The Japanese Table / ’64 Games prompted debut of sake product

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Cup sake products at Marugoto Nippon store in Taito Ward, Tokyo

The Yomiuri Shimbun This series discusses the present and future of washoku traditional Japanese cuisine. For this installment, we will explore the relationship between the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and Japanese food.

Selling sake in sealed cups makes it easier for people to enjoy, and One Cup Ozeki was the first product of this type. It was launched on Oct. 10, 1964, the same day as the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics.

“It was so innovative, I wondered if it would sell,” said Koji Tsutsui, 83, who used to work at Ozeki Co., a sake brewing company based in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture.

It was common at the time to pour sake from 1.8-liter bottles into smaller tokkuri bottles. The idea of sake in cups was not viewed favorably, as it was associated with standing bars. Also, beer and whiskey had become popular, particularly among young consumers.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    One Cup Ozeki in its early days

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Former Ozeki Co. employees Koji Tsutsui, left, and Yoshihiko Natani recall when One Cup Ozeki debuted in 1964 in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Macaroni salad

Thanks to the economic boom created by the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, people became better off, and an increasing number of people, mainly young people, came to enjoy leisure activities. One Cup Ozeki was launched to take advantage of this business opportunity, and was aimed at making it easier for consumers to drink sake while they were out.

The product’s design also had “One Cup” in white letters on a blue background, in a bid to promote sake among foreign visitors to Japan for the Olympics.

When One Cup went on sale, many consumers made such complaints as “Sake leaks from the cap” and “The blue used for the label is reflected in the sake, which makes it look like an ink bottle.” Some at the sake brewer even suggested the company should stop selling the product.

“Nevertheless, we dedicated ourselves to making One Cup Ozeki a hit product, and worked hard both night and day,” said Yoshihiko Natani, 79, another former Ozeki employee.

Tsutsui said the company made all-out efforts to improve the product. “We put it on shelves in tandem with the Olympics, a global event,” he recalled. “We never thought about ending in failure.”

Sales of One Cup Ozeki increased as it gained recognition, mainly because it was sold at railway stations and in vending machines. Production in the sake industry overall peaked in fiscal 1973, but Ozeki reached its highest level in fiscal 1993. For One Cup Ozeki, its sales peaked in the same fiscal year with the shipment of 131.4 million units, driving the sales of the manufacturer itself.

To mark the 50th anniversary of One Cup Ozeki in 2014, the company created a leaflet reviewing its history for employees and dealers. Up until that point, the company had not emphasized the product’s relationship with the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, but the leaflet noted that One Cup Ozeki went on sale the same day as the Games’ opening ceremony — in an effort to pass on the ideas behind the product, as there were few people left at the company who remembered those days.

After One Cup Ozeki became a big hit, other major sake brewers such as Hakutsuru Sake Brewing Co. in Kobe and Gekkeikan Sake Co. in Kyoto launched similar one-cup products. Manufacturers in regional areas have followed suit as well.

Shuzo Imada, manager at the Japan Sake and Shochu Information Center in Minato Ward, Tokyo, described one-cup sake products as a “container revolution.”

“They became popular because they make it easier to enjoy drinking sake,” he added. “Moreover, they now let people enjoy various kinds of sake more casually.”

Cup sake from various parts of the nation are on the shelves at Marugoto Nippon, a commercial facility in Taito Ward, Tokyo, that features local specialties. About 30 kinds are featured from Hokkaido to Kyushu, with label designs depicting such things as local festivals and nature, as well as yurukyara mascot characters promoting local governments and entities.

“Sake, a condensed form of Japanese traditions and culture, has joined together with cups with beautiful designs, making it easier for consumers to pick up sake products,” said Atsuko Fuju, who works at the complex. “I hope more people will enjoy sake more after trying cup sake products.”

Western-style Japanese soul food: Macaroni salad

Cooking expert Naomi Kijima introduces home cooking from the time of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. In this installment, she shares a recipe for macaroni salad.

“At that time, I think many people mixed macaroni directly with mayonnaise, but at my home, it was first seasoned with dressing,” she said.

Ingredients (serve 2):

50 grams macaroni for use in salad

½ onion

1 cucumber


3 slices of pork loin ham

4 tbsp mayonnaise

Dressing (1 tbsp cooking oil, ½ tbsp vinegar, ⅓ tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar, pinch of pepper,

½ tsp mustard)


1. Cut the onion in half horizontally before slicing. Mix the dressing and add onion.

2. Boil macaroni according to directions on the package and discard cooking liquid. Put it in the dressing immediately and mix all the ingredients.

3. Slice the cucumber, and sprinkle a small amount of salt on it. When the cucumber becomes soft, drain excess water thoroughly. Cut the ham into rectangles. Rinse the apple and cut it into wedges without peeling.

4. Add the cucumber, ham and apple to the onion and macaroni mixture, and mix all the ingredients with mayonnaise.

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