A government-private campaign is under way to promote the export of "kokushu" along with Japanese-made wine and beer. Kokushu, a word coined some 30 years ago, refers to Japanese alcoholic beverages, in particular sake (rice wine) and shochu (distilled spirit). Kokushu consumption has been declining in keeping with the diversification of Japanese people’s tastes and a fall and aging of the population. However, the promoters of the campaign think that kokushu has good possibilities in the overseas markets because Japanese foods are becoming increasingly popular in other countries and because it also goes with most foreign dishes. That was how the "ENJOY JAPANESE KOKUSHU” project was kicked off by the government of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in May, 2011. The campaign is going on although his administration was taken over by a Liberal Democratic government in the general election in December 2012.
The Japan Tourism Agency affiliated with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism organized the "Sakagura Tourism Promotion Council" in March in hopes of making a full use of sakagura (sake breweries) in the export campaign.
The council aims to back up kokushu as a tourism resource, attract more foreign visitors by promoting the charm of sightseeing in Japan and help reinvigorate the flagging regional economies.
It has just begun undertaking six specific initiatives: (1) organizing a network linking the brewing and tourist industries with regional administrations through SNS to promote their mutual collaboration, (2) forming regional councils to strengthen their partnership; collect, analyze and supply relevant information about regional business models, (3) activating local communities by utilizing kokushu and sakagura for town planning and providing information about model projects, (4) promoting the partnership and cooperation between breweries and local food culture and traditional craft, (5) gathering and offering information about development of tours and related systems, and (6) inviting proposals for partnership projects from businesses that support the campaign.
The second initiative is aimed to help such regional councils organize year-round sakagura tours. Some of the regional councils are already proving quite successful. They include the Kashima Sakagura Tourism Council in Saga Prefecture and the Harima Sake Culture Tourism Council in Hyogo Prefecture. Incidentally, the city of Kashima has registered “Sakagura Tourism” as its trademark.
In the fifth initiative, the “PASHUPORT” tour developed by the Hokkaido Koiki Dosanshu Council is becoming popular. Other tours specifically targeted at foreigners have also been invented by other regional councils. By the way, PASHUPORT comes from a combination of passport and sake, which is also pronounced “shu”.
The Sakagura Tourism Promotion Council has just started its activity and it is still groping its way. It may uncover some new aspects of the country unknown even to Japanese people.
Written by: Tomomi Kubota