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Coffee consumption in postwar Japan.

In 1991, the coffee market in Japan rose at a pace equal to that of 1990. Excluding imported coffee extract, consumption of which rose by 14% over that of the previous year; total consumption of regular, instant, and liquid coffee increased by 5% over that of 1990. Converted into green coffee, the total volume of all coffee products, including imported coffee extract, amounted to approximately 322,000 metric tons (or 5,364,000 60-kg bags).

The time, place, and occasion of coffee consumption in Japan has become diversified throughout the day. Take salaried worker A, for example. At breakfast, he has a cup of instant coffee and, after arriving at his office, he has a canned coffee at his desk. After lunch he drinks a regular coffee at a coffee shop. Then at three o'clock, during his company's coffee break, he has another cup of regular coffee from his office's coffeemaker. Following supper, he has a demitasse of regular coffee and, at night, on his way home from work, he has another canned coffee from a vending machine. Thus, throughout the day, he drinks several different kinds of coffee products.

The staple food of Japan has traditionally been the rice grain, with the customary meal including steamed rice and miso soup. Now, however, this tradition is changing, with one or two meals a day including not rice, but foods made from the flour of other grains, such as wheat noodles, buckwheat noodles, and bread. This change in the thousand-year culinary culture of Japan actually did not begin until after the end of World War II.

"Culture" can be thought of as meaning "a way of life which each and every society respectively has, and people's daily activities within society," or, moreover, "a custom which has evolved greatly or been introduced into everyday life." Rice and miso soup together are a part of Japanese culture; likewise, following bread and butter, the combination of bread and coffee has come to be a part of Japanese culinary culture.

As mentioned above, all coffee in Japan is imported. According to official statistics, raw coffee beans, 18 tons of them, were first imported in 1877. Throughout the Meiji era, until 1912, about 10-100 tons of coffee beans a year were imported. In 1926, 1,000 tons of coffee beans were recorded, and in 1935, Japan imported 3,500 tons of coffee beans. This great leap in imports of coffee beans from the early l900's to the mid 1930's was due to the success of the continued advertising and marketing strategies of Brazil, the number one coffee-producing country.

To 1949: Following the import of 8,500 tons of coffee beans in 1937, about two to three times the normal yearly import volume of that era, imports gradually decreased. In the first full year of World War II, 1942, imports declined to 12 tons. From 1943 to 1949, imports of raw coffee beans were blocked.

In postwar Japan, all sorts of commodities were in short supply. Yet those in the coffee industry narrowly managed to continue their business activities, stretching their supplies by mixing officially authorized coffee substitutes with coffee released from concealed hoards, regular coffee disposed of legally by the occupation forces, and regular coffee obtained illegally from American military PX's and OSS's.

1950 - 54: According to import records, 1950 imports amounted to 163 tons and, in 1951, 1,662 tons of raw coffee beans were imported. Notwithstanding the fight situation with respect to foreign exchange holdings, the import quota was increased slightly each year over the next few years. During this period of postwar Japan, not to mention pre-war Japan, nearly all the imported raw coffee beans went to domestic coffee roasters, who processed them into regular coffee for industrial use in coffee shops and restaurants.

1955 - 60: Beginning in 1952, special needs of the American military, due to the Korean war, gave Japan's postwar economic recovery a great boost. By 1955, the recovery had proceeded to the point that it was announced in the 1955 government economic white paper that "the postwar era is over." Imports of coffee increased year by year, surpassing 8,000 tons in 1959. All of this was intended for industrial use. Throughout Japan, coffee shops increased greatly, becoming places of relaxation for the general public. In addition to the original function of satisfying people who sought a drink with a fine aroma and flavor, a number of coffee shops began offering live music and service by beautiful women as well.

In 1960, raw coffee imports was liberalized. Consequently, imports rose 30% over the previous year, to 10,866 tons. Domestic production of instant coffee also began in 1960. The instant age was born.

1961 - 70: Japan's industry and economy entered a period of high growth. People began eating less rice and more bread, and the trend toward Westernization spurred the development of processed foods. These factors, along with the liberalization of imports, brought about a diversification in tastes.

In 1961, importation of instant coffee was liberalized. Combined with the advent of domestic production of instant coffee, this marked the beginning of a boom in instant coffee. During this time period, cola beverages were put on the market, an indication of the diversification in beverages. Instant coffee was displayed prominently on supermarket shelves as an eye-catcher. By 1965, the top maker of instant coffee had a market share unrivaled by its competitors. In the meantime, regular coffee, while continuing to expand in the institutional use market, followed the lead of instant coffee, which had pioneered the home market. Thus, packaged regular coffee began to appear in supermarkets and for carryout in some specialist roasting shops.

In 1970, restaurants at the Osaka Expo '70 Fair were successful in using many automated kitchen appliances. This success helped to speed up the adoption of improved appliances in the restaurant industry. Particularly impressive was the use of labor-saving and economizing appliances among the new, big chain stores, such as McDonald's and Royal Host. Around this time, the moment became ripe for makers of regular coffee either to centralize their production facilities and introduce the newest production machinery (roasting and packaging machines), or to begin cooperative undertakings with other makers.

In 1967, canned coffee, the invention of Tadao Ueshima, current chairman of UCC, was put on the market. It received wide recognition among Osaka Expo '70 Fair visitors who came from all over Japan, and immediately provoked a huge domestic demand.

In 1962, to alleviate the worldwide glut of coffee, the International Coffee Agreement was concluded. Japan later became a signatory to the agreement; at the time, being a newly rising consuming country, it was treated as a "new market."

1971 - 80: Japan's period of rapid economic growth continued until 1972. In 1973, the first oil shock caused a complete change. Following a period of low growth, Japan's economy became a mature one. The trend in all food products was toward health foods. In 1975, the coffee crops of Brazil, the largest coffee-producing country in the world, suffered their second most devastating frost damage in history. Because of this, Japan's coffee industry experienced great increases (as high as 600%) in coffee prices on the international market. In spite of this inhospitable business climate, consumption of both instant coffee and regular coffee increased, in the household as well as in industrial markets. Particularly remarkable was the increase in consumption of canned coffee, due to the entrance of soft-drink makers and other food product companies into the canned coffee market. Vending machines continued to be developed and improved.

During this period, the increased market of regular coffee for household use was largely due to the widespread use of paper filter home coffeemakers developed and imported from abroad. Moreover, the opening of many new convenience stores also greatly helped the coffee market.

(In 1961, 76,571 tons of coffee beans were imported; in 1970, this figure increased to 194,464 tons.)

1981 - 1991: During this period, a wave of internationalization spread through society, and eating habits became more diverse. In 1990 the number of Japanese traveling abroad surpassed the 10-million mark. Food, drinks and confectioneries alike tended toward high quality and gourmet items; this tendency from quantity to quality has been strong among all food products.

By the early 1980's, purchases by name of high-quality products at coffee specialty shops and at department stores' "coffee corners" had increased greatly. Meanwhile, also prospering were coffee shops that offered coffee for 150 yen; these shops first appeared in 1980 and attracted much attention.

Coffee shops where coffee is priced between 500 to 1,000 yen have also gathered notice, but still the 300 to 400-yen shops account for the majority. Clean coffee shops with high-class interior designs seem to be popular. However, as a whole, the number of coffee shops is declining because of the high cost of rent, land, and labor. Also contributing to the decline is the increase in demand for coffee at locations other than coffee shops, like fast-food stores, chain restaurants, and convenience stores.

Other factors include the use of coffee-making machines in offices, the spread of vending machines, and particularly the change in young adults' value judgment regarding coffee (they have granted canned coffee its "citizenship"). In these past few years, consumption of instant coffee has been lagging. Consumption of canned coffee, on the other hand, has increased at double-digit rates; moreover, its future looks bright.

The population of coffee drinkers in Japan rose from 71 million in 1980 to 83.7 million in 1990. In 1990, the per capita consumption of coffee was 2.5 kg, or 250 cups of coffee. The world average is 460 cups a year; Japan has finally surpassed the halfway point.

Despite the differences in eating habits compared with the West, it is quite possible that consumption of coffee will continue to grow in Japan. Young people, in particular, will become new coffee drinkers. As long as there are people young and young at heart, the future of coffee-that appealing and wonderful drink--will be bright.
 Import of Coffee Beans
1981 - 194,426 tons
1991 - 322,000 tons
 Number of Coffee Shops
1974: 85,836
1976: 106,937
1979: 143,040
1982: 161,996
1986: 150,608
1989: 132,108
1991: 113,000

Takayoshi Kimura, Vice Chairman of Ueshima Coffee Co, Ltd, in Kobe, Japan, delivered this address at the International Coffee Culture Forum in Kobe, last May.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Author:Kimura, Takayoshi
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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