Built with the hospitality community in mind, the DOJO programme immersed 100 bartenders in the art of Japanese bartending through culturally immersive and educational sessions in two new cities this year.

Following three successful years, The House of Suntory’s prestigious DOJO advocacy programme expanded this year to engage 100 bartenders in three leading hospitality hubs in the UK. In the brand’s centenary year, the programme hosted masterclasses in Manchester and Edinburgh, in addition to London, as part of its mission to deepen bartenders’ understanding of the philosophies behind the art of Japanese bartending.

The expansion of the programme this year enabled bartenders in three of the UK’s leading hospitality hubs to learn about Japanese bartending and gain insights directly from Japanese Craft Masters and hospitality industry leaders, which can be applied to strengthen any hospitality career.

Devised as an immersive experience for bartenders, this year’s programme was be led by The House of Suntory UK Brand Ambassador Raffaele Di Monaco alongside authentic Japanese Masters of Craft. Two ‘tours’ took place in July and September this year. Each tour featured two “Monozukuri Masterclasses”, with 25 bartenders in each city – Monozukuri being one of the three pillars of The House of Suntory, referring to the traditional Japanese principles of craftsmanship. To help deepen understanding of the brand’s portfolio, each masterclass tour focused on two of its four core brands; the first tour on Roku gin and Haku vodka, followed by Toki and Hibiki whiskies in the second.

Inspired by the concept of Kaizen – “continual improvement” – the programme included a ‘Kaizen Challenge’ to encourage participants to hone their newfound skills by applying them to a classic cocktail and rewards best practice with the chance to win a place at the DOJO Finale, taking place next week on 23rd November. This final stage will see the four bartenders from each city present their Kaizen Classic to judges James Bowker, The House of Suntory’s Global Advocacy Manager, and famed Bar Master Hidetsugu Ueno of Bar High Five in Tokyo, for the chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Japan in Spring 2024.

With community a key part of the DOJO programme, in October, 12 DOJO Finalists were also be invited to two community events to immerse them in Japanese culture with sessions on Japanese knife sharpening and a Kanpai Sake Brewery tour. As part of the brand’s ongoing commitment to fostering the bartending community, the House of Suntory also hosted several Japanese inspired DOJO mini events in London locations.

Raffaele di Monaco, UK Brand Ambassador for the House of Suntory, said: “The Japanese approach to bartending is unlike anything else. From the laser focus on detail, to embracing omotenashi (to wholeheartedly look after guests) and monozukuri (craftsmanship and striving towards perfection), the collective approach elevates bartending to an artform. Through the DOJO programme, we bring these principles to the fore, and help bartenders enhance their repertoires as well as being able to offer unparalleled drink and hospitality experiences for their customers.”


Each DOJO Masterclass is carefully curated around four Japanese crafts. From sushi making and Ikebana, to Dashi blending and Chadō – also known as Japanese Tea Ceremony – the sessions were hosted by a specialist Japanese Master, providing bartenders with a rich understanding of Japanese artistry first hand.

 Tour 1 – July 2023

Sushi and Seasoning – A sushi masterclass centred around the Japanese art of balance and seasoning, including a Haku vodka tasting.

Ikebana and Aesthetics – A masterclass focused on the centuries-old Japanese art of arranging flowers – Ikebana. During the session, bartenders learnt how to apply the delicate skill of Ikebana to cocktail garnishing. The session also included a Roku tasting.

Tour 2 – September 2023

Dashi & Blending – Highlighting the art of blending flavours and aromas, this session included a tasting of the blending components of Toki.

Chadō and Hospitality – A masterclass in Japanese hospitality, explored via the traditional Tea Ceremony, including a tasting of Hibiki.

For more information on DOJO, please visit

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