Photo/IllutrationFukushima Governor Masao Uchibori, front row, fourth from right, is surrounded by representatives from brewers that won the Gold Prize at the 2018 Annual Japan Sake Awards at the prefectural government office in Fukushima. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

FUKUSHIMA--Prefectural officials are hoping a new specialty shop in the Big Apple will help locally brewed sake make it in the United States.

With interest in the Japanese rice wine growing in the United States amid the Japanese food boom, the officials aim to promote the high quality of Fukushima-produced sake and expand sales channels.

They also hope the shop will help repair reputational damage caused by the nuclear disaster in March 2011.

The project was announced by Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori on May 31 while he was visiting New York to promote locally brewed sake as head of the prefecture.

It will be the first time the prefectural government has opened a shop for local specialties outside Japan.

Prefectural officials plan to help small-scale brewers export their brands using the shop as a base.

“We want them to become interested in exporting and use the specialty shop to start making efforts to sell their products on a trial basis and do market research,” an official said.

According to the officials, a New York City-based liquor sales company will be commissioned to open the shop by the end of the year.

The officials plan to attract wide-ranging visitors, such as liquor distributors, restaurant industry officials and local residents, as well as host events in which sake brewers based in Fukushima Prefecture will participate.

The shop will be open for a limited time only, but the officials are considering a time period long enough to raise the profile and promote the brand of rice wine from the prefecture.

At the 2018 Annual Japan Sake Awards, 19 sake brands from Fukushima Prefecture were given the Gold Prize, making the prefecture home to the largest number of the top winning sake brands for six straight years.

However, only some of the brewers relatively larger in scale are working on a full-scale basis to export their products.

“Due to fierce competition with other prefectures in overseas markets, we must hone our craft and make inroads or we will lose,” said an official at an association for brewers and distillers in Fukushima Prefecture.