Back in April, a new smoking law came into effect across Japan, prohibiting indoor smoking at schools, hospitals and offices. In restaurants, smoking is now only permitted inside designated rooms with adequate ventilation and at small establishments that meet certain conditions, so a lot of smokers have had to stub out their cigarettes when visiting their favorite drinking holes.
While this might be bad news for the tobacco and alcohol industry, it also presents a unique marketing opportunity which two Japanese companies now aim to capitalise on. Their thinking is that you might not be able to drink and smoke like you used to, so why not drink and enjoy candy cigarettes instead?
This idea has given birth to a very unusual sake from Kumamoto sake brewery Chiyonosono, which is said to pair with the cocoa cigarettes produced by Osaka-based dagashi maker Orion. Dagashi are cheap sweets aimed at young children, and Orion’s cocoa cigarettes are still being sold across Japan, despite the fact that similar confectioneries resembling cigarettes have been banned in a number of other countries.
▼ Orion’s cocoa cigarettes have been on the market in Japan since 1951.
Chiyonosono started off as a rice wholesaler before turning to sake brewing in 1896, and is credited for being the first brewery to produce junmai sake — often referred to as “pure sake” as it’s made without additives like distilled alcohol and uses only rice, koji and water — after World War II.
Now it’s the first brewery to create a sake designed specifically to pair with Orion’s cocoa cigarettes.
The sake inside the bottle is actually akazake or “red sake“, which is unique to Kumamoto. Its name comes from the fact that the sake is reddish brown in hue, and it’s known to be on the sweet side, which makes it ideal for both sipping and cooking.
According to the brewery, the “Cocoa Cigarette Ni Au Osake” (“Sake That Matches Cocoa Cigarettes“) is best drunk with ice, and of course with a cocoa cigarette. The brewery says: “With a tilted lowball glass and the popular Cocoa Cigarette dagashi in one hand, you can enjoy a moment of returning to the gorgeous dreams you had when you were a child.”
It’s an interesting marketing tactic, and one that will no doubt be directing a lot of attention towards the two companies behind the collaboration. The Sake That Matches Cocoa Cigarettes will be sold in 300-milliliter bottles around Japan from 16 September at a recommended retail price of 580 yen.
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