Women-led “Sakura Awards” Makes Japan’s Growing Wine Industry More Inclusive

Sakura Awards

Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO)

Release Date

Thursday, January 25, 2024


The Sakura Awards - Asia’s largest wine competition - is set to return for its 11th year on Jan. 25, 2024 in Osaka and Feb. 1, 2024 in Tokyo. The increasingly popular and influential competition will see thousands of entries from over 28 countries blind-tasted and judged by an expert panel of Japanese women comprised of sommeliers, winemakers, beverage directors, and journalists, among others.

Established in 2014 by now-President Yumi Tanabe, the Sakura Awards represent an endeavour to focus on wine from the unique perspective of the Japanese woman. In Tanabe’s own words, the aim of the competition is to “find wines that go well with Japanese home cooking and expand opportunities for women in the wine industry.” The Awards reflect and support the significant domestic influence of Japanese women, who are beginning to shape the Japanese wine market through their purchasing power.

With over 4,000 entries recorded in the 2023 edition of the Sakura Awards, the event has quickly become iconic within the burgeoning wine culture of Japan. Judging of the Sakura Awards is held in Osaka and Tokyo and includes special awards for “Best Pairing Wine for Asian Cuisine.” The full list of results from 2023 includes 180 wines from Japan. The entry categories for the event are:

  • Still Red Wine
  • Still White Wine
  • Still Rose Wine
  • Sparkling Wine and Semi Sparkling Wine
  • Fortified Wine 
  • Sweet Wine
  • Orange Wine

Though traditionally known for saké, whisky, and beer, Japan is quickly gaining international recognition for its wine. Though wine consumption in the country did not start until the 16th century with the arrival of Jesuit missionaries, the modern popularity of French and Italian cuisines has inspired domestic wine production across Japan, with Yamanashi, Nagano, and Hokkaido emerging as major wine centres. 

The Japanese Koshu grape is typically dry, crisp, and citric, pairing well with Japanese cuisine. Today, there are more than 80 wineries in Japan, around half of which are located around Koshu City in Yamanashi, where the climate contributes to a delicate, smooth wine that has won admiration from around the world.

For more information about Japan’s wine industry and the 2024 edition of The Sakura Awards, visit http://www.sakuraaward.com/jp/index.html.


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