Japan's most prominent grape variety is called "Koshu." It has a long history of cultivation in Japan. One legend has it that while praying one day a Buddhist monk named Gyoki received divine inspiration to found a temple called Daizenji, and that he started cultivating grapes nearby in 718. Another holds that a different grape variety to "Yamabudo", a native variety in Japan from ancient times, was discovered and cultivated in 1186 by Kageyu Amemiya in the Katsunuma region of Yamanashi Prefecture. But these grapes grown for millennia were for eating, and it was not until around 1870 that grapes in Japan were used to make wine, when Hironori Yamada and Norihisa Takuma set up a winemaking enterprise in Kofu, Yamanashi. Subsequently, the agricultural policy of Japan's new government resulted in the establishment of many state-run wineries, such as a pioneering one in Sapporo in 1876, as well as private wineries. In 1877, the Dainippon Yamanashi Wine Company (Iwaimura Wine Company) was founded in Katsunuma, and in October that year, Masanari Takano and Ryuken Tsuchiya were dispatched to France to study grape cultivation and winemaking. In Niigata Prefecture, Zenbei Kawakami had many successes in crossing Muscat Bailey A and Black Queen varieties with the Japanese varieties of the time.
Following the Osaka World Expo of 1970, there was a boom in travel to the West and a trend toward more Western culinary habits. There were active efforts to expand the wine market in Japan, and wine rapidly became a part of Japanese life. Japan's winemakers and Japanese viticulture and oenology have made great strides, and now Japan produces many wines that have won high praise overseas.