The only hint of what awaits inside is a large and precariously hung grape vine. This stark white building, without any signboards, is where Toyochika Kawakubo’s father once ran a discount liquor shop. As the new boss, Kawakubo has done more than a full renovation—he’s opened a unique space that goes far beyond selling alcohol. While his father’s business was centered around the price, Kawakubo Saketen is all about selection, communication, and experience. As far as products go, there are four categories, sake, shochu, hard liquor, and wine. Inside an elegantly glass-walled cellar are 120 bottles of wine from Germany, Austria, South
Africa, Italy, France, New Zealand, and Australia. Why only German and Austrian? Because Kawakubo loves and knows them and to differentiate his lineup from other shops. Similarly, his shochu selection focuses on brands from around the country and passes on readily available Kyushu brands. It’s the same for sake. Kawakubo visits breweries around Japan to find what he likes while building relationships with the brewers themselves. On any day, visitors can taste at least three varieties of sake (and shochu), served in ceramic cups made by his artisan friends. Kawakubo remarks, “It’s not just a place to shop, that can be done online. Here visitors can enjoy the display, hold the products in their hands, and learn more about the producers.” Having spent four years in university in California, Kawakubo speaks English fluently and welcomes everyone to this special space.