The EC no Mikata site reports on survey results analysed by NTTCom Online Marketing Solutions Corporation and Associate Professor Akira Saito, who studies tourism marketing at Jissen Women's University. The NTTCom Online internet opinion poll service (NTTCom Research) was used to survey visitors to Japan from the US and UK to investigate the possibilities for sake-related tourism.

As background to the research, the article comments that interest in Japanese culture has increased sharply among foreign visitors over the last few years. Interest in Japanese food and sake is particularly high, and has drawn lots of attention. Many visitors are interested in tours that include brewery visits and learning about sake, so breweries are starting to be seen as potential tourist attractions. Some visitors say they want to come to Japan again to visit breweries around the country and deepen their understanding of sake, so there is also potential for continued or repeat visits.

A survey of foreign tourists (109 US, 53 UK, total 162 people) who visited Japan as tourists within the past year found that 90% were interested in Japanese culture, and half of those said they were interested in Japanese food and drink.

Survey results:

  • Japanese food and drink 50%
  • Pop culture (subcultures such as anime, idols or fashion) 16.7%
  • Traditional arts (song and dance, Noh plays, Kabuki plays, tea ceremony, etc.) 15.3%
  • Temples, shrines and castles 10%
  • Traditional martial arts (judo, karate, naginata, etc.) 8%

Sake placed third as the Japanese food item respondents most enjoyed during their visit (after sushi and ramen), 83.4% of respondents said they had drunk sake during their visit, and around 60% said they had visited a sake brewery, showing the strength of interest in the national drink. (I'd be interested in a breakdown of that 60% who said they'd been to a brewery, it seems very high. Or the original survey, translated into English, might have been ambiguous between "brewery" and other places serving or selling sake.)

The results also showed a lot of interest in learning about or experiencing the history and production of sake and tasting it, and certificates proving studies had been completed. 58.9% of respondents said they "definitely" wanted to come to Japan again to visit sake breweries, and 28.2% said they were "somewhat" interested, giving a very strong total of 87.1%.

Asked if they thought the nation's sake breweries were a good tourist attraction, 41.1% said "definitely" and 44.8% said "somewhat", giving another impressively high total of 85.9%.

In summary, the results show plenty of potential in the lead up to the 2020 Olympic Games, with sake in particular attracting strong interest. Reactions to drinking sake included wanting to drink it again, or wanting to give it as a gift. Breweries are also interested in overseas expansion, and seeing increased uptake by Japanese restaurants overseas. More and more breweries are appointing staff responsible for overseas marketing, and it feels like it may be the beginning of a worldwide surge in the popularity of sake.

The article concludes by suggesting that anticipating developments, balancing increased inbound demand with supply and smart overseas expansion will be the shortest route to success in these times, but great sensitivity and business sense will be required to figure out how to tackle inbound demand in the right way. 

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