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Winners of O-CHA Pioneer Award 2024

Academic Research Award

Excellent academic research related to tea

HARA Yukihiko Ph.D

(Tea Solutions, Hara Office Inc.)


Refinement, product development, and research on functionality related to tea catechins, and development of next-generation tea beverages

After joining Mitsui Norin Co., Ltd., Yukihiko Hara began focusing on catechins— one of the main compounds in tea—and shedding light on its bioactivity. Hara also developed technology for the mass extraction, isolation, and purification of tea catechins. He also worked to use catechins in cancer prevention trials and in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals. After leaving the company, he led development of next-generation tea beverages and other products as head of business launching in a community-based R&D program in Shizuoka City, Shizuoka. Hara has been involved in tea research for over 50 years and has achieved many accomplishments as an industry leader.


Industrial Technology Award

Development of excellent technologies and products related to tea production and consumption


( Ishikawa Seicha)


Creation of Japan’s first organic tencha after overcoming many challenges

When his father suddenly passed, Tetsuo Ishikawa dropped out of university to take over the family tea growing business. At the time, the mainstream method of growing tea was to use large quantities of strong pesticides. Having doubts about this method, he explored ways to cultivate tea without the use of pesticides. Despite many years of hardship and opposition from those around him, he stuck to his convictions and eventually became the first tencha producer to obtain private-sector organic certification. Since then Ishikawa seicha has also obtained JAS organic certification for the first as a cultivation of tencha. Ishikawa has generously shared his pesticide-free organic tea cultivation methods with other tea growers in his community and is working to transform his entire agricultural cooperative into an organic tea plantation. He teaches his farming methods openly to others and is a pioneer in organic Japanese tencha.


GOTO Shoichi

(Shizuoka Tea Export Association Coordinator (Promotion of organic cultivation))


Leader in tackling difficult cutting-edge tasks in the tea industry and achieving results

Shoichi Goto has made a major impact on the industry by staying close to the field and working hard towards a solution.Examples of his efforts include carrying out a pilot test for a large-scale tea plantation when the Mt. Fuji Shizuoka Airport was opened, spreading organic cultivatin techniques, providing technical instruction and training people in a project to activate the tea industry in order to maintain and advance the struggling tea producing area, serving as coordinator of the ChaOI Forum, and continuing to serve as organic cultivation promotion coordinator for the Shizuoka Prefectural Government.




O-CHA Special Award

Excellent academic research related to tea

SUGIMOTO Mitsutoshi

(Nihoncha Instructor Association / Adviser)


Promoting Japanese tea and establishing a Japanese tea certification program

After serving as general manager of the tea industry division of JA Shizuoka Keizairen and head of the Tokyo office for the first World O-Cha Festival, Mitsutoshi Sugimoto worked to launch the Nihoncha Instructor program. He established the NPO Nihoncha Instructor Association and became its managing director. As managing director, Sugimoto actively supported the activities of Nihoncha Instructors and Advisors and increased their number nationwide. Since then he has continued working to promote and raise awareness of Japanese tea for many years through his activities in positions such as chief editor of the “Kodomo Ocha Shojiten” and office manager of the Japanese Tea Export Council.



CHAllenge Award

Ambitious efforts to drive the future of tea


( Toyohashi City Library / Curator, Kawasaki City Museum / Chief curator)


Preserving and contributing to the advancement of research on tea industry heritage by researching historical documents in private collections

Tatsuo Okamura and Yusuke Kikuchi have worked steadily to create a catalogue of historical documents related to the modern tea export industry to aid future research by researching tea growers’ private collections in danger of being lost. Their efforts demonstrated that older tea growers planning on retiring and disposing of their old documents would permit their documents to be used in research by convincing them that their documents are part of the local tea industry heritage. And by allowing their research to be utilized by researchers in other fields, Okamura and Kikuchi have greatly contributed to researching the history of the tea industry.



HOMMA Setsuko

(Confection researcher)


Developing and proposing various Japanese tea sweets recipes

Setsuko Homma contributed greatly to the annual Tokyo Tea Party award for Japanese tea as a Nihoncha Instructor and has written several books as a researcher of confections. She has made it her life’s work to promote ordinary Japanese tea through sweets and shares a wide range of recipes that contain Japanese tea through classes, magazines, and books. Her recipes that stem from her dedicated study of tea are a great help to tea businesses and needed in the tea industry going forward.


Koto Tea Space

( Representative: Danittha Limakaraungkul)


Activities to convey authentic Japanese tea in Thailand through “Koto Tea Space”

Not your typical tea cafe, Koto Tea Space is a place where tea enthusiasts gather to study, share information, and explore Japanese tea. Emphasizing three elements—Quality, Knowledge, and Relationships—the entire staff strives to offer customers the experience of being exposed to the Japanese history and culture, nature, and efforts of tea producers that go into a cup of tea. Koto Tea Space is expected to continue serving as a place that conveys authentic Japanese tea to the people of Thailand.


Paula Braga Batista


Japanese tea promotion activities in Brazil

Paula Braga Batista became interested in Japanese tea when she joined the beverage quality division of the he Minas Gerais State Government in 2017. She came to Japan for the first time in 2019 to focus efforts on researching Japanese tea. Her in-person and online Japanese tea events have enjoyed a huge turnout. In 2021 Batista entered graduate school at Okayama University on a JICA scholarship. In 2023 she obtained her master’s degree (Master's thesis; BRAZILIAN MARKET FOR JAPANESE TEA AND EXPORT STRATEGY OF TEA COMPANIES). She returned to Brazil that October. Since then, she has been working to promote Japanese tea by giving tea-tasting events and lectures in Brazil.