Japan – A winery as working place

To read on The Japan Times website:

Aichi winery helps mentally disabled make a living


Staff at Komaki Winery in Komaki, Aichi Prefecture, sell wine made by people with disabilities in April. / KYODO

How can people with intellectual disabilities stand on their own feet? A winery in central Japan could be the answer.

About 40 such mentally disabled people are working at Komaki Winery in the city of Komaki in Aichi Prefecture, with their duties ranging from growing grapes to making wines and selling them.

The work is challenging because none had experience in growing grapes or producing wines. In addition, temperatures and humidity in the area are high, making it a tough climate for making wines.

Anyone can become an owner of grape vines at the winery for a membership fee, which goes to help create jobs for the employees with intellectual disabilities.

Komaki Winery is run by the AJU Center for Independent Living, a social welfare corporation in Nagoya.

Wine production by the disabled began after the center bought some 1,500 grape seedlings from a monastery in neighboring Gifu Prefecture in 2014 after it was asked by the religious facility to take care of a vineyard there on its behalf.

“We wanted to help increase wages of disabled people through wine production,” Suguru Haga, a 37-year-old AJU staff employee, recalls.

The winery’s goal is to enable each disabled worker to earn ¥100,000 or more a month.

Initially, growing grapes was tough. One reason was due to a lack of manpower for surveillance, which meant grapes were often eaten by birds.

Kayo Iwamoto, 38, who has a mild intellectual disability, stresses the importance of sorting out good grapes from bad ones, saying, “If withered grapes are mixed with others, the wine could come out bitter.”

“Although the work here is hard sometimes, due in part to hot weather, I want to save money so that I can live on my own,” Iwamoto said.


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