I know, I feel it: some of my readers are waiting for me to report the new data on wine production and consumption in Japan published by Kirin at the beginning of July. In fact for a blog called “Wine Japan” there is a mighty drought of posts about Japanese wine and wine in Japan.
I want to make some preliminary comments on this.
First, in the course of this post I will refer to “wine consumption” for the sake of simplicity, but Japanese statistics do not report “wine” as an independent entity. After all, the definition of wine as a beverage only derived from grapes is a European concept, sanctioned in EU regulations, but in many other Countries the law is not so strict and the tendency to call “wine” any fermented alcoholic product of fruit origin is commonplace (e.g. apple wine). In particular, in Japanese statistics about wine are often imprecise, because the official legal category under which wine falls is kajitsushu, literally “fruit alcohol”. Nowadays the vast majority of this is constituted by grape wine, so there is still a degree of precision, but other alcoholic drinks end up here, like ciders. By the way, a category called kanmikajitsushu also exists: to put it simply, this is reserved to alcoholic beverages made from fruit, but containing 15% alcohol or more, meaning that Port, Sherries, Madeiras and Marsalas are placed here, not with the other wines. I have not included kanmikajitsushu because 1) again they comprise beverages not made from grapes and 2) they are mostly irrelevant (between 0 and 0.2L per capita everywhere except Shimane, where curiously this value goes up to 0.4L).
Second, for some reason, Okinawa is not included in the statistics. I don’t think there is a particular high level of consumption there, but simply we don’t know.
Finally, as specified on the map, the data concerns the period between April 2018 and March 2019, the latest published. So well before the coronavirus craze we all know.
Now to the data themselves: there are some of interesting points we can comment.
- Unsurprisingly, Tokyo shows the highest consumption per capita, 8.1L. There is big business in the capital, the vast majority of importers are based here, there are multiple big wine retailers and a thriving hospitality scene. The sheer volume of interested audience is just enough to make wine businesses flourish, at least pre-2020.
- Much less expected is Yamanashi: second place for them, with a notable 7.5L per person consumed annually. For a prefecture that has less than 900,000 inhabitants (!) this is extremely relevant. Yamanashi is also the winemaking center of Japan and much of the consumption may come from tourists, but the data suggest that wine here is something more ingrained in the local culture than in the rest of Japan.
- Kyoto ranks third, but much lower, only 4L per capita. Tourism combined with the sizeable dimension and liveliness of the area are creating a environment conducive to wine consumption.
- All the other prefectures fall under the three layers of 3~3.9L, 2.0~2.9L and 1.0~1.9L per person.
Some underperformers include Osaka (just 3.5L), Nagoya (= Aichi, only 2.5L) and Hyogo (2.8L). For the latter I suspect wine consumption to be very low in the northern, less populated area around Toyooka and reasonably high in the south, especially near Kobe, big and international. Wakayama is quite surprising (3.6L, even more than Osaka). Nagano and Hokkaido (3.6 and 3.5) are also relevant centers of wine production.
In general West Japan is much less fond of wine than the east. It may appear slightly surprising that places like Nagasaki and Kagoshima consume so little wine, because historically those were the only areas that during the sakoku (“closed country period”, between 16th and 19th century) were allowed to commerce with foreign Countries. One would imagine a legacy of western beverage consumption, especially in Nagasaki, but it does not seem to be so.
It would be interesting to see the evolution of this data in the last 20 years, but maybe that is for another post, and another map.