Kiwi restaurant owner in Tokyo looking to expand as Rugby World Cup fever boosts business

It’s a little home away from home tucked away in central Tokyo.

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Wayne Shennen runs a New Zealand restaurant in Tokyo which is feeling the benefits of the Rugby World Cup in Japan. Source: 1 NEWS

Rangitoto Tokyo is a Kiwi run restaurant that is becoming a little rugby hub for fans as the Rugby World Cup enters the knock out stages.

“Within minutes of Japan beating Scotland we were fully booked,” says owner Wayne Shennen.

With standing room only for the All Black vs Ireland game and a fully booked restaurant for the Japan vs South Africa game, business is going well for the Kiwi from Tauranga.

“It’s a good time to be from New Zealand if you’re in Japan - we are kind of everywhere at the moment.”

The first Rugby World Cup in Asia played a small part in the couple’s decision to come to Japan, the home of Mr Shennen’s wife, and open a restaurant selling New Zealand wine.

“I realised a lot of Japanese people don’t realise how good New Zealand wine actually is.”

Buying an old cheese restaurant, the couple made some minor tweaks and turned it into their own Tokyo based New Zealand restaurant.

Having worked in sake breweries and an experienced sommelier, Mr Shennen saw a gap in the Japanese market for Kiwi wine and sake.

“There’s a huge amount of opportunity. I think if you’re a wine drinker you should be drinking New Zealand wine and there are a lot of wine drinkers here.”

One way to market wine to the locals has been through a rugby tournament where the local team has done very well.

“We had to get a big screen TV [in the restaurant] – obviously.”

“A lot of people don’t know anything about rugby but they’re still jumping up and down like crazy when the Japanese have the ball.”

He says New Zealanders in Tokyo, especially those running businesses, will be benefiting off the success of this World Cup.

“It’s allowed people to differentiate us from other countries. [Rugby] it’s something very specific that we are well known for.

“Even a couple of weeks ago people wouldn’t have known what the black jersey was. Now even my customers that don’t know anything about rugby have started talking about rugby.

“It’s been a great thing for all New Zealanders in Japan.”

Following the streak of wins by the Japanese team and the All Blacks which has brought a lot of business in for the couple, they’re now hoping to open more venues in Japan.

But home in New Zealand is where Mr Shennen and his wife want to be long-term with a dream of opening a sake bar back home in Mt Maunganui.