Press release

6 Dec 2021 Tokyo, JP

EOY 2021 Japan: Chairman of Asahi Shuzo Co., Ltd. named winner

The award ceremony for EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2021 Japan (EOY 2021 Japan) - a program sponsored by EY Japan to support entrepreneurs - was held at EY wavespaceTM Tokyo on Friday, 6 December 2021. We are pleased to announce that Mr. Hiroshi Sakurai, Chairman of Asahi Shuzo Co., Ltd., has been selected as the national winner of EOY Japan 2021.

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EY Japan

Multidisciplinary professional services organization

The award ceremony for EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2021 Japan (EOY 2021 Japan) - a program sponsored by EY Japan to support entrepreneurs - was held at EY wavespaceTM Tokyo on Friday, 6 December 2021. We are pleased to announce that Mr. Hiroshi Sakurai, Chairman of Asahi Shuzo Co., Ltd., has been selected as the national winner of EOY Japan 2021.

EOY Japan winner Mr. Hiroshi Sakurai

EOY Japan winner Mr. Hiroshi Sakurai

Hiroshi Sakurai Profile

Mr. Hiroshi Sakurai was born in 1950 in the Shuto district of Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture. After graduating from Matsuyama University of Commerce (now Matsuyama University), he began his career at Nishimiya Shuzo Co., Ltd. (forerunner of Nihonsakari Co., Ltd.) in 1973. In 1976, he joined Asahi Shuzo Co. Ltd. but left after a difference of opinions with his father who also owned the company. Mr. Sakurai founded Sakurai Shoji Company, a building stone wholesaler, in 1979 only to return to Asahi Shuzo Co., Ltd. in 1984 following the sudden death of his father. He has restructured the family business by focusing on Dassai sake, classified as Junmai Daiginjo (top-quality sake brewed from rice grains milled to 50% or less of their weight, without added alcohol or sugar). He has been a serial innovator, introducing year-round brewing to his employees and growing the company as a result. He has been Chairman since 2016.

About Asahi Shuzo Co., Ltd.

With a belief that “when the important outweighs tradition, fear no change” Asahi Shuzo brews Dassai, a Junmai Daiginjo sake, in the hope of creating a delicious sake which is more for enjoying than for getting drunk.

Dassai, which is produced at a brewery deep in the mountains of Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, is a favorite of sake drinkers in more than 25 countries. Asahi Shuzo aspires to be a sake company that brings joy and color to people’s lives.

Comments from Mr. Kazuhiko Toyama, Chairman of the judging panel

“The panel was very excited to meet entrepreneurs from across the country who embrace diverse business models. Reflecting ESG trends, they are all aware of social responsibility, including sustainability and eco-friendly practices, while running economically-sound businesses. Among the entrepreneurs, we selected Mr. Sakurai as someone who would be able to communicate universal values from Japan to the world. He embodies a sake culture that is eco-friendly and healthy, and represents a high value-added business. More specifically, he leverages nature’s bounty while producing minimal waste, from rice-farming to the reuse of residues, and ensuring both efficiency and quality. We believe that these qualities of Mr. Sakurai will have global appeal at the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year.”

EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2021 award recipients

2021 Japan representative

Hiroshi Sakurai/Chairman of Asahi Shuzo Co., Ltd.

Comments from Mr. Sakurai

Various things bring us pleasure. Sports, food, art… In daily life, we enjoy sake with a tasty meal. Receiving the award gave me a chance to reflect. What has been important to me? What will I be focusing on? I would like to continue to brew sake as a source of happiness for people around the world.

EY Entrepreneur of the Year Special Award

Taejun Shin/ CEO of Gojo and Company, Inc.

Comments from Mr. Shin

There have been times when I struggled, times when I asked myself what to do next. Today, I had the opportunity to talk to EOY alumni and it inspired me. I will continue to work hard, firm in my beliefs, aiming to achieve more.

About the award categories

What do we look for in entrepreneurs?
  • Business operators who bring innovative value to society
  • Business founders
  • Generational family business operators who create innovation
  • Business operators with a proven track record in innovation
  • Foreign business operators who established companies in Japan
Master Entrepreneur of the Year Category
  • Leader of the industry and market
  • Serves as a role model for other entrepreneurs
  • Founder of a company listed on the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange or an equivalent exchange
  • Expands business to overseas markets and has global impact
  • Business model consists of competitive advantages, technical capabilities, and marketing initiatives that attract attention domestically and internationally
Exceptional Growth Category
  • Business leader who has brought success and is garnering attention from others
  • Serves as a role model for budding entrepreneurs
  • Has a degree of global impact with plans to further grow and expand internationally
  • Develops business practices by leveraging innovative technologies and business models
  • Entrepreneurs who have achieved considerable business growth or are in the process of doing so, and who are expected to continue to succeed in such efforts

About EOY standards and processes

Final selections of winners are made after the review of application materials and interviews with candidates conducted by the EOY Japan judging panel. The following are important criteria considered during judging.

  1. Entrepreneurial spirit
  2. Value creation
  3. Strategic direction
  4. National and global impact
  5. Innovation
  6. Personal integrity / purpose-driven leadership

Introducing the EOY Japan judging panel

Chairman of the judging panel
  • Kazuhiko Tomiyama
    IGPI Group Chairman of Industrial Growth Platform, Inc. (IGPI)
EOY Japan judging panel (arranged in Japanese word order)
  • Yoshiaki Ishii
    Director of the Startup and New Business Promotion Office at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Regional Economic and Industrial Policy Group, Economic and Industrial Policy Bureau, Industry Creation Division
  • Shigeo Kagami
    Chairman of Japan Academic Society for Ventures and Entrepreneurs
    Professor of the Graduate School of Engineering at the University of Tokyo
  • Takateru Kawano
    President and CEO of TKP Co., Ltd.
    EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2017 Japan National Overall Award Winner
  • Motokuni Takaoka
    President and CEO of Airweave Inc.
    EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2016 Japan National Overall Award Winner
  • Yuka Tanimoto
    Managing Editor of Forbes Japan Web Editorial Team
  • Yoshiaki Fujimori
    Chief Advisor of CVC Capital Partners Japan
    External Director of Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited, Boston Scientific Corporation, Toshiba Co., Ltd., Shiseido Co., Ltd.; Chairman of the Board of Japan Oracle Co., Ltd.
  • Hiroyuki Watanabe
    President and CEO of B Dash Ventures Co., Ltd.
    Managing Director of the Japan Venture Capital Association

About EY

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About EY Entrepreneur of the Year 

EY Entrepreneur of the Year differs from other awards in that it supports the activities of developing entrepreneurs and honors the contributions of entrepreneurs who use their foresight, leadership, and achievements to inspire others.

Recognized as the world's first and only global award of its kind, EY Entrepreneur of the Year is held in more than 145 cities and over 60 countries to honor ever-growing entrepreneurs and ensure the development of dynamic businesses.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of EY Entrepreneur of the Year Japan, an award ceremony which has elevated Japanese entrepreneurs to the international stage since 2001. EY Entrepreneur of the Year Japan strives to nominate role models for entrepreneurship and helps mold the next generation of leading international entrepreneurs. EOY Japan supports entrepreneurs on their journey to expand on a global scale and builds a community for entrepreneurs to connect with their peers.


About EY World Entrepreneur of the Year 

EY World Entrepreneur of the Year is a program that supports the growth of entrepreneurs all over the globe. Held annually since 2001, the winners of each country’s EY Entrepreneur of the Year award are invited to the program to join a celebration of their efforts and achievements. This international event bestows the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year award to the entrepreneur considered to be the “best of the best” of the entrepreneurs selected during the annual global competition.

For inquiries concerning EOY Japan, please contact:

EY Entrepreneur of the Year Department

Tel 03 3503 1004


Media inquiries

EY Japan BMC (Brand, Marketing and Communications)

Tel 03 3503 1037