In celebration of International Woman's Day 2023, Sakemama chats with Ayana-san, arguably Japan's most celebrated & prominent Female Winemaker. She is a 5th generation winemaker of the Misawa family & was appointed as Head of Viticulture and Oenology at Grace Wine in 2008.

How old were you when you decided to begin working in your family winery?

Since my childhood, I have wanted to be a winemaker like my father and my grandfather. However, no female winemakers existed in Japan at that moment, and it was not expected of me to become a winemaker because I have a brother, and here in Japan, leaders are passed down through the paternal line.

Is there a female winemaker who you learned from or were inspired by along the way? Are you mentoring any female producers now?

Though I haven't had an opportunity to work under a female chief winemaker, I am lucky to have very inspiring friends like Theresa of Georg Breuer, Andrea of Mullineux Wines, Laure de Lambert Compeyrot of Chateau Sigalas Rabaud, Dorli of Weingut Dorli Muhr, María José López de Heredia, of Viña Tondonia... I respect them a lot. They are working 26 hours per day, not only for their wineries but also for the regions.

Do you see a growing number of women stepping up to take-over their family’s businesses in Japan more recently?

Yes, I see it is changing.

What advice can you give a young woman preparing to take over her family business?

I am the first female winemaker in our family, in a very traditional Japanese family. Likewise, all my female family members, including me, went to girls' school. I remember I put on the same uniform as my mother’s and her hand-me-downs. Even as far as my grandparents and my parents got married by arranged marriages. It shouldn’t be that way; however, gender may restrict the job opportunity.
Winemaking is a physically tough job for tiny Japanese women. However, I benefit from being a female winemaker. I had an excellent experience in my twenties, completed double season winemaking between Japan and wine regions in the southern hemisphere for 6 years. If I were a boy, I would have more responsibility in running the winery and have had to come back to the winery earlier. Males are more involved in the business side, especially. I have enough freedom to explore winemaking. We still have challenges, but for now, I should say keep celebrating female leaders.

How old were you when you had your 1st sip of wine?

I don't remember exactly how old I was. When I was a child, I liked the must (fermenting juice) very much.

What is the local Singaporean dish you miss most?

Singapore Buk Kut Teh. I am also a fan of Sunday Brunch at Raffles.
We look forward to having Ayana-san back with us here in Singapore & may you continue to inspire women all over in pursuing your goals, dreams & aspirations!
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