According to The Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo may not have been an easy name to sell products with during Japan’s post-war years of economic growth thanks to its association with pollution--but in 2016 the brand is far from toxic.
Spurred on by the ever-increasing number of foreign tourists and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, more and more food businesses are capitalizing on the “Tokyo brand” in the promotion of their products.
Koyama Brewery in Tokyo’s Kita Ward is one such example. Founded in 1878, it is the last sake brewery in operation within Tokyo’s 23 wards. This year, the brewery revived a brand called Tokyo Zakari around 40 years after it was discontinued.
The brewery relaunched it on April 15 at a cost of 3,000 yen (US$28), excluding consumption tax, for a 720-milliliter bottle, and it was greeted with a surprising number of orders. Koyama has already sold out its own stock, but some can still be found in other outlets.
“We were amazed by the huge response,” said Kuri Koyama, 37, the managing director of the brewery.
Tokyo Zakari was once loved in the mass market, but the brand was discontinued as sales declined. Amid the period of strong economic growth, pollution was a big issue in the capital, and “Tokyo” branding did not go over well in the food industry at the time.
The turning point came two years ago when an employee from a confectionary manufacturer, a business partner, noticed the label of the original Tokyo Zakari displayed on the wall of the brewery and said, “The Tokyo brand has great marketing power at the moment. It is such a waste not to use it.”
A distribution company also endorsed the idea, citing its appeal to foreign tourists, and the brewery decided to revive the brand.
The newly launched Tokyo Zakari is a “junmai daiginjo,” a top-quality sake brewed only with rice and malted rice. It retains its original label design with cherry blossoms and chrysanthemums, with the word Tokyo in English added to it.
“We are planning to continue brewing another batch of the brand for the next season and thereafter. We hope people will enjoy it for years to come,” said Koyama.
Founded in 2014, Tokyo Winery in Nerima Ward is the first vintner ever to open in the capital. From March this year it started co-farming its own vine with farmers around Tokyo. Miwa Echigoya, 39, the representative of the winery, used to work at a fresh produce wholesale market in Tokyo’s Ota Ward.
There, she began to feel strongly about how underrepresented Tokyo’s farming industry was. Deciding she would promote local agricultural produce, Echigoya came up with the idea of making wine in Tokyo.
The vintner produces about 9,000 bottles of wine annually, including those made with a Japanese species of grape grown in Nerima Ward.
And in Shinjuku Ward, L’atelier chouchou, a French restaurant with a special focus on Tokyo’s fresh produce, opened on April 9.
“Vegetables harvested in Tokyo are the freshest we can get (here in Tokyo). I want more people to realize the goodness of grown-in-Tokyo veggies,” said owner and Chef Yusuke Nomura, 35, who grew up in Shibuya Ward.
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