According to legend, in 718 in Katsunuma (Yamanashi on the main island of Honshu), Saint Gyoki planted vines given to him by the Buddha Nyorai and built the Daizenji temple. In honour of the Buddha, Gyoki created a statue called Budo Yakushi (Budo = wine, Yakushi = teacher of medicine), which still stands in the temple today. Wine was long regarded as a healing medicine in Japan. Yamanashi is still the wine-growing centre of Japan today, with around 30 modern production facilities. Buddhist monks spread vines all over the country, but the wines were mainly used as carriers for medicines.
The Koshu variety shown in the picture was supposedly discovered around 1186 at the foot of Mount Fujiyama; it is still the most popular variety in Japan today. In the 16th century, Portuguese Jesuit missionaries brought red wine (tintashu) as a gift for guests. In 1569, the shogun Oda Nobunaga organised a much-praised wine festival for his samurai field lords. At the beginning of the 17th century, the vine training Tanazukuri, which is still used today and is similar to the pergola, was introduced, in which the vines are pulled up to the height of a man and the shoots are guided like a roof up to ten metres away on all sides on support wires and protected in winter with straw mats. This is to prevent rotting, which is favoured by the high humidity prevailing here.