The importance of Geographical Indications (GI) when dealing with Sake.

(the above photo was produced by the National Tax Agency of Japan.)

Many of us who appreciate the quality and characteristics of sake from a certain region/prefecture should have an inkling to what GI is, for those who are lost let me elaborate. 

Let's take 'Champagne' as an example, it can only be deemed Champagne when it's produced in a specified area in France and must meet prescribed production standards and quality requirements. Similarly, the National Tax Agency of Japan uses Geographical Indications (GI),

"a system which promote the appropriate using of the name of the geographical origin, which is the common property of the area. When the liquor products have specific characteristics of the area, based on the application from a producers’ association of the area, the Commissioner of the National Tax Agency of JAPAN grants it as the GIs. After that, only the producers of the area can use the GIs for their products."

a quote from an article published by the National Tax Agency of Japan in March of 2021.

In short GI establishes that sake and other liquor products are actually produced within the area and meets the specified production standards and the quality requirements.

With GI in place there are benefits to both producers and consumers alike, such as

  • For producers, GI serves to protect regional brand values making it easier for customers to understand the characteristics of the liquor products of their areas rightly.
  • For consumers GIs can be taken as a national guarantee, allowing them to choose regional-brand products which are not imitations.

I'd like to touch on how GI helps us the 'sake lovers', giving us a general sense of what characteristics sake from a specific prefecture could hold. Like Niigata Prefecture, who have recently received their GI recognition as a sake-producing region as of February 7th 2022. Their characteristics is as follows,

"In general, the seishu of Niigata has light and tasteful quality.The aroma rising from a glass has gentleness as if it came from a morning mist and tastes like smooth and easily melting light snow in the mouth. Slight sweetness brought out from rice mixes with other elegant umami, giving aftertaste and going away.Such sake that has clean taste with less miscellaneous flavor is called light-bodied sake.

a quote from the National Tax Agency of Japan describing Niigata sake. To get your own Niigata sake, click here.

The government also checks products with unauthorised use of GIs, focusing on factors like,

  • If it is not produced within the GI area.
  • If it does not meet the production standards or the quality requirements of the GI.
  • Does it have confusing labelling which consumers recognise it to be the GI by mistake.

making sure consumers are not being misguided.


Here are few examples of the unique GI emblems, names and their respective areas/prefectures:

Emblem  Name   Area/Prefecture
Yamagata Yamagata Prefecture

Tone Numata

Numata City and Katashina Village , Kawaba Village , Showa Village and Minakami Town in Tone County , Gunma Prefecture


Hakusan City, Ishikawa Prefecture


Mie Prefecture


GI also helps distinguish Japanese made sake from other domestic sake made outside Japan, by the use of the term "Nihonshu" designated in December of 2015.  


Click here to read the post "What is the Geographical Indications for Liquor Products in Japan?" published by the National Tax Agency of Japan in March 2021.