Retail notes from Tokyo: Sake cosmetics

Whilst browsing through the beauty department of my local Seiyu (a Japanese store chain which belongs to US retailer Walwart) I came across an interesting-looking beauty product.

The entire lettering on the pack was in Japanese, so I do what I always do in these cases: look for the website of brand/manufacturer, Google it, run the page through Translate and then try and make sense of the results.

From the drawings on the side of the pack it looked like a face oil or facial essence and that is exactly what it was: a rice bran face oil. The manufacturer is Tonoike Shuzoten; much to my surprise, the company is a traditional Sake brewery rather than a cosmetics manufacturer.


Sake is a clear spirit which is traditionally brewed from rice. Tonoike was founded in 1937 and is based in Mashiko, a town in Tochigi prefecture. The company manufactures a wide range of Sake and Shochu products and recently added a line of cosmetics to its portfolio. The products are formulated with ingredients that are typically left over from the sake-brewing process, like rice bran mash and sake lees (lees are the sediments that are left after the fermentation process).

Sake cosmetics, or indeed cosmetics formulated with traditional food ingredients, are rather popular in Japan.  According to various online resources, the first Sake cosmetics started to appear about ten years ago when Japanese Sake sales went through a bit of a slump. Manufacturers were looking for a way to boost sales and in Japan Sake is already considered a beautifying ingredient, so this was a logical – and economical! – step. Today there are quite a few Sake ranges around which are manufactured by various companies. At CosmeTokyo trade show I also noticed several Sake-based products and product ranges.

The oil I bought is one of Tonoike’s most recent launches; Komeyu contains rice bran oil, rice germ oil and vitamin E. The Sake cosmetics range also includes a white rice based bar soap, a clear “essence” (Japanese “essences” have a thicker, more gel-like texture than our Western facial toners), a moisturizing face milk, a hand cream and a rice bran-and-sake bath additive.

In addition there are three body care products which also contain strawberry extract; and not just any old strawberry! No, the strawberries they use in the cosmetics are a type called tochiotome, which are only grown in Tochigi prefecture. How is that for regionality! From what I’ve read online I gather that tochiotome have an intensive sweetness tempered with a slightly tartness. Sounds intriguing. The Tonoike strawberry range comprises a body cream, hand cream and a bath additive.

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Filed under Asia, Brand Profiles, Retail, Travel

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