TPP seen helping local drink awamori spread to Asian markets and beyond
TOKYO — A Japanese government panel will begin working with the private sector later this month on ways to promote awamori, a distilled rice liquor indigenous to Okinawa, in overseas markets.
Shipments of the pungent drink have been declining. But officials reckon that the 11-member Trans-Pacific Partnership trade and investment pact, which Japan hopes will enter into force next year, will help buoy exports. A promotional event in Singapore is already in the works for late February.
Mitsuhiro Miyakoshi, a special adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, will attend the first meeting to be held in Naha, the Okinawan capital, along with other Cabinet Office officials and local representatives.
“I believe the culture of awamori will catch on overseas, particularly in Asia,” Miyakoshi said.
The history of awamori dates back to the Ryukyu Kingdom, which ruled over islands now part of Japan’s southernmost prefecture and established itself as an important link in trade routes stretching to Southeast Asia. Fermented with a local fungus, the liquor is drunk straight, in cocktails and other ways and is used to flavor local cuisine.
The panel will research the food cultures, purchasing power, liquor taxes and pertinent regulations of potential markets and share their findings. Plans also include promotion activities abroad in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Japan External Trade Organization.