New approach to solving local issues: Using NFTs and the metaverse to boost the brand power of Kuma Shochu

Mizuho Digital Transformation

December 28, 2023


Kumamoto prefecture is promoting digital transformation throughout the prefecture, and to assist with this, it has put out a public call for projects that use Web3, which incorporates NFTs and the metaverse, to solve local issues. One of Kumamoto prefecture's local issues is how to expand the fan base of Kuma Shochu, a locally-produced liquor. Mizuho Bank believes that a potential solution for popularizing Kuma Shochu lies in NFTs and the metaverse, whose main users are young people. Thus, in collaboration with COSMIZE, Startale Labs Japan, and Blue Lab, Mizuho proposed a project to improve the brand power of Kuma Shochu using NFTs and the metaverse. The proposal was well received by the Kumamoto prefectural government, and the pilot project began in September 2023. The aim of the project is to enable users to voluntarily contribute to the promotion of Kuma Shochu, thereby establishing a new method for communicating the appeal of this locally-produced liquor. To this end, our project team is building a system to expand Kuma Shochu's fan base by leveraging Web3 technology, through means such as making social media posting history visible by utilizing the non-fungible nature of NFTs and granting NFTs that can be traded for Kuma Shochu depending on a user's degree of contribution. In addition, the project team is developing initiatives mainly targeting young people who are interested in Web3, such as by holding events in the metaverse space so that people from outside the prefecture can participate.

Kumamoto DX Consortium publicly solicited solutions to local issues. Four companies, including Mizuho Bank, joined the consortium to collaborate.

In June 2022, Kumamoto prefecture established the Kumamoto DX Consortium with the aim of creating a place for information sharing and co-creation by businesses, educational institutions, and government for the promotion of digitalization and digital transformation. Kumamoto prefecture is particularly interested in advanced technologies using Web3, such as blockchain and NFTs, and hopes to utilize these technologies to revolutionize conventional services and systems and create solutions to local issues. To this end, the consortium solicited project proposals, both within and outside of Kumamoto prefecture, that utilize advanced technologies to address local issues.

Mizuho Bank, which had been researching the Web3 theme, focused on a local issue: the lack of growth in the number of young customers of Kuma Shochu, a brand of liquor produced in Kumamoto prefecture. The main demographic interested in Web3 is the younger generation, and considering that these factors could be combined to solve the problem, Mizuho proposed a project that combines Kuma Shochu and Web3. Four companies are collaborating on the project, including three investors: Mizuho Bank, COSMIZE, which provides technical support for creating and issuing metaverse space and NFTs, and Startale Labs Japan, which provides technical support for blockchain and NFTs. The fourth company is Blue Lab, an incubation company established to create next-generation businesses. Thus, the project was launched, with the aim of expanding brand awareness and increasing the number of fans of Kuma Shochu by utilizing NFTs and the metaverse.


What are Kuma Shochu NFTs, which were created with the aim of expanding the age demographic of fans?

One of the challenges faced by Kumamoto prefecture is the branding of products produced in the prefecture. Kuma Shochu is one of only four authentic shochu brands in Japan with a recognized production area. With 500 years of history, it is one of Japan's leading rice shochu brands. However, awareness of Kuma Shochu among the younger demographic in the Japanese market has been on the decline as young people have been drinking less.

Mizuho Bank proposed a measure to raise the younger generation's awareness of Kuma Shochu, namely the issuance of Kuma Shochu NFTs. Essentially, NFTs are digital data that are created based on blockchain and function as digital certificates that cannot be tampered with or forged. To increase their value, non-rewritable IDs are assigned to the data, making it possible to identify individual NFTs.

Unlike ordinary NFT projects that involve future sales, Kuma Shochu NFTs are designed to focus on marketing. First, "Base NFTs" are issued to young people who are interested in Kuma Shochu and Web3, and these NFTs serve as tickets to participate in the pilot project. Next, if participants engage in activities that contribute to spreading information about Kuma Shochu or improving its brand power, they receive "Parts NFTs" as evidence of their activities. Furthermore, participants who have both a Base NFT and a Parts NFT are issued a "SHIN NFT" (Base NFT + Parts NFT) that comes with a voucher exchangeable for Kuma Shochu.

Through Base NFTs, we will expand the awareness of NFT users who did not know about Kuma Shochu until now, and after they are incentivized by the Parts NFTs to deepen their understanding of the brand, they will gain a real tasting experience through exchange of the SHIN NFTs. Since we can engage in closer communication with potential customers through these means, we anticipate an increase in the number of Kuma Shochu fans. In addition, by setting the fans' mission as acquisition of Parts NFTs, which are acquired by spreading positive information about Kuma Shochu and posting event announcements via participants' own social media, etc., a flow is created in which information about the brand is spread without any intervention by the company. Thus, this also leads to a reduction in advertising costs.

While Base NFTs have the strength of NFTs in that they have an asset value, Parts NFTs are designed to be non-resalable and to accurately measure contributions to the Kuma Shochu brand. Thus, we have created a mechanism that can both provide value via NFTs and stimulate interest in Kuma Shochu.


People from all over Japan participated in our events.
Metaverse events attracted both regular fans of Kuma Shochu and people who were new to Kuma Shochu.

To hand out Kuma Shochu NFTs, we wanted to hold our initial event where the most people could experience the appeal of Kuma Shochu. The venue we chose was the metaverse, so that people everywhere could attend. In-person events have the advantage of allowing people to experience the appeal of Kuma Shochu first-hand and enjoy tastings, but a single in-person location makes it difficult to recruit a wide range of participants. Furthermore, we also decided to hold the event in the metaverse because it is popular among many young people and we hoped to encourage those who are new to Kuma Shochu to participate in the event. The first event held in October 2023 was a seminar that enabled participants to experience the allure of Kuma Shochu up close; participants not only heard about the Kuma Shochu pilot project but also were given an introduction to its history of over 500 years and a talk on delicious ways to drink it that can easily be tried at home. The event attracted over 150 people, not only from the local area but also from Tokyo and all over Japan, with one event participant saying, "I didn't know about Kuma Shochu until now, but now that I know about its history and how to drink it, I want to try it." Another participant commented that theywere originally a fan of Kuma Shochu, but having learned new things about the brand, they have become an even bigger fan.

Subsequently, in December 2023, in addition to the metaverse space, we also secured a venue in Kumamoto City and held a combined online and in-person event. In addition to a Kuma Shochu tasting event, which is possible only at a real venue, we also hosted a variety of events related to Kuma Shochu and Web3 that kindled deep interest. These included an experience comparing four types of Kuma Shochu with different tastes and aromas and a panel discussion on the theme of "Web3 and regional revitalization." Over 60% of participants were outside of Kumamoto prefecture, so we were able to convey the appeal of Kuma Shochu to a wide range of people. They had positive comments about the brand and the pilot project, with one person saying that they had gained a better appreciation for what makes Kuma Shochu special after actually tasting it, while another expressed their enthusiasm to continue promoting Kuma Shochu using the latest technology going forward.

In addition to receiving NFTs at these events, Kuma Shochu NFTs can be obtained by completing missions that include following Kuma Shochu accounts on various social media, speaking positively about the brand, taking quizzes on making koji (a yeast used in the fermentation process), and participating in the Kuma Shochu community. By setting missions to acquire NFTs like these, we create opportunities for the community that was activated by the events to continue offering excitement even when no event is being held.


On Web3, the Kuma Shochu community is expanding rapidly. In the future, it will be a community run by the fans themselves.

Kuma Shochu is gaining more and more fans each time NFTs are distributed and events are held in the metaverse. Our project using Web3 has just started, but in a few years it will become a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) where fans can run the community independently and have fun together without a designated administrator. To that end, we are looking to cultivate core fans by appointing Kuma Shochu NFT ambassadors from among people who have collected Base NFTs and Parts NFTs. Kumamoto is not the only prefecture facing challenges such as regional revitalization, branding of prefectural products, and creation of fan communities. With that in mind, Mizuho will continue to utilize the knowledge gained from using Web3 to solve various regional issues.

Text and photographs: Mizuho DX Editorial Department


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