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Rice Wine ‘Makgeolli’ Growing Popular in Japan

Posted June. 12, 2008 06:22,   


The traditional Korean rice wine makgeolli is growing more popular in Japan.

Urban workers who seek bulgogi (grilled Korean beef) and Korean alcohol flock to Koreatown in Tokyo around 7 p.m. every evening.

After drinking beer, Japanese usually discuss what spirit to drink. Japanese women, who have more say in deciding, opt for makgeolli.

Han Gil-soo, who runs the Korean restaurant Harubang in Tokyo, said, “Makgeolli is very popular in Koreatown. Seventy percent of tables order makgeolli. The number of Japanese drinkers of makgeolli outnumber those of Korean tourists or ethnic Korean residents in Japan by four times.”

Korean restaurants are not the only places to get makgeolli. Sakura, which runs the Japanese pub chain Izakaya, sells the rice wine at its 250 branches.

Distribution channels have also diversified.

Choga, headquartered in Cheolwon, Korea, sells makgeolli to Japan through the Japanese department stores Ion, Itoyokado and Hankyu.

Korean makgeolli maker Idong Japan is supplying the rice wine to the Japanese convenience store chain Lawson and will start doing so to another convenience store chain AM/PM from July.

Idong Japan President Kim Hyo-seop said, “Our makgeolli sales have increased 20-30 percent every year. We’ve run television commercials featuring two women since April.”

“Japanese women seem enthralled by the sweet taste of makgeolli. Since ordinary Japanese do not drink a lot, they need not worry over a hangover, which heavy makgeolli drinkers suffer.”