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Kagoshima 'shochu' makers aim for world market through new org, int'l cooperation

The Satsuma Netto brand of shochu produced by Kagoshima University and Choshu-Gakusha brand of refined sake produced by Yamaguchi University (the bottle with the green label) are shown at Kagoshima University in the city of Kagoshima, on June 15, 2018. (Mainichi)

With the success of Japanese sake overseas, an organization aiming to expand the export of shochu -- spirits distilled from potatoes, rice and other ingredients -- and raising international awareness of the beverage is set to have its inaugural meeting in the city of Kagoshima on June 30.

The organization, the Kagoshima prefectural shochu export expansion project committee, will be comprised of the Kagoshima prefectural sake and shochu makers' association, the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) and other bodies, brought together by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF). It will support sending shochu makers across Kagoshima Prefecture to Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) in London -- the world's largest institute for wine buyers, sommeliers and others to learn wine-making techniques, sales strategies and other tips.

After WSET introduced a Japanese sake course in 2014, awareness of Japanese sake rose across the globe, boosting exports. According to the Ministry of Finance's Trade Statistics of Japan, the top Japanese liquor export by value in 2017 was sake at 18.6 billion yen, followed by whiskey at 13.6 billion yen, beer at 12.8 billion yen, and liqueurs at 4.9 billion yen. Shochu was fifth place at 2.1 billion yen.

In summer 2019, WSET will introduce a new spirits course that will include shochu. The Kagoshima organization plans to set up a relationship with WSET so that shochu brewers will provide seminars for the students in the course, and also give students the chance to travel to Kagoshima Prefecture to see the process first-hand. The deal is hoped to increase the understanding of shochu abroad and encourage more liquor shops around the world to carry the distilled beverage.

If the organization succeeds in raising awareness and expanding the export of shochu, then the MAFF plans to invite other prefectural sake and shochu makers' associations to join the project.

(Japanese original by Yusuke Matsukura, Political News Department)

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