JAL, JETRO catering to overseas sake set

Japan Airlines Corp. and the Japan External Trade Organization have joined hands in promoting overseas consumption of sake as part of efforts to boost the number of foreign travelers to Japan.

On the back of rising popularity of sake overseas, JAL affiliate JAL Travel Co. began selling a tour package last month aimed at attracting fans of Japan’s traditional spirit overseas to visit the country.

The program features visits to five sake breweries, including in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, and Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture.

The JAL group hopes to see about 5,000 travelers a year take part in the tour program within three years, the officials said.

Meanwhile, the airline’s trade unit, Jalux Inc. started selling high-end sake products at its shop in London in August, and has organized tastings.

According to Finance Ministry trade statistics, exports of sake increased 10.2 percent from the previous year to 8,269 kiloliters in 2003.

However, given that about 90 percent of all sake was shipped by sea, many breweries have been worried that their products might not be consumed at the peak of freshness.

By focusing some of its promotional efforts on sake, JAL is also hoping to increase the amount it will ship by air, the officials said.

In the United States, JETRO and the Sake Export Association, formed by Japanese sake brewers, have centered efforts to promote high-quality sake mainly on high-income earners, organizing tastings and seminars.