Wine that Make Everyone Smile, ”COCO FARM & WINERY”

"Wine that Make Everyone Smile,

Winery Pioneered by Special Needs Students

In 1955 (Showa 30), a schoolteacher purchased a mountain with their own funds and started to cultivate the steep slopes with his students. The teacher’s name is Noboru Kawada. He was in charge of a class of special needs students who then were called retarded. “Twenty percent of these kids would not have a place to work after graduation. I want to seek a way to live with them.” With this idea, Kawada cleared the mountain and planted vines in search for a way for his students to make a living. They cleared the steep slopes for two years. They planted vines for the first time in 1958. From 1968, they stayed in a hand -made cottage and founded a facility named “COCOROMI GAKUEN”. In the next year, it became a licensed rehabilitation facility for intellectually challenged adults. Ever since, they have protected the grape vines with the greatest of care, cutting grass and sweating in summer, digging manure holes to give nourishment to the vines after harvest in the chilling winds of winter, and continue to do so to this day.

No Herbicide or Chemical Fertilizer, All by Hand

The slopes of the mountain are perfect environment for growing grapes since the slopes have excellent drainage and exposure to the sun. But tractors and cultivators cannot enter these steep slopes having an average obliquity of 38 degrees. Workers must climb all slopes on foot.. Pruning of the grape vines, collecting the vines after pruning, cluster thinning, and harvesting must all be done by hand. In hopes for intellectually challenged people to work at their own pace and spend years in a safe environment, COCOROMI GAKUEN has not used any herbicides or chemical fertilizers since its founding to this day.
What astonished Nakata till the end was the beauty of the vineyard when looking down the slopes. There was beauty made solely by handwork, not seen in large-scale farms which only pursue efficiency. It conveys how the vineyard has been cherished and protected with tender care. Presently, there are approximately 130 residents at COCOROMI GAKUEN between the age of 19 to 89. Half of the members are over the age of 50. Their proud smiling faces show what great grape farmers and distillery workers they have become.

Producing Wine that Make Everyone Smile

Kawada’s work which is now inherited by his two daughters, is highly acknowledged socially such as winning the Eiji Yoshikawa Culture Award. But that is not the only reason people buy their wine. The wine is simply delicious. COCO FARM haws invited wine distillery expert Bruce Gutlove from California to improve the quality of their wine, so that will not merely be “wine bought out of sympathy”

“It’s useless giving advice if I’m not familiar with Japanese culture and cuisine, or how wine is consumed in Japan. It’s not good to give advice without enough knowledge, right? I wanted to be able to give meaningful advice, so I thought of saying in Japan a little longer. It has been 20 years.” Says Bruce. Him and the members aim at is producing “Wine that make everyone smile”.

“It’s possible to make wine to brag how ‘marvelous’ and ‘prestigious’ it is. But our wine is not like that. Wine is not about scores and awards.” If it is to be consumed in Japan, wine that suits Japanese cuisine and climate must truly be a great wine. Wine from COCO FARM & WINERY stays close to our hearts and bring the smile out in all of us.


611 Tajimacho, Ashikaga, Tochigi