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FUKUOKA — Kyushu folk are feeling quite tickled about something at the moment: a shochu boom in bars around Japan. The surging popularity of this once-lowbrow spirit, which originated in Kyushu, suggests that its old-fogy image may be disappearing for good and that lucrative times lie ahead for the shochu market.

A clear liquor distilled mostly from sweet potatoes, wheat, rice or barley, shochu has an alcohol concentration between 20 and 25 percent and a crisp dry taste comparable to vodka, arrack or awamori. This is no coincidence.

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