Olive Japan judges from the 2023 competition posing for a photo together

Now in its 13th year and expecting over 700 samples, Olive Japan International Olive Oil Competition (OJ) is the biggest olive oil contest in Asia and Oceania. With great respect for the contest and the way OJ helps companies connect with Asian consumers and buyers, OJ judges praise its organization, fairness, and promotional efforts for olive oil in Japan. 

Olive Japan rewards the natural symphony of a noble product, olive oil, for the happiness of consumers,” says Moroccan judge Abderraouf El Antari. He considers the competition “an opportunity to appreciate the expression of the best potential of olive varieties.”

Chilean judge Maria de la Luz Hurtado views Olive Japan as “one of the most prestigious competitions in the world. It is characterized by the great organization and high responsibility of its chairman and his team.” Receiving samples from all over the world, “the competition makes a great dissemination and exhibition of the winning oils, which is why I recommend that the producers of my country actively participate every year.”

As Spanish judge Agusti Romero sees it, “on the one hand, this competition is the oldest and most prestigious in the country, thus most of the distributors and purchasing managers of Japan follow the official guide of the contest that shows the participants and the scores. On the other hand, Olive Japan is linked to the Olive Oil Marche … a fair visited by thousands of people” where olive oils are “presented and sold to consumers.”  

As Tunisian judge Naziha Grati Kammoun points out, the Olive Japan marketplace event provides “an opportunity for face-to-face interaction with the consumer and offers a significant advantage to the producer,” as it helps “olive oil companies become more visible in Japan.” As the fourth largest market for olive oil imports worldwide, Japan is a market worth entering.

Japanese judge Noriko Kondo offers insight into the Japanese market. Olive oil has only been used in Japanese households for a short time, she explains, so consumers know little about it. However, “consumption and purchases of olive oil are increasing year by year, along with an increasing interest in health.” Moreover, Japanese customers “are willing to pay more for quality.”

Italian judge Francesca Rocchi considers the Japanese market “a very attentive market” that treats the topic of extra virgin olive oil with care. She “was very impressed to see that in department stores there are already olive oil dedicated places where it is possible to taste and purchase.”

Italian judge Luciana Squadrilli has been struck by the way “Japanese chefs and informed consumers cherish and appreciate extra virgin olive oil,” with interest continuing to grow. She credits OJ organizer Toshiya Tada and the Olive Oil Sommelier Association of Japan with this increased interest, given their “important educational activity” and consumer outreach.

Agusti Romero adds that since “Olive Japan is driven exclusively by Japanese” organizers, high scores there indicate the likelihood “of great acceptability in the Japanese premium oil market. Furthermore, the organizers of the contest are not traders, thus there is no doubt about the fairness of the competition; their only interest lies in offering the Japanese market the best oils available every year.”

Japanese judge Takeyasu Kubota points out that the international judges share valuable information with each other which they can then disseminate in their home countries. German judge Richard Wolny praises the “truly international” jury, the competition’s “logical and sensible” organization, “extremely attentive” support for judges, and “a very well thought-out tasting sheet. I therefore consider the results of this competition to be very meaningful in terms of the quality of the award-winning oils.”

Isabella Okis, an Australian with 25 years of experience as an olive oil judge, agrees that the competition is run by “an excellent team” that is “professional at all times,” with “every detail” taken care of and “the highest standards and experience” among the judges. Squadrilli similarly appreciates “the complete smoothness, accuracy and transparency of the procedure, where every detail is set to assure an unbiased valuation, from blind tasting to the balanced composition of each tasting panel.”

As Agusti Romero says, “the general rules of the IOC Mario Solinas tasting method are followed, meaning certain harmonization in the assessments with other relevant international contests.” In addition, “defective samples are always verified, without previous information, by a second group of tasters, which permits the organizer to be sure about discarded samples. In the same way, there is a final common session where top samples are validated by all the juries” to confirm the winners.

Moreover, Agusti notes, “Olive Japan gives feedback to the participants, especially when the oils do not reach a certain score.” Japanese judge Sekiyo Mizuno agrees that producers are provided with helpful evaluations; she also values Olive Japan’s “experienced and talented experts, who seriously evaluate the oils.”

Japanese consumers and buyers have access to judges’ comments about the flavors and aromas of each award winning oil as well, in an official Olive Japan e-book that is published online every year, with trade information and shop links.

Turkish judge Dilsen Oktay Ertem admires the way competition organizer Toshiya Tada has “dedicated his life to promoting good olive oils from all around the world to Japanese people.” For example, “to make sensory analysis more comprehensible and simple instead of confusing consumers,” he developed “a new set of terms to describe the flavor profile of olive oils” using fewer words.

Tada explains that the simplified Olive Japan Flavor/Taste Index will be actively introduced to the market this year. Based on the premise that consumers want to know the taste and aroma of an olive oil in the store, before it is opened, and based on judges’ determination of an oil’s dominant flavors, Olive Japan will invite producers of award-winning oils to put their Olive Oil Flavor/Taste Index on their labels (free of charge). There are only 4 descriptors of taste – SWEET / PUNGENT / BITTER / ROBUST -- and only 3 descriptors of aroma – FRUITS / GREEN / MINT, plus a Yes or No for a RETRO NASAL effect.

Olive Japan is organized by the Olive Oil Sommelier Association of Japan (OSAJ), Japan’s only professional organization for training and certifying olive oil experts. OSAJ is independent from all olive and olive oil companies.

Olive Japan is continuing its “Buy 4 & get 1 free” offer in 2024. The entry deadline is May 17, 2024.

To enter Olive Japan and pay in euros, click here

To enter Olive Japan and pay in US dollars, click here.  

This is a sponsored post: Olive Japan is a major sponsor of greekliquidgold.com.

Thanks to Toshiya Tada for the photos that appear with the article.

All businesses, organizations, and competitions involved with Greek olive oil, the Mediterranean diet, and/or agrotourism or food tourism in Greece, as well as others interested in supporting Greeks working in these sectors, are invited to consider the advertising and sponsorship opportunities on the Greek Liquid Gold: Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil website. The only wide-ranging English-language site focused on news and information from the Greek olive oil world, it has helped companies reach consumers in more than 220 countries around the globe.

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