On the hunt for good affordable wine in Japan -“sore wa kantande wanai!”

Of all the foreign countries I’ve been fortunate enough to visit, none has been as fascinating as Japan.  And when it comes to finding a good bottle of wine at a decent price, no countries have been as challenging.

We just returned from 10 days in Tokyo and Kyoto where shopping has reached Olympic sport status.  If there wasn’t a Uniqlo on every corner, there was an H & M or a Forever 21 or a Zara. 

We boldly ventured into the teeth of the Harajuku shopping district, Takeshita Dori, where only the strong survive.


While the throngs searched for fashion, I was on the hunt for a decent bottle of wine.

I discovered that “sore wa kantande wanai” which, loosely translated, means “it would not be easy”.

Sake, beer and whiskey are the alcoholic drinks of choice in Japan. 

Though it is gaining in popularity, wine barely registers with the Japanese.  Grocery stores? There are many.  Wine at the groceries? Not so much. The selection was slim and, for the most part, unique.  I was pleasantly surprised to see an old friend from Portugal, Mateus rosé, which I hadn’t partaken of since my college days.

In the speciality shops such as “Liquor Burn Gion” in Kyoto, one could find a satisfactory selection of French reds.  But they cost as much as a car payment.

The entire search made me realize that the American wine shopping experience, where we struggle with so many choices, might not be such a bad thing.

I’d return to Japan in a heartbeat…for the culture, the art, the history, the architecture and most of all, the people.  But when I do, I’ll make sure to smuggle a couple of bottles of Côtes du Rhône and Zinfandel in my suitcase.