A Look At Japan’s Export Data

A Look At Japan’s Export Data

A Look At Japan’s Export Data

Around this time in 2019 we partnered with a local wholesaler and began an initiative to help establish their alcoholic beverage import/export capabilities. Looking at the genesis of that project, I can recall being excited to get started and hoping to see some of my ideas become reality. Well, at least that was the dream, anyway. Unfortunately, however, COVID-19 had other plans. In 2020, the global pandemic hit us with a hard, “Nope! Not today, fam.”

Not today, fam GIF

And before we knew it, days became weeks, and weeks became months. If we weren’t working from home, we were at the office completing tasks under varied limitations. To this day, as we begin 2021, the pandemic lingers and forces us to continue to take precautions. However, at least we now have better ways to cope. For this post, let’s take a look at Japan’s export data. This will help us to review background information as we go about planning for the future.

The Show Must Go On

As the saying goes, the show must go on and to that end, we are able to proceed with our mission to increase exports. We do so cautiously, while doing our best to follow mask-up and social distancing protocols.

For instance, we have attended several events via the internet, such as online exhibitions or virtual seminars. For these opportunities, we are grateful to the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO). Their efforts help to make such events possible. Indeed, there is good reason for the government to step in to help revitalize export growth. As it turns out,

…between September 2019 and September 2020 the exports of Japan have decreased by ¥-315B (-4.94%) from ¥6.37T to ¥6.05T, while imports decreased by ¥-1.13T (-17.4%) from ¥6.5T to ¥5.37T.

After reviewing the data, we are particularly interested in the increase that began in May 2020. During that month, export growth was well below -25% but it rose 20 percentage points to -5% by September 2020. We know how badly the COVID-19 pandemic impacted global markets. However, seeing the data to support Japan’s rebound is encouraging. Continuing to look at Japan’s export data, what are some of the specific programs or instances that led to the significant increase? On the whole, there are several government support initiatives that helped to drive the resurgence in global trade.

Regional Complexity Indexes

Still, the disparity between imports and exports can be felt in nearly every prefecture of Japan. This is particularly concerning for Japan’s southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, a chain of islands located about 530 miles from Kyushu.

Okinawa has an Economic Complexity Index (ECI) of -0.23. This places the island prefecture at 38 of 41 when ranked among other prefectures of Japan. Interestingly, Japan overall is currently ranked number one among nations, with a 2.31 ECI score. Therefore, when looking at Okinawa in relation to other prefectures, we must consider areas where local businesses can improve the ECI ranking.

While it may be obvious, we suggest that the ECI can be improved by boosting exports overall. More specifically, by including new product categories that have little or no representation, Okinawa could go a long way toward improving the ECI. With that, not only would the quantity of exports improve, but the types of products available to send abroad would also increase.

However, with limited manufacturing in Okinawa, it appears as though we are in for a long haul. Nevertheless, our goal is to help change the ECI outlook by working to improve export strategies that are specific to our industry. Awamori exporting is a great place to start because there is a lot of support in that area. 2020 was jacked up, but 2021 is the year we make things happen.

Low Carb Beer is Trending

Low Carb Beer is Trending

Low Carb Beer is Trending

As the low carb diet becomes more popular throughout the world, many beverage companies are beginning to develop new products such as low carb beer or hard seltzers, which have little to no sugar or carbohydrates.

As evident in several areas, alcohol producers have responded to the low carb trend in dramatic fashion. For example, the emergence of the low carb beer in particular is generally caused by actions that the beer industry has taken.

Low carb beer is trending.

However, while many of such beers have a reduced carbohydrate count, this does not necessarily mean that there has been any sacrifices in flavor. Followers of Atkins or Keto diets, and other low carb regimens would likely be happy to see this trend continue to emerge due to years of having to steer clear of beer.

Recently in Japan, Kirin Brewery Co. was the first Japanese company to produce a zero carb beer, and given the positive response thus far, it is pretty clear that low carb or zero carb beer is here to stay.

Shoppers in Japan can find Kirin’s new beer by following the link embedded in the photo below. Cheers!

Kirin beer with zero carbs.

Kujira Rice Whisky – Worth Hunting Down

Kujira Ryukyu 20 Years Old is a rather interesting, two decades old rice whisky from Okinawa that aged in ex-bourbon barrels and recently arrived in the States through import channels.
— Read on thewhiskeywash.com/whiskey-styles/world/kujira-ryukyu-20-year-old-is-an-import-rice-whisky-potentially-worth-hunting-down/

Last year, I tasted the Kujira 20 year that’s mentioned above and thought it was a winner. I remember being excited about the future of Okinawan whisky. However, I was a bit disappointed to learn that the product was intended for export only. It was not normally available domestically.

This year, I jumped at the opportunity to reserve a bottle of Kujira 24 year when I learned that it would become available locally and was due to drop soon. Today was the day that I received my limited edition bottle, one of 500!

Today’s Toast

Today’s Toast

Today we toast Jose de San Martin with a cocktail that was created in his honor. Jose de San Martin led armed forces to help liberate Chile from Spanish rule in 1818. He didn’t stop there, he continued to fight for the colonies and went on to deploy impressive military tactics once again, that eventually helped Peru gain her independence from Spain in 1821. Follow both links to learn more about the leadership of Jose de San Martin.

While reading, or slightly thereafter, treat yourself to the ‘San Martin Protector of Peru’ by following the recipe shared below. For PiscoLogía Pisco Acholado, we’ve got you covered: Online Shop. For the Dubonnet, unfortunately we currently don’t stock any but shop online via Amazon or wherever you purchase your favorite brands of liquor. Cheers!


The Mystery Awamori

The Mystery Awamori

When I moved to Japan one of my hopes was to start secondary aging Okinawan awamori at home. While it is nearly impossible to source these ceramic pots in the US, it is not that difficult in Japan so long as you are willing to pay. These are typically reserved for long-aged, or kusu awamori (古酒泡盛), which can run hundreds of dollars per liter especially in the traditional decorative ceramic jars, or “kame” (甕).

To learn more, follow the link below. Blue Habu is mentioned but more importantly, it is our mission to help spread awamori awareness and appreciation however we can. We appreciate the post. カンパイ!
— Read on kanpai.us/mystery-awamori/

Exploring Rice-Based Spirits of S.E. Asia

Exploring Rice-Based Spirits of S.E. Asia

Exploring Rice-Based Spirits of S.E. Asia

The Asian continent is full of examples covering rice-based spirits.

Asian rice farm


The Asian continent is full of examples covering rice-based spirits. Oftentimes, the still is handmade from very basic supplies. This post will highlight a few instances.

The story begins in Laos where, a rice-based alcoholic beverage known as Lao Lao is traditionally distilled, often by women. The spirit is typically used during ceremonies or sold as retail and consumed in casual settings. It is also popular among tourists who have discovered that snakes or scorpions are often immersed in glass bottles or in jars of the popular beverage… Challenge!

The presence of snakes and critters was traditionally used for medicinal purposes and was thought to help boost a certain prowess particularly among men. Let’s just say that as shown in the image below, it makes you strong. Indeed, many still believe this to be more than just an urban legend.

Laotian snake wine on display in a local market.

Laotian “Snake Whisky”

Similarly, in neighboring Thailand, Lao Khao is prepared the same way, and for similar purposes. Consequently, this is a good juncture to mention that the term “Lao” refers to alcohol and the second word in the phrase refers to the location of origin. Thus, “Lao Lao” is Laotian alcohol and “Lao Khao” is often used for Thai alcohol. Interestingly, “khao” means rice in both Thai and Laotian languages, and it also is the term for mountain in Central and Southern Thailand.

Thai man sleeps off his Lao Khao binge from the night before.

Lao Khao in Thailand

“Cool, but while we are talking about Lao Lao and Lao Khao, what about the other neighboring country, Vietnam?” Well, let’s discuss Ruou de. This rice-based spirit is similar to Lao Lao and Lao Khao, as one could probably image due to Vietnam’s proximity and cultural similarities with Laos. Ruou de has several variations that include “rice wine” or “snake whiskey”, primarily sought out by tourists.

Examples of Ruou de in a Vietnamese marketplace.

Marketplace in Vietnam

Snake infused, rice-based spirits are not only found in S.E. Asia, but they are also prevalent further East in Japan as well.

However, the distilled spirit is much more advanced and produced. The practice occurs in Okinawa with her tradition of producing awamori. In fact, all current awamori distilleries use long grain (indica) rice that is imported from Thailand to produce this cherished spirit.

We can look to the Ryukyu Kingdom’s role throughout the history of global trade for examples of how it helped to introduce the distilling methods that borne Ryukyu Awamori, which is widely recognized as Japan’s oldest spirit. (This reminds us of our very first blog entry: A Historical Look at the Alcohol Trade).

For an image of what awamori based “snake wine” looks like, we present habu-shu aka habu sake:

A habu-shu server on display at Blue Habu bar.

Habu-shu with Blue Habu in background

“Habu-shu” is a type of awamori based liqueur that forms a liquid tomb for many Habu, Okinawa’s indigenous pit viper. If you are wondering, the answer is yes, the business name Blue Habu is our way of recognizing, even appreciating, the significance that 3 known species of Habu have on the islands. We believe Habu play a role in not only the ecosystem but also the culture and much of the local traditions.

Like the aforementioned “snake whiskies” prevalent in Southeast Asia, Habu-shu is quite popular among tourists. Indeed, when people hear the term “Habu”, they often think about Okinawa.

Lastly, we have the privilege of shedding some light on a new spirit called Chura Lao. The special project was implemented by Co-Op Okinawa in 2017 as a way to help stimulate the Laotian economy. The goal was to create a brand of Lao Lao that could be exported to Japan. Thus, helping to create stable employment and technological advances well into the future.

Chura Lao from Laos.

Chura Lao’s first import into Japan

The word “chura” means beautiful in Okinawan language. Therefore, the thought was that choosing this name for the unique brand would make a positive impact on Okinawan consumers and help peak their interest. Likewise, the design printed on the brand’s label was also created to that end.

Chura Lao was successfully importing into Japan in March 2020. It will be interesting to see how well the project does in Okinawa. It has already gained the attention of consumers, businesses, and governments alike. Indeed, Chura Lao is more than just another product. It is a project that brings two nations together for one common goal — sustainable development.

From this last example we see how rice-based spirits can go from very basic production methods to become a mechanism of growth.

More about Chura Lao:


More about Lao Lao:


Colombo 7 Gin Takes Gold!

Colombo 7 Gin Takes Gold!

Colombo 7 Gin・コロンボ  7 ジン


Colombo 7 Gin takes Gold! Congratulations to Colombo Gin for taking home a Gold Award during the World Gin Awards 2020. Try some today! Taste the uniqueness of Sri Lankan craft gin.

コロンボ 7 ジンは『ワールド ジン アワード』で金賞を受賞しました。ぜひユニーク スリランカジン試してみよ〜!

Exploring Awamori of Okinawa on Vimeo

In just 48 hours, our team explored ten Awamori distilleries throughout the island of Okinawa. This was a great opportunity to meet the Awamori USA crew and visit several awamori distilleries together. We are grateful to have been a part of this experience and looking forward to growing our relationships with all involved. Please take a few moments to view the compilation of videos on Vimeo. 

Nanto Liquor Corporation – 10th Annual Exhibition

Nanto Liquor Corporation – 10th Annual Exhibition

Great experience, great group of colleagues.

This was Blue Habu’s first exhibition as a participant but we were excited to have the imports that we worked hard to bring into Japan on display for the public to see and taste. People asked and showed interest in the brand. Of course, other brands were also present and we were able to walk around and mingle with other participants and attendees alike. Overall, it was a good day. 


A gallery of our Luc Belaire party, held at Bar Forest Chair in Okinawa City.

Shoutout to photo friends Kazu @kazu__oki, and Hiro @okinawahiro11.  To see more of their work, follow both accounts on Instagram.
ルベレー ・泡パーティーのスライドショーを作りました。初めてのルベレー ・泡パーテイーですが楽しかったです! 写真家の二人:カズさん @kazu__oki と ヒロさん @okinawahiro11 のインスターぜひフォローしてください。

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