I am going to have to quote one of my elementary school English lessons for this post. “Ashikaga is famous for Coco Winery!” I went this past weekend for the yearly harvest festival. For 2000 yen you get a bottle of red or white wine (or grape juice), a lovely goblet, a corkscrew, and a nice little yellow badge to let everyone know you are a part of the festival. The wine was fantastic, as was the food! We lucked out on the weather, too! It was such a lovely day to sit on a sunny hillside and drink wine.
Coco Winery produces some of the finest wine made in Japan, a country whose wine is better suited for a sweet tooth than a sophisticated palate. Coco Winery’s vintages are apparently so good, in fact, that it was served at the G8 conference when it was held in Japan.
What makes Coco Winery so special, however is not only its fantastic wine, but the people who work there. The staff of the winery is made up of over a hundred autistic and developmentally disabled men and women. Most of them live at the winery year-round, and they all tend to the grapes that grow on the steep hill (as shown above. Believe me, I was on this hill… it is REALLY steep!!) completely by hand. In addition to the vineyard, Coco Winery is also a school, which retains the philosophy that one’s life can change with hard work and diligence.
Coco Winery is special to me because some of the students that I teach are developmentally disabled. Some of them may live and work at Coco Winery one day. As for my students, I can say this about them: they are quite possibly the brightest, and most cheerful kids that I have had the pleasure of teaching. Their English pronunciation and rhythm is fantastic and I truly look forward to having my weekly class with them. I mean these kids just absolutely sparkle with intelligence, life, and energy, despite whatever disability they may have. Actually, most of the time you’d never know there was anything different about these kids. The other thing that I think is so great is that the other kids at school treat them as equals. You never hear anyone teasing or making fun. I swear. If anything, the other kids are helping them get their lunch or explaining something to them. It’s fantastic. It makes the whole school such a nice place to be in. No wonder these kids are so happy.
In conclusion, Coco Winery is the kind of place I want to support. Especially if the people there are anything like my students, I’m sure that the feeling of having a place to belong and do something really cool like make wine is really awesome.
I’ve already posted a lovely little piece about the vineyard by CNN in a previous post, so please check it out!