Interview: Maki Osugi, Cup Sake Blogger

photo © Maki Osugi

photo © Maki Osugi

I first discovered Maki Osugi’s ‘One Cup Sake’ Blog, bq69 collectibles, when I was searching the internet looking for any information I could find about Japanese one cup style sake.

You can’t imagine my surprise when I wrote to Maki-san and discovered he spoke fluent english! Below is the interview!

Q: How did you first discover One Cup Sake and what caught your attention? Do you remember the first one you tried?

Maki Osugi: In Japan, “Cup Sake” is very popular. When you are in Japan, you can find them very easily. So let me tell you why I love it.

Why I like “Cup Sake” is very simple. I love glass. I love that transparent material. In addition, I like Sake of course. Glass plus Sake makes Cup Sake! Roughly speaking, we have two types of “Cup Sake” here in Japan. One is decorated with a sticker. I call it a “sticker type”. As for the other type, a brand name or an illustration is printed directly on a glass cup. I call this “print type”. Some of “print type” cups looked so cute that I felt like keeping it at home. This is the beginning. While researching “Cup Sake”, I found there are more than 1000 cups sold in Japan. There are tons of cups which I’ve never seen or heard of before. As a matter of course, I felt like collecting them all!

I do not remember which my first cup, but “Suwaizumi” must be one of the first cups that turned me on. My favorite cups, in terms of “cup design”, are listed on the following page. -> http://blog.bq69.info/cup/stars/3-stars/



I also love traveling all over Japan. As some of you might know, Japan is consisted of volcanic islands. So I can enjoy “Onsen” (hot spring). I love “Onsen” as much as I love “Cup Sake”. I always go into local Sake shops and super markets wherever I may roam. I feel very happy when I encounter a cup never seen before.

Many “Cup Sake” from microbreweries are not available even in Tokyo or at online sake stores. Some “Cup Sake” illustrations shows their breweries local landmarks, products or sceneries. For example, “Ofukumasamune” from Niigata has “koi” (carp) and bull fight pictures. Its brewery is located near Yamakoshi area where is famous for both. This kind of local features attract me a lot. “Kobe Cup” is also interesting. Kobe has one of the oldest international ports in Japan, which is represented by a ship on the left side of the cup. There used to be a reservation for foreigners. The weathercock at the right side of the cup represents Kobe’s history.

Q: Why did you decide to start a blog devoted to One Cup Sake? Tell us about your website!

Maki Osugi: My site, “bq69 collectibles“, was started as an online storage of my favorite collections. I intended to list all of my favorite things including books, music, photographs and of course “Cup Sake”. My first post based on my collections was “Cup Sake” because I had collected more than twenty cups at that time. Once I posted a “Cup Sake” article, I wanted to post another and another. While doing so, I find and buy other new cups. The following is a typical cycle of my blogging.

Cup Sake Map

Cup Sake Map

1. buy a cup
2. shoot it
3. drink it up
4. blog it

I have so many cups that I made up my mind to let my site concentrate on Sake topics. I post “Cup Sake” and “Non-Cup Sake” articles one after the other. Although my site is featured in “UrbanSake.com”, my site is unfortunately all written in Japanese. Can’t read Japanese? Please look at my cups on Flickr! Are you a map person? Well, see geological distribution of my collection at my “cup-sake map“!

Q: I’ve heard some people say that One Cup Sake is considered lower quality stuff. How do you feel about this?

Maki Osugi: To those guys, I can say “You are right and wrong”. Most of “Cup Sake” contains “Futsushu” (regular sake). “Futsushu” is diluted with alcohol which is not made of rice. This added alcohol makes sake less tasty. “Cup Sake” was created in 1964 by Ozeki, co. ltd. It was a marketing strategic product. They thought it would be effective to change people’s image of drinking Sake in order to boost Ozeki’s market share. “Casual” and “reasonable” were big keywords. On the other hand, some “Cup Sake” contain “Junmaishu” or “Junmai Daiginjo“. They are very tasty. “Cup Sake is not worth drinking” is a bit stereotype opinion.

Regular archive link -> http://blog.bq69.info/cup/type/regular/
Honjozo archive link ->http://blog.bq69.info/cup/type/honjozo/
Ginjo / Daiginjo archive link -> http://blog.bq69.info/cup/type/ginjo-daiginjo/
Junmai archive link -> http://blog.bq69.info/cup/type/junmai/
Junmai Ginjo / Junmai Daiginjo archive link ->http://blog.bq69.info/cup/type/junmai-ginjo-junmai-daiginjo/

Q: Sake in general is becoming quite popular in the USA. You’ve spent some time living here… do you think One Cup Sake has a chance to catch on in the States?

Maki Osugi: It may be difficult for “Cup Sake” to become popular in the States. In my opinion, breweries do not think it’s a good idea to export their “Cup Sake”. The reasons are:
– cups for “Cup Sake” are not suitable for preservation
– cups itself is heavy, which impacts transportation cost
– “Cup Sake” is cheap (about two USD in Japan)

However, it must be good for breweries to give a “Cup Sake” as a sampler to Sake lovers in the States. At Sake conventions or tasting parties, breweries should give “Cup Sake” to the guests as a promotional sampler. Let them taste a bit at the parties and let them bring “Cup Sake” home. Drinking “Cup Sake” at home may be a good promotion.

Q: I notice that some sake cups have cute/funny/kawaii designs on them. Do you think the sake cup designs influence sales and popularity?

Maki Osugi: Absolutely yes! “Cup Sake” was a big (or medium?) hit in Japan two or three years ago. In those days, many young women bought cute cups just because they’re cute. Giant pandas of “Miyozakura” and cute deer of “Akishika” were big stars. Most of young Japanese women prefer wine or cocktails to Sake. It is very interesting to see that those animals attracted them and made them buy “Cup Sake”!

A cup designed by Yoshitomo Nara was a big hit, too. This contemporary artist is so popular among Japanese girls that they bought cups designed by him. Even those who do not drink bought his cups! You can see his paintings at MoMA in NYC.

Yoshitomo Nara’s cup at my site ->http://blog.bq69.info/2009/02/cup171a-to-z-house.html

Q: What are some of your favorite One Cup Sakes?

Maki Osugi: As I mentioned before, my favorite cups in terms of design are listed in “3 Stars” archive. But some of “2 Stars” cups are also pretty good in design.

If I may be asked what would be my best cups, I would say “Akishika“, which I mentioned before, “Kobe Cup” and “Yagibushi“.

As for taste, I recommend some cups on “Favorites” archive page. All the cups here are “Junmai”. Sake contained in these cups are so delicious that no one can argue, yes including those who claims that “Cup Sake isn’t worth drinking”.

Q: What are you hopes and dreams for the future of your One Cup Sake Blog?

Maki Osugi: Almost all the “Print type” cups I can buy online are already in my collection list. I hope I can get all “Print type” cups, but I do not know how many cups we have in Japan (nobody knows exactly, I guess). Until the day comes, I will roam everywhere in tiny island, Japan. And sometimes I drink “Sticker type” for sure. As for the new cups to come, check’em out at “bq69 collectibles“!