A creative startup in Tokyo named ooooo LLC started a company to introduce Pálinka in Japan, therefore in December 2019, they opened ‘Bar Pálinka’ in Tokyo by the bartender-owner Takeshi and three other cofounders. This is the first bar specialized to Pálinka in Japan.
Takeshi used to work at Bar Benfiddich (one of the most famous international Japanese bar) in Tokyo and met Pálinka there four years ago. He got charmed by its unique taste and variations and therefore started to focus on Pálinka and later we visited Hungary to learn more. We’ve decided to become proficient in Pálinka to show this beautiful spirit drink in Japan. We have visited some Pálinka distilleries in Hungary what we most impressed is the varieties of fruits taste and found that every distillery has its own philosophy of making Pálinka. The usual Japanese distilleries use ingredients from their contract farmer, but we surprised that Pálinka distilleries have their own farm to grow fruits and they use them. We were charmed by its story how Pálinka was born in Hungarian history from fruits and work of people. We always believed in that every spirit drinks have a mystical background story, and people love to drink because of that as well.
Our team whit graphic and product designers tried to form Bar Pálinka to become the flagship bar for Pálinka in Japan. We have designed special furniture, graphical wall and even logo of the bar to make the world of Pálinka visually and emotionally too. Even if Japanese farmers grow a wide range variety of fruits and Japanese people love to eat fruits, they not so familiar with fruit spirits, because the use of fresh fruits, to make fruit spirits, is not a common practice in the Japanese liquor industry.
We’ve realized that Pálinka is an almost unknown spirit drink in Japan, only a few Japanese have knowledge about it. Even professional bartenders or sommeliers do not know about it well, not even the name of it. The Japanese high society already has experience with the Italian Grappa and French Eau-de-vie, so we think that knowledge might give a chance for Pálinka as well. We believe that Pálinka has a good chance to be warmly welcomed by the Japanese market because it has more than enough communicable story to introduce. The specialty of Pálinka is its unexpectedness and unfamiliarity, so in Japan, it is not too difficult to present it and arouse interest in it. We are always seeking the best way how to show the exquisite taste of Pálinka to those who cannot like it straight in which our bartender’s great professional experience and creativity are important. Hungarian usually takes Pálinka as a “shot’ (short drink), however, most Japanese cannot good with alcohol to compare to European, so we serve the Pálinka experience to drink as cocktails, such as mixing with tonic water or fruits. Guests of our bar always surprised that after choosing their favourite fruit, they can taste the Pálinka made from it. This experience makes Pálinka special in Japan.
We also see an opportunity in Pálinka to draw the attention of the Japanese people to Hungarian culture, because many of them do not know anything about Hungary either. Our bar can create an opportunity to get to know about Hungary as well because we see through our services the guests started to get interested in classical Hungarian music, cuisine, or even Rubik cube. We import some Pálinka brands (going to expand the range of brands near future) for other restaurants and bars in Japan to make more touchpoints rather than just our bar. In the future, we would like to expand the trading between Hungary and Japan. Soon, we intend to organize a seminar in our bar to make the Japanese know more about Pálinka, and for that reason, we plan to invite the distillery owners for that seminar as performers to let the Japanese closer to the Pálinka culture. Our plans also include the creation of a Pálinka made exclusively for the Japanese market.
We feel that for the Pálinka there is a big chance for good business in Japan because the Japanese population is ten times bigger than the Hungarian, even Tokyo has 12 million people, and only a few people know about Pálinka. At the moment the only thing we can do is to spread the beautifulness of Pálinka out from our small bar in Tokyo. Since the bar started, more than 2000 guests have visited our bar to drink Pálinka, we got good reviews, and Pálinka good reputations. Some magazines made articles about our bar, and they support to introduce Pálinka as well. We believe that with our work we can arouse interest in Hungary and encourage people to visit in this beautiful country in the near future.
Please follow us how Pálinka will make the great story in Far Eastern country.
Takeshi Matsuzawa, Takuma Sugawara
Shigeya Miyata, Yuichiro Kawabata