Kotobukiya Limited & Akadama Port Wine

Shinjiro Tori (1879-1962), founder of Suntory
Japanese Whisky’s Beginnings: Import absolutely not required It was Shinjiro’s strong conviction that the production of Western liquor was means of enriching the nation. “imports of Western liquor means that precious foreign currency flows out to other countries. I very much want to prevent this. The only way to do so is to produce goods that are superior to imported goods.” In 1929, Japan’s first authentic whisky was launched under the name Suntory Shirofuda, meaning white label. The tag line reads, “Import absolutely not required.” The words express the joy of perfecting Japan’s first whisky, and the enthusiasm and hardship that went into the long-held dream to create a Japanese whisky with their own hands that was equal to authentic Scotch whisky, all the while being told it was impossible.

In 1892, Shinjiro Torii joined the pharmaceutical wholesaler Konishi Co., Ltd. in Dosho-machi, Osaka. In addition to Western medicines, the company sold Western liquors including wine, brandy, and whisky. This store nurtured the seeds that blossomed in later years, turning Shinjiro into Japan's pioneer of whisky. In 1899, at age twenty, Shinjiro Torii opened his own company. his first hit product was a fortified wine called Akadama Port Wine. This sweet wine went on sale in 1907 and became the starting point for Suntory business operations. Shinjiro Torii invested the profit of Akadama to the production of whisky.

Bottle of Akadama Port Wine
Bottle of Akadama Port Wine
This sweet wine went on sale in 1907 and became the starting point for Suntory business operations. It also laid the foundation for a process that devotes time and finances to the production of whisky. (The display item dates from the Taisho Period (1912-1926)).

Konishi Co., Ltd.
Employees of Kotobukiya LimitedFollowing a 7-year apprenticeship at Konishi Co., Ltd., Shinjiro set off on his own and opened "Torii Shoten" in 1899. In 1921, he established "Kotobukiya Limited" with 1 million yen in capital and launched a modern operation. Pictured is Kotobukiya Limited in the Taisho Period (1912-1926), located in Sumiyoshi-cho, Osaka. At the time, there were around 10 employees. (Photographed around 1914)

The Akadama Nude Poster
The Akadama Nude Poster
This was the first nude poster in Japan. The model was Emiko Matsushima, the prima donna of the Akadama Opera Company, a troupe organized to advertise Akadama Port Wine. In that era, pictures showing bare shoulders were not permitted in public. This poster was submitted to an exhibit of international posters held in Germany and awarded first place. (created in 1922)

Akadama Newspaper Ad

Akadama Newspaper Ad
This one-page newspaper ad for Akadama Port Wine caused a sensation. Readers were astonished at this ad that featuring "Akadama Port Wine" scraled in large letters written with poor penmanship that filled up an entire page of local news. The newspaper company was overwhelmed with people objecting to having a newspaper delivered that was defaced by a child's scribbles. The advertising department of Kotobukiya was excited the response. This ad was responsible for making the name "Akadama Port Wine" well known to the public. (January 11, 1920)

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