--We heard your store did not start out as a liquor store?
(Kohei Sato, owner of Liquors Nodaya) Before the war in my grandfather's generation, the store started out as a miso and soy sauce wholesaler. It then became a liquor store in my father's generation. My father created a firm base for the business as a liquor store in his lifetime, and when I inherited the business as the third generation, I was able to take on new challenges with this foundation.
It was a milestone for the shop when we started to make direct transactions with domestic producers. While I began to learn about alcoholic beverages, I naturally developed a friendly relationship with the producers. That then enabled me to get a hold of products directly, without using a wholesaler. As for overseas products that aren't directly accessible, I narrowed down importing companies that I could trust, and through them I was able to make direct transactions.
--You truly value your connections with the producers. It is clear seeing all their signatures and photographs hung up, all around the store.
Rather than flavor, the most important criteria for me when choosing products is whether or not I can trust the producers and importers enough to work together. I can only trust the product and its flavor once I find the importer and producer to be reliable too. I feel that my work and my circle of connections expand through trust.
--Speaking of valuing connections, you are a native local to Sendagi's downtown area. What are the charms of this area from a local's point-of-view?
While there have been some changes in the area due to the recent flow of people coming from the outside, I still think that the connections between people are strong here -- this is a characteristic typical to the shitamachidowntown area. I also think it is great that the area offers opportunities to new people to participate in the local community so easily, for example, in the large community festivals.
The biggest change has been the increase in tourists. In the past, there were many shops that existed because they were essential for daily life. Butchers and fish mongers. But now, it's my impression that there are an increasing number of cafes targeting foreign tourists, as well as an increase in English signs. I also found that plum wine is very popular among foreigners.
--What do you consider when you give wine recommendations?
I usually give recommendations to people after asking about their budget, what kind of food they want to pair with, the occasion, and other such questions. How you enjoy wine really depends on if you're drinking out, or at home, who you're with, and so on.
Although I'm glad that there's greater media coverage on wine, I think it's a shame that many people still hesitate to try it because of the preconception that they won't enjoy wine unless they study it. The store holds tasting events in the hopes that everyone can have a good time and just enjoy the wine based on their senses.
It's completely fine to just drink wine casually, day to day, without being neurotic about it. It's also no problem to open it and then stick the cork back in without finishing it. Wine can be enjoyed over at least a three-day period, and it may actually become more flavorful the day after. I think that good alcoholic beverages are the ones that can be enjoyed little by little, over a long period of time, rather than those that have its strongest impact in the first mouthful. I hope to continue introducing those alcoholic beverages to our customers, and maintain long-lasting connections with our producers.