The certification program of Japanese Food and Ingredient Supporter Stores Overseas
Interview of Suppoter Stores Orihara Shoten Bangkok
Japanese sake specialist store with a standing bar
Aims to popularize sake by offering various drinking suggestions
Bangkok / Thailand
A Base for Popularizing Japanese Sake Culture in Bangkok
Established in 1924 and with a history of almost a hundred years, Orihara Co., Ltd. is a wholesale distributor that supplies alcohol to clients in the food and beverage industry. It opened its first retail store “Orihara Shoten” in Singapore nine years ago, followed by another in Tokyo’s Monzen-Nakacho. The second retail store outside Japan is Orihara Shoten Bangkok, which opened in September 2016 in Ekkamai Park Lane community mall.
The store is run by BB&B-ORIHATA Co., Ltd, a merged company between Orihara and BB&B (Bangkok Beer & Beverages Co., Ltd.), which imports and distributes wine, whisky, and Japanese sake in Thailand. Similar to the Singapore and Tokyo stores, the Bangkok store has a standing bar and sells carefully selected sake. According to store manager Mr. Yoshito Suzuki, “We want our customers to enjoy sake, which is kept at the right temperature, in a casual way, without getting into long-winded discussions about it. We simply want them to understand that sake made by the same brewery is different depending on the way it is produced and how it is served.”
A Selection of 90 Brands from Various Breweries from around Japan
The 120-square-meter store, with a large counter in the center, stocks 90 brands of Japanese alcohol. Ninety percent of them are Japanese sake, and the rest are Japanese liquor. Some of the main brands are Dassai from Yamaguchi (Asahishuzo), Masumi from Nagano (Miyasaka Brewing Company), Yukinobousha from Akita (Saiya Shuzouten), Kirinzan from Niigata (Kirinzan Brewery), Chiyomusubi from Tottori (Chiyomusubi Sake Brewery), and Bijofu from Kochi (Hamakawa Shoten). Although there is a slight tendency that orders for the more well-known sake, such as Dassai and Masumi, are frequent, both Thai and Japanese customers alike try different brands, so the popularity is well dispersed overall.。
Japanese Sake Is Gaining Wider Popularity among Thai People
Light snacks eaten as accompaniment to alcohol also use a lot of ingredients from Japan. Shiokara using squid from Hakodate, dried baby sardines from Odawara, and dried stingray fin from Akita, which are optimal-flavor matches for sake, are not only popular with the Japanese but also Thai customers. The clientele is comprised of 45 percent Thai, 45 percent Japanese, and the remaining 10 percent from North America and Europe.
“Thai people like to travel to Japan, so we are seeing an increasing number of people who have extensive knowledge of Japanese sake through their travels in Japan. Many are real sake enthusiasts and ask very specific questions like: “Do you have non-filtered raw unprocessed sake?” says Mr. Suzuki. When attending to customers, the shop staff carefully explain the characteristics of each sake, the sweetness or dryness level, and aroma. They also offer advice on how to drink it, for example, Junmaishu (pure rice sake) is best served warm. However, most Thai people prefer to drink sake cold and often ask for ice buckets. “It will take some time, but we would like more people to enjoy warm or hot sake and hope that Thai people will start buying sake bottles and heating it when consuming it at home.”
Increasing the Appeal of Sake through Events
Based on the idea of making sake more accessible and casual, the store offers 12 recommended varieties of “Sake by the Glass.” It has drawn up a matrix that categorizes the 12 sake varieties based on the strength of aroma and flavor, making it easily understandable for sake beginners. It is a sales promotion tool that offers guidance to customers who do not know what to purchase. It also holds events on an irregular basis which propose new ways and possibilities of enjoying sake: the “sound + sake” event that suggests sake-matches with music; and the “cheese + sake” event in which participants enjoy cheese and sake pairings. Going forward, events such as taste-pairing with Chinese, Italian, and French cuisine, as well as inviting representatives from sake breweries from Japan to create opportunities for the manufacturers and customers to talk directly, are under consideration.
Offering Seasonal Sake as the Next Challenge
Another of Orihara Shoten Bangkok’s plans is to enhance its seasonal products. Japan’s Orihara Shoten stocks around 200 different types of sake, but because the bar for registering alcohol in Thailand is very high, the Bangkok store so far has only been able to stock 90 types of sake. The future goal is to provide more varieties of namagenshu (raw unprocessed sake), hiyaoroshi (autumn seasonal sake), and shiboritate shinshu (freshly pressed sake) real time so that customers can “make all their seasonal sake purchases at Orihara Shoten Bangkok.” Mr. Suzuki goes on to say, “We hope to organize a sake brewery tour in Japan for our customers.” The role Orihara Shoten Bangkok plays in popularizing Japanese sake in Thailand is clearly very significant.