Tokyo Jizake Strolling (operating a sake shop for 6 years)

By Ryuji Takahashi
Sake shop Ji Sakeya opened in the neighboring town of Hatsudai in the Shinjuku ward of Tokyo six years ago. Our sake shop is still surviving while many businesses closed their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic. We owe many thanks to our restaurant clients continuing to place orders despite the difficult economic circumstances, many regular customers who continue to check in, and sake breweries. When we first opened, we had few businesses with restaurants and customers, leaving many including myself wondering if we’d survive the first year in business, and how long we would last afterwards.
During the initial hard times, sake breweries helped us out with over-the-counter sales, posting, and introduced restaurants they received inquires from, while our regular customers referred us to restaurants they frequented, which gradually increased our business. Customers started to come in from these restaurants, which helped us establish our footing as the town sake shop. Eventually, we received requests to hold seminars and consultations to revitalize business for sake breweries, which helped to expand our business outside of selling sake.
However, our business is still not stable, which is likely true for all sake shops. Before our sake shop opened, I once attended a seminar held by a sake shop. The lecturer was the owner of a renowned sake shop, who commented at the end of the seminar, “I’m speaking in front of you today, but I don’t know what will happen to our shop by next year. The sake industry is facing difficult times. We’re always thinking of ways to survive,” which left a lasting impression.
I realized then there was no easy way to sell sake, feeling uneasy about opening my sake shop.
I’m not a son of a sake shop owner, but a complete novice to the industry. Maybe that’s what helped me step forth to open my sake shop. What if I had directly felt the difficulties the liquor industry was facing at the time? The first three years in the business was hell on earth, working non-stop from morning to night. As business started to get easier in the fourth year was when the coronavirus outbreak happened.
However, our above clientele we built gradually over time was what saved us. I’m truly grateful to each of them is all I can say. I received help not only from the sake industry, but also from other industries like the Italian restaurant industry. Six years since we opened our sake shop, we’re still a beginner in this industry. I’d like to be prepared to welcome many customers and restaurant clients back as soon as the coronavirus pandemic is finally over, which will impact our business with sake breweries as well. The first step in the sake shop industry is to purchase many sake products from our sake breweries. By the time spring comes when the cherry blossoms bloom, I look forward to having a toast with all of our associates together.