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Your Very Own 'Dive' Buddy

By: Kotoko Chinen

Date Posted: 1999-05-01

According to the April 24 evening edition of the Okinawa Times, an underwater "mail box" that delivers mail from a depth of about ten meters to all over the world has been installed in the Pacific Ocean off Wakayama Prefecture, south-west of Tokyo. The paper reported that it would be the first underwater pillar box for divers throughout the world. And here in Okinawa, there are some divers with unconventional ideas as well. But, unlike the submarine mail box in Wakayama, this idea is for those who not only like to dive but also those who like to drink. Helios, a well-known brewing industry here in Okinawa, recently released "Buddy," a 720ml bottle that contains 25 percent Awamori by volume, a rather potent brew one might think. Yet it is not what's inside that intrigues, it's the bottle that makes you sit up and take a good hard look. With its black screw top, silver streamlined "body" and yellow stripe - fashioned after the protective "Tank Booths" - "Buddy" is virtually an air tank in miniature. This mini "Awamori" tank is the brainchild of Yasutomo Tanaka, business chief of Helios brewing industry. A 20-year dive veteran with approximately 1,200 dives throughout the world, Tanaka is well aware of the damage that has been down to the world's oceans and the urgent need to safeguard the coral reefs he so clearly enjoys. Combining his love of the sport and business acumen, "Buddy" came about during a night out with friends.

Unlike many fade-with-the-dawn ideas dreamed up during parties, the idea stayed with him and began to take shape. From the design of the bottle to the notes on the package, this would be Tanaka's "baby". "We really put a lot of effort and money into this product. So we can confidently recommend it to our customers." Ever the realist with the fickle nature of new product launches, Tanaka said: "But, if it doesn't go well for some reason, maybe my boss will want to get rid of me."

Although its unique packaging will surely attract attention, the concept behind "Buddy" goes deeper than just superficial appearances. Helios put a lot of thought into the message it wanted to get across to its customers, and to mention environmental problems Okinawa now faces. On the front label of the bottle comes this message: "(To) Keep our ocean for the next generation." And once again, Tanaka and Helios have gone one better, offering to donate part of the product's profits to the World Wildlife Fund Japan for Coral Reef Checks, conducted by WWF to better understand the condition of and protect reefs around the island. But they didn't stop there. Thirty to 40 percent of bottles returned can be reused, which make them far more environmentally friendly than recyclable bottles. Each bottle is individually numbered, much like the numbers you find on air tanks. So, whatever bottle you pick, no one else will ever drink from the same bottle. Actually, it might make a great souvenir.

"Buddy" can be purchased at your nearest liquor outlet, including the "Big Bull" steak house near Gate 2 Street, and Altec liquor stores. It costs 1800 a bottle. ** Helios brewing company is giving away a bottle or "Buddy" free to five lucky Japan Update readers. If you would like a chance at winning the prize, please send a fax with your name, mailing address, comments, opinions, and suggestion about stories that appear in Japan Update. Fax 9893-45690

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