• Kyodo

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A producer of Arita ceramic ware and a sake brewer in Saga Prefecture have come up with a way to breathe new life into their businesses by selling Arita ware cups filled with premium rice wine.

Once the contents have been consumed, the beautifully painted receptacles can be used as vases or teacups, and industry watchers say the new product line is becoming increasingly popular.

Putting sake in Arita ware is the brainchild of china producer Bunpachi Kobo and microbrewer Koimari Shuzo, two local firms in the prefecture. In promoting the concept, they have overseas markets very much in mind, recalling the days when Arita ware was coveted by Europe’s privileged classes.

As well as being marketed through mail-order houses, the product named Nomanne is sold at Narita International Airport and Osaka’s Kansai International Airport, as well as at Isetan Co.’s flagship department store in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo.

“Nomanne is sold at international airports because Japanese sake is becoming popular abroad and we hope that both Japanese and non-Japanese traveling overseas buy our sake in Arita ware as souvenirs,” said Kumiko Maeda, a senior executive with Koimari Shuzo, which boasts a history dating back about 100 years.

The new product contains 180 ml of premium sake and costs 1,680 yen. The price is generally perceived to be reasonable considering that Arita ware usually carries a hefty price tag.

The two companies believe in the promise of their new product, given that serving sake by the glass is growing more popular and that some bars in Tokyo now serve nothing else.

The porcelain helps preserve the quality of sake because it shields the drink from ultraviolet rays, the two firms claim. They also say they use lead-free paint to ensure consumer safety.

A total of 250 samples of Nomanne products displayed at last year’s Arita ware trade fair sold out the first morning.

“We intend to accept custom orders from people who want special pictures on their cups so they can give them to their wedding guests as party favors, for example,” said Koimari Shuzo’s Maeda.

The Arita name has long been synonymous with locally produced, colorful porcelain, whose origin dates to the early 17th century. For the next 250 years, the renowned ceramics were shipped by the Dutch East India Company to Europe, where they were valued by European royals, members of the nobility and other wealthy families.

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