The goal of advertising is usually to increase sales, but for Dassai a love of sake, and customers, is more important.

During college, I spent a good chunk of just about every summer in the town of Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture, thanks to a generous older brother who lived there and was always willing to give me a place to stay. A lot of my earliest memories of Japan are tied to Iwakuni, and my love for the town only got greater when I became old enough to drink and found out that Iwakuni is also the home of Asahi Shuzo, the brewer that makes the delicious sake Dassai.

I’m not the only one who enjoys Dassai, though, and over the past few years it’s become arguably the most popular sake brand in Japan. At the same time, though, it’s been becoming steadily more expensive. While that’s sort of unavoidable in a free market economy, the rising sale price itself isn’t really making customers happy, and, surprisingly, it isn’t making Asahi Shuzo happy either.

On December 10, Asahi Shuzo, which usually doesn’t spend all that much on high-profile advertising, took out a full-page ad in the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s most-circulated newspaper. To the left of a photo of a bottle of Dassai, in large print, are the words:

A request. Please do not pay a high price for our sake. – Kazuhiro Sakurai, President and CEO, Asahi Shuzo

It’s an unusual stance for a company to take, but Sakurai believes it’s an important message to send. Like a lot of sake breweries, Asahi Shuzo only directly sells its products to a select number of retailers and wholesalers. Asahi Shuzo also insists that they sell Dassai at the brewer’s suggested retail price.

However, there’s nothing stopping other companies from buying Dassai at the suggested price and then reselling it for as much as they want/shoppers are willing to pay. As Dassai’s popularity has skyrocketed over the last few years, Sakurai has seen supermarkets and liquor stores charging prices far beyond what Asahi Shuzo thinks is appropriate. What’s more, Sakurai feels that the time spent going through extra links in the expanded distribution chain negatively impacts Dassai’s flavor. “This is nothing for customers to be happy about,” he says of the higher price and asserted lower quality, “and we ran this ad to inform people of the situation.”

To the right of the photo of the bottle, the ad lists three of Dassai’s most popular varieties, as well as their suggested prices, which are:
● Junmai Daiginjo 50
720-mililiter (24.3-ounce) bottle: 1,539 yen (US$13.75)
1.8-liter bottle: 3,078 yen
● Junmai Daiginjo Migaki Sanwari Kyubun
720-mililiter bottle: 2,418 yen
1.8-liter bottle: 4,835 yen
● Junmai Daiginjo Migaki Niwari Sanbun
720-mililiter bottle: 5,142 yen
1.8-liter bottle: 10,285 yen

The bottom of the page is taken up by a list of Dassai’s officially supplied retailers who adhere to the suggested prices.

But if the problem is businesses outside the official dealer network ratcheting up prices, couldn’t Sakurai just bring them into the fold? He could, but that’s not a likely scenario. “I’m not interested in selling Dassai to companies that have no love for the product, and are just chasing after profits,” he says. “What I really want is for customers to buy Dassai at a reasonable price.”

It’s all in keeping with Asahi Shuzo’s philosophy of enjoying the sake experience to its fullest, listed on its website as “We brew sake for sipping, not sake for drinking, nor sake for selling.”

Related: List of shops/restaurants selling Dassai (Japan, international [1, 2])
Sources: IT Media, Livedoor News,
Top image ©SoraNews24

Follow Casey on Twitter, where he wishes he’d picked up a few more bottles of Dassai the last time he had the chance.