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<The origin of Koshu grapes>

koshu grape
intro The original Koshu grapes were brought into Japan alongside Buddhism from Caucasus through Silk Road.  It was then spread in Japan and took root in Katsunuma, where the natural environment was suitable for cultivating grapes.
In early days, these grapes were cultivated in Daizenji Temple in Katsunuma for medicinal purposes, which is said to be the beginning of viticulture in Japan.  People visited Daizenji Temple to study the grapes in Katsunuma called Koshu grapes.  Koshu grapes spread all over Katsunuma.  It is said that the viticulture of Koshu grapes began more than 12 centuries ago.


There is a legend about the origin of viticulture of Koshu grapes.  According to the

legend, in 718 a Buddhist monk named Gyoki had a vision of Yakushi Nyorai (Buddha of Medicine) holding a bunch of grapes in his dream.  Following this vision, Gyoki built Daizenji Temple and started cultivating the grapes for medicinal purposes.
daizenji temple
(Daizenji temple) @@@

During Edo period (1603-1867), Tanashiki-saibai (Overhead trellis-type cultivation method) was implemented by a prominent Japanese doctor called Tokuhon Kai.  By using this method, grape harvesting became more efficient and it made great progress in the viticulture of Koshu grapes.

In the Meiji era around 130 years ago, wine production was promoted by the government as part of a national project to learn western culture.  Two local young men, Ryuken Tsuchiya and Masanari Takano, were sent to France to study wine-making.  After coming back from France, they tried making the first wine in Japan.  However, Koshu grapes were found to be unsuitable for wine-making.  It was because Koshu grapes were originally grown for medicinal purpose, and then later improved mainly for table grapes.  Viniculture of Koshu as table grapes continued.

tsuchiya and takano

During the war, Koshu grapes were a valuable source for extracting tartaric acid, which were used for military purpose.

In the middle of Showa era (1926-1988), sightseeing became very popular in Japan.  Katsunuma came into the limelight as ghometown of grapesh.  As a result, vineyards were cultivated for the tourists, and farmers put their effort in growing table grapes.  However, despite the hard work required the unit price of Koshu grapes was very low, and as a result more and more farmers gradually gave up growing them.  On the other hand, customs duties on foreign wine imports were abolished and many foreign wines started coming into the Japanese market. 

aruga branca clareza

Even in this situation, wines continued to be made from Koshu grapes and were loved by the people in Katsunuma as an indispensable part of their dining culture.

The history of Koshu grapes reflects that of Katsunuma and the rest of Japan.  We consider that only wines made from Koshu grapes are the truly Japanese.  We shall keep improving our ways of cultivating Koshu grapes to offer excellent wines not only to the connoisseurs but also to the general customers.

*Picture of Gyoki is owned by Sakai City Museum.
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