The Japanese Market

The Japan is an island country situated in the far east of the Asian continent, and its population of 128,000,000 inhabitants. Tokyo metropolitan area (the capital of Japan) is considered the largest in the world, with a total of 30,000,000 people.

The Japanese market is mainly concentrated in the capital metropolitan area; consumers living in rural areas don't even know of that wine is a drink obtained from the exclusive fermentation of grapes; they mistake it with a fermented rice product. In the metropolitan area consumers are informed and they know.

If on the one hand, there are consumers who do not know the wine, on the other hand, there are extremely knowledgeable wine consumers, from its history to the regions, grape varieties or producers. In Japan, there is the tradition of production of good quality wines, and there are even Japanese varieties, like for example the Kōshū.

The consumer requirement when it comes to information about wines has its very own feature. It's very unusual, for example, in the Tokyo metropolitan area, to find consumers making purchasing wines based on the knowledge they have about the product itself and not influenced by international press. The Asian consumer is the one that demonstrates more interest and invests the most in knowledge about the wine that he/she consumes. The Japan is thus considered a trend centre for all Asian markets, marking the trend in neighbouring markets.

Despite the recognition of French wines by the Asian market, the consumer is still looking for other wines, which is mainly due to the opening and natural appetite that the Japanese have for knowledge, well illustrated by the exponential growth that international wines had in this market since 2009. It is in this sense that this market, still a very young one, presents opportunities for the positioning of Portuguese wines of medium and high range. The Japanese market is open to wines from all over the world and has recorded an increase in consumption in recent years, 2.4 L to 2.85 L per person and per year (Source: OIV, 2015); this consumption represents a huge potential for future growth.

The fact that the Japanese market focus essentially on Tokyo metropolitan area, makes the approach to this market to obviously directed to this area. Tokyo is a global business capital, the third largest economy in the world and the fourth country with the highest purchasing power internationally, which makes it a wine "world showcase". The strategic importance of the Japanese market is easily summed up in a sentence: the recognition of global brands in this market is a factor of increased sales in other markets.

As in other Asian cultures, the Japanese have a strong appetite for technology; they even watch TV on their mobile phones on the way from home to their job and from there back home. It is therefore of paramount importance that communication of the wines in this market is directed towards new technologies.

On the other hand, by their culture and tradition, the Japanese market presents very pronounced differences compared to other markets. It is a market with very strong traditions and roots, where the base of the entire negotiating process is trust. Details such as the preparation of meetings or arrive earlier than scheduled, are understood in this culture as a sign of respect and seriousness.

The same historical facts I described earlier regarding the South Korean market are also related to the Japanese market, where at the time of maritime discoveries (Source: Daily Life in Portugal in the Late Middle Ages), the 17th century, the Portuguese navigators were the only Western traders with permission to sell and navigate in the sea of Japan, a historical landmark that can endorse guarantees of our commercial professionalism.

There is a strong growth in wine sales off trade (supermarkets, liquor stores, other points of sale to the consumer for home-made consumption) and in specialized technology platforms as the wine sites. In short, there is a latent growth of this market; it is crucial to bet in a communication via new technologies.

The Japanese gastronomy is very different from ours and, nowadays, the Sushi world marketing has made the Japanese gastronomy known all over the world. The training of professionals on the conjugation of Japanese gastronomy with fresh and light wine (Vinho Verde or white wines without too much structure) can be essential to gain the trust of Japanese consumers. Training about our wines in the marketing thereof is also an essential point to keep in mind. The choice of a medium dynamic importer would also be a good way to communicate with consumers in logic of formation of the Japanese consumer.
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