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Weeklong celebration of Japanese exports heads to London

Published:  16 September, 2019

Japan Week is launching in London next week, giving a spotlight to the uptick of Japanese wines, spirits and sakes across the capital.

The weeklong series of events is being organised by B2C food and drinks mag Foodism in tandem with JFOODO, the Japanese government’s department for food and drink promotion overseas, and House of Suntory as the headline sponsors.

London got its first ever Sake Week back in March, when exports of Japanese sake to the UK in 2018 were valued at £2.27 million – the highest among European countries (National Tax Agency, Japan).

The new initiative however will work across the “thriving Japanese food and drink scene in London”, with participating restaurants and bars ranging from Sushi Samba to José Pizarro and Tramp.

“With Japanese food and drinks such as sake thriving in London, now is a great time to be celebrating Japanese culture – and ties in perfectly as Brits head to Japan for the 2019 Rugby World Cup,” Alex Watson, brand director at Foodism, said.

As part of the series, JFOODO is promoting the pairing of sake with other foods outside of the usual sushi.

Sake has been “flourishing in London”, JFOODO said, but is still traditionally paired with Japanese food, whereas its light and fresh flavour profile means it “works perfectly” with a wider array of seafood, such as oysters.

The week will also shine a brighter spotlight on Japanese wine.

According to the National Tax Agency, Japan produced 3.68 million hls of wine in 2017. Of this, only around 2,200 hls is exported each year.

This number could be set to grow however, thanks to a number of trade deals and rule-changes which mean producers are moving forwards with a more international mind-set.

One major move towards firming things up for the export market has been tighter controls on what can be officially called Japanese wine.

As of 2018, only wine made from grapes grown in Japan can be sold under this heading – paving the way for greater focus on quality and provenance.

There are also signs that producers are moving towards internationally recognised varieties.

Hokkaido Wine, the largest producer of Japanese wine (as opposed to imported) has historically produced large volumes of Labrusca varieties: Campbell Early for red and Niagara for white.

Over the past couple of years it has moved its focused gradually towards Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, having entered both into international competitions such as the IWC and exporting them in EU-friendly 75cl bottles.

Japan Week will run at participating venues across London from Monday 23 September to Thursday 3 October 2019.