The Daily Manila Shimbun


Rugby-inspired shochu, sake catching on amid World Cup excitement

October 9, 2019

Osaka/Nagano--Rugby-inspired "shochu" spirits and sake rice wine are drawing popularity in Japan, the host of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, as the ongoing tournament generates excitement across the country.

"Daen," a shochu named after the Japanese word meaning an oval shape, the shape of the rugby ball, is on sale by AroundSports Co., based in the western Japan city of Osaka. The planning company began to donate part of the sales about 10 years ago for the purpose of helping promote rugby in Japan.

AroundSports President Satoshi Takai, 58, started work to develop Daen when he engaged in a mission in 2002 to support Kobe Steel Ltd.'s <5406> rugby team as an employee of entertainment company Yoshimoto Kogyo Co.

Takai learned that many retired rugby players are too busy to teach younger players or even watch matches. After launching his own business in 2008, Takai developed the shochu jointly with a sake brewer in the southwestern city of Miyazaki.

As the concept of donating part of the sales for the development of the sport has been accepted favorably, his company is enjoying strong orders for nearly 1,000 bottles of Daen every year, with clients including retired rugby players, rugby bars and restaurants run by former rugby players.

Takai said: "People can contribute to rugby by drinking the shochu. I hope people talk about their good old days over Daen." Part of Daen sales is contributed to rugby-related groups and nonprofit organizations.

Nishi-Iida Syuzouten Inc. in the central Japan city of Nagano makes "Sekizen," a sake made using cherry blossom yeast, inspired by the emblem of the flower on the jersey of the Japanese national rugby team.

The sake also contains yeast from dogwood flowers, which symbolize friendship. The Sekizen bottle is wrapped in a rugby jersey-shaped label.

When he was a high school student, Nishi-Iida Syuzouten President Kazumoto Iida, 34, belonged to the school's rugby team. He developed the sake using rice grown by a former senior teammate.

Since making its debut in June, ahead of the opening of the Rugby World Cup last month, Sekizen has been selling well. One customer bought several bottles, saying, "I will send them as gifts to people including the former coach of my son, who used to play rugby," according to Iida.

What Iida particularly likes about rugby is the "no side" spirit, which means there are no sides for winners or losers once the game is over.

"I hope that this product will provide people who are not interested in or have never played rugby with an opportunity to learn how interesting the sport is," Iida said. Jiji Press