Yamanashi sakes (pic: Yamanashi Sake and Shochu Makers Association)
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Japan’s Yamanashi sake gets GI protection

“Yamanashi” Geographic Indication (GI), which was granted for Yamanashi wines in 2013, is now recognized as a GI for Yamanashi sakes as well. This is the first case in the country to register wine and sake under the same GI.

“Yamanashi” Geographical Indication (GI), which was granted for Yamanashi wines in 2013, is now recognized as a GI for Yamanashi sakes as well. This is the first case in the country to register wine and sake under the same GI.

The National Tax Agency announced the designation on 28 April.

“Yamanashi sake” utilizes a softened water from surrounding high mountains such as Mount Fuji as its mother water, referring to the originating water . In addition, the fermentation period is very cold; as a result, the fermentation proceeds slowly. “Yamanashi sake”, therefore, has a soft, pure, clear taste.

A set of seven sake bottles of 180ml each from Yamanashi leading sake breweries. (pic: Yamanashi Sake and Shochu Makers Association)
A set of seven sake bottles of 180ml each from Yamanashi leading sake breweries. (pic: Yamanashi Sake and Shochu Makers Association)

In order to declare a sake as “Yamanashi”, its mother water should be from a designated riverine system. In addition, the sake should be made in Yamanashi, according to the regulations of the Japanese Liqour Tax Act, and stored and bottled in Yamanashi.

This is the ninth GI for sake in Japan. The first sake GI was “Hakusan”, recognized as such in 2005. Last year, two GIs for sake were recognized, and this year, up to now, already three GIs for sake have been approved: “Tonenumata”, “Hagi” and “Yamanashi”. This means that the recognition of GI for sake is accelerating.

Why is it accelerating? It is because the export of sake has been expanding. Exports of sake in 2020 hit 24.1 billion yen (US$221.6 million), increasing by 3.1% from the previous year.

Exports have continued to break records since 2010, although in 2020, exports of whisky surpassed that of sake as we already mentioned. Granting GIs is considered to be an effective way to increase exports because the concept of GI is well understood especially within Europe. Also, the products with GI can be differentiated from others.  

For this reason, it is estimated that the number of GIs for sake will increase in the future.

The prefecture of Nagano has already petitioned for the simultaneous recognition of GI Nagano for both its wine and sake. We are looking forward to a bright future of GIs for sake.

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