From the very first evening, the tone was set. We were in traditional Japan… As we imagine the country, seen from abroad.
Saiko Tamura Soga, ASI Vice President for Asia and Oceania, and co-organizer of the event with Shinya Tasaki, recalls, with Michèle Chantôme, these intense moments:
“The Japan Sommelier Association always emphasized the importance of creating a stress free environment for competitors, and designed the program not to be too much of a burden for them, yet to give all the delegations an opportunity to fully experience Japanese hospitality, Kyoto and Japanese culture.
We welcomed all the delegations with a dance performance by maikos (future geishas), followed by a Kagami-biraki, saké barrel opening ceremony, which is believed to bring good luck by breaking the lid. Of course, a visit to Kyoto would not be complete without a visit to the Suntory Yamazaki Distillery, especially for sommeliers. So, we organized a master class and tasting (including the 18-year-old Yamazaki!) led by Mr. Torii, the master blender and member of the founding family of Suntory.
And after a few days of tension, the last night of the competition ended with an enjoyable performance of Wadaiko, Japanese drums. Also, one by one, each of the contestants received a commemorative gift from Tadashi Agi, the authors of the famous manga Drops of God”.
As for the competition itself, it concluded with an all-Asian podium after a series of very high-level tests. Wataru Iwata, from Japan, was crowned Best Sommelier of Asia & Oceania 2018. In second place was Kam Fung Reeze Choi, from China, followed by Malaysia’s Justin Ho Li Vern.