Seasons change in Japan in two ways, according to nature and according to marketing. This last week started the season for Beaujolais Nouveau, the freshly harvested wine that has become an annual worldwide phenomenon. Marketing and traditional values, the two major forces on Japanese consumer behavior, cleverly collaborate to make Beaujolais Nouveau an annual harvest ritual that bridges European culture and traditional Japanese values. Sales-wise, you can hardly do better than that!

A few readers of The Japan Times may even be suffering the aftereffects of this year’s new vintage as they read this, since Japan leads the world in total imports. Last year, Japan imported 11 million bottles, far out-swigging Germany and the United States with only 3 million bottles each. Japan also outdoes other wine-drinking countries with the spectacle surrounding the uncorking. By French law, the first tasting is not allowed until one minute past midnight on the third Thursday of November. Because of time zones, Japan goes first in the world, making the country appear very European, at least for a few minutes mid-November.

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