and even Battera (pressed sushi) on the menu, which makes it difficult for you to make decisions. The list of menu items gets renewed every 6 months after a deep discussion between the chef and Mr. Kawachi.

Kawachi continues, “The data shows what sells well. What we want to push is not necessarily the same as what customers want. Therefore, based on the data, we decide what to leave, and what to add on the menu. For the dishes that are loved by only a few customers, we still offer them as the daily specials once in a while.”

Among their alcoholic drinks they carry for pairing with the food items, they recommend “Shinriki” from Hiroshima as a rare and precious sake brand. Among sake rice, Yamadanishiki is well known nowadays; however, before World War II, Shinrikimai was also very widely used along with Yamadanishiki. The Shinrikimai was believed to be eradicated due to the atomic bombing in the area.

He said, “A small amount of survived crop was found a few years ago, and preserved. Now, only a few hundred bottles of sake made with Shinrikimai are sold only in Kure-city of the Hiroshima prefecture. We get a few of those precious bottles through a special connection after a negotiation.
The sake Kawachi loves is "namazake" (non-filtered raw unprocessed sake). He says, “Its alcohol content is 19%, which is very different from other dry, fresh Japanese sake brands that are currently popular in the US. It tastes so satisfying!” He seems to be really fond of this sake.

“Customers are happy as long as good food and sake are there, and we tend to speak louder encouraged by seeing them being content. This reaction provides the restaurant’s vivid ambiance. I believe that vividness of a restaurant is created not intentionally by the restaurant, but by the customers. To me, it is very important for the healthy growth of the restaurant to keep making solid and consistent efforts in improving the quality of the service with continuous training of the staff,” says Kiuchi. This restaurant does not advertise at all. I asked him about the target for 5 years from now. “I would like Hachi to become a restaurant of a higher quality, meaning the kind of restaurant which even people from far-away places want to visit.”

Even now, there are already more than a few people who come from outside of the State. They also even have received a request to open another branch outside of California. However, as an immediate goal, Kawachi thinks it is more important to have the Costa Mesa branch catch up with the success of Torrance. I believe that the possibility of having more branches may open up after achieving that goal.













Izakaya Hachi
1880 W.Carson St.Ste A
Torrance, CA 90501

Mon.-Thu. 5:30pm-10:30pm
Fri. 5:30pm-11:00pm
Sat. 5:00pm-10:30pm
Sun. 5:00pm-10:00pm
#alljapannews #Japanese #sake #izakaya #authentic #Torrance


How to select sake suitable for enjoyment as hot sake

One appeal of Japanese sake is the wide range of temperatures for consumption. By changing the temperature, the flavor of the same brand of sake varies greatly, interestingly enough, along with its compatibility with various dishes, making sake enjoyable year-round.

In the fall, the flavors of dishes switch from mild to richer, the temperature of the atmosphere gets lower, and the best season for hot sake arrives.

However, many consumers cannot determine from the label which sake is suitable for consumption as hot sake.

I have written in the past about the need to improve display methods to “indicate on sake labels” (despite many consumers wanting to know how to consume the sake and what foods are most compatible together for consumption, such information is not indicated), and it’s disappointing to see that information is still not displayed on sake labels today. While some sake manufacturers do list the suitable temperature range, most don’t.

Therefore, in this article, we introduce a rough standard determined from the writings displayed on most labels.
Sake suitable for hot sake

• Sake indicated as Junmai or Honjozo
• Yamahai or Kimoto
• Dry

Sake not suitable for hot sake

1. nigori type (unfiltered sake) or flavored sake
2. Namasake (draft sake) or Genshu type (unprocessed sake)
3. Low alcohol level or sparkling sake
4. Daiginjo or Ginjo is basically to be avoided (with some exceptions)

Appropriate temperature range for heating
While gently heating the entire bottle by placing it in warm water is the best way, microwaving is also OK. For approximately 6 oz. of sake, remove the bottle from the warm water after heating for twenty seconds. Slew the bottle and place again in the warm water for approximately 10 seconds. The temperature is best kept at “lukewarm”.





• 純米や本醸造と書かれているもの
• “山廃や生もと造り”などが書かれているもの
• ドライ、辛などの表示があるもの

1. にごりタイプやフレイバー酒
2. 生酒や原酒タイプ
3. 低アルコール酒や発泡酒
4. 大吟醸や吟醸系は基本的に避ける(例外もある)

#alljapannews #Japanese #sake #hotsake


Enjoy food with Japanese sake

By Yuji Matsumoto

Recently, I’m often asked from Americans, “Wine is often used for cooking, can you also use Japanese sake?” Japanese sake is great for cooking, because it contains many umami components for use in various ways.”

Eliminating Odor
Sake is useful to eliminate odor from pork, lamb, etc., although this odor may be characteristic for lamb. To flavor food while preparing Japanese cuisine, sprinkle sake over food when the odor is too strong and leave for two minutes to eliminate the odor.

Softens Proteins
Placing chicken breast, red beef, and meat for stew into a Ziploc bag with sake the day before use is effective in removing the dryness and making the meat delicious. Sake enhances great flavor to BBQ and yakiniku meat.

Adds umami flavors
The fact that sake is useful for cooking food in soy sauce to various soup dishes are known to many. Surprisingly, sake is also great for preparing western soup dishes, especially when using seafood. Adding sake further enhances flavors. Of course, sake is great for adding flavor to pasta and other dishes, so please give it a try.

Sake is great for cooking!
Cooking sake and Junmai sake is great for cooking! Ginjo, Daiginjo is great for enjoyment, but as for suitability for cooking, Junmai is better because of its high content of umami flavors. Furthermore, the prices are high, so it’s a waste to use such expensive sake for cooking.






#alljapannews #Japanese #enjoy #sake #umami


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