An American Perspective on (the Wine Scene in) Japan

Two weeks ago I had occasion to return to Japan, a place where I left a small piece of my heart in 2001, when I ended my nearly two-year stay in Tokyo. My tenure in Japan was mostly characterised by perpetual exhaustion, as I put in the long hours required to set up and launch a branch office for the consulting company for which I worked at the time, but even 80-hour weeks couldn’t prevent me from falling in love with the people, the culture and, of course, the food.

For this reason I read with some interest, and more than a little dismay, Ned Goodwin’s farewell to and near-condemnation of the country’s wine culture (See Why Japan has lost its MW). The picture he paints of the way the country’s relationship to wine has evolved doesn’t match my own experience – neither during my residence there 14 years ago nor during my recent visit.

I moved to Tokyo in 2000 nearly on a whim. I had just broken up with my girlfriend and cemented my vow to never have roommates again by purchasing a house in San Francisco. Two weeks after I received the keys, the internet consulting company I worked for asked me if I would be willing to help start their Japanese operation. The closest thing I had to dependents, a group of about 20 orchids, were quickly fostered by a couple of willing friends, and I jumped into what would prove to be one of the most difficult and rewarding chapters of my life.

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