IMG_9464

There are three requirements for brewing up a perfect batch of Japanese sake: rice, water and cold weather. Now, with many breweries opening their factories for a limited time during the winter months, it’s the ideal time for visitors to Japan to learn more about the national tipple. Tours walk you through the brewing process as it happens, with tips and information often provided by the master brewer, or tōji, himself, followed by a sake tasting to top off the experience. If you’d like to get far away from the well-worn tourist path and into the heart of some fantastic drinking experiences, we’ve got the list for you.

Shirataki Brewery (白瀧酒造), Niigata Prefecture

Known for its internationally imported Jozen brand of sake, this brewery was founded in 1855 as a pub on what was once a major road to Tokyo. Situated in an area famous for heavy snowfall, the resulting high quality spring water used in this sake contributes to its unique, soft palette. Tasting tours are free in Shirataki Brewery’s showroom offices, an easy 5-minute walk from the nearest station.

Address: Ooaza Yuzawa 2640, Yuzawa Machi, Minami-Uonumagun, Niigata
Phone: 0257-84-3443
Showroom Hours: 10:00am-12:00am, 1:00pm-3:00pm

shoumenn picture1

41e2NZOq8AL

Fukui Brewery (福井酒造), Niigata Prefecture

With a history spanning over 350 years, this is the second oldest wine cellar in Niigata. The brewery’s popular sake brand, Mine no Hakuba, translates poetically to white plum blossom on the mountain peak, and its refined aroma and low acidity pairs perfectly with sushi.

Address: 1833 Fukui, Nishikan-ku, Niigata-shi, Niigata-ken, Japan
Phone: 0256-72-2839
Sake Tasting: Book by phone

MINEHAKU

haku-tobin

Takarayama Brewery (宝山酒造), Niigata Prefecture

Built in 1885, this brewery is so popular it welcomes thousands of people from all over Japan each year. Visitors love the fact that it’s not a sake museum but an actual working factory where you can see where the sake is made and get special drinking tips direct from the brewers. The free samples enjoyed in traditional straw-mat tatami rooms are a hit, too.

Address: 1383 Ishize, Nishikan-ku, Niigata city
Phone: 0256-82-2003
Tour Hours: 9:00am-11:30am, 1:00pm-4:30pm

IMG_9464

12131550_4ee6f5c93047c

Ozawa Brewery (小澤酒造), Tokyo Metropolitan Area

This Japanese wine cellar is famous for its Sawanoi brand of sake. The president of the company is on hand to provide tours and guide visitors through the manufacturing process on site. Following the tour, visitors are provided with a free tasting of Sawanoi sake.

Address: 2 Chome-770 Sawai, Oume-shi, Tokyo
Phone: 0428-78-8215
Tour Hours: 11:00am, 1:00pm, 2:00pm, 3:00pm (45 mins each)

c0215714_20524472

sawanoi-sake

Ishikawa Brewery (石川酒造), Tokyo Metropolitan Area

With 100 years of sake brewing history attached to its name, this wine cellar has been registered as a Tangible Cultural Property. The grounds of the brewery contain a number of attractive buildings, some of which have been converted into beer halls and party rooms. Not only is this a great place to sample some high-quality sake, it’s also a great place to wander about, taking in the beautiful scenery and traditional atmosphere.

Address: 1 Kumagawa, Fussa-shi, Tōkyō-to, Japan
Phone: 042-553-0100
Tours: Book by phone (November – April only)

th_p1030658

tamajiman-sake

Tamura Brewery (田村酒造場), Tokyo Metropolitan Area

Another beautiful brewery, this one has award-winning sake to boot. With 190 years of sake-making history, this is the oldest sake brewery in the Tokyo area, still owned and operated by descendants of the founding Tamura family. Water from the original well is still used in the sake-making process and it’s one of the sites you’ll see on a tour of the compound, followed by a free tasting, of course!

Address: 626 Fussa, Fussa-shi, Tokyo
Phone: 042-551-0003
Tours: Book by phone

y1p6ZUB

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ichinokura (一ノ蔵), Miyagi Prefecture

Despite its youth, having been founded in 1973, this brewery is already one of Japan’s leading sake distributors, with exports to over 20 countries. The secret behind its success could have something to do with the four breweries who established the company, each with a 100 to 300 year history of their own. Or it could be its prime location, deep in a forest gorge with a high-quality water source.

Address: Ōkeyaki-14 Matsuyamasengoku, Ōsaki-shi, Miyagi
Phone: 0229-55-3322
Tours: Book by phone

???????????????????????????????

DVC00160.JPG

Rokka (六花酒造) Aomori Prefecture

Workers at the brewery here will walk you through the entire sake making process, from rice polishing through to bottling. The name of their best-selling sake, Joppari, is actually a word meaning “stubborn person” in the local Tsugaru-ben dialect. Joppari is often used to describe the character of the local people, stubborn in their hard-working ways to produce fine products and totally committed to serving up excellent goods.

Address: 217 Toyoda, Mukaitonoseaza, Ooaza, Hirosaki City, Aomori
Phone: 0172-35-4141
Tours: 9:00am – 12:00pm; 1:00pm – 4:00pm

plant11_2

daijyopari2

Kokki Brewery (國暉酒造), Shimane Prefecture

Founded in 1874, this brewery prides itself on award winning sake, consistently taking the top prize at many events. Stepping inside this old merchant’s store will take you back to the heyday of an impressive castle town, with Shimane Castle just a short walk away. The cool, fresh breeze from nearby Lake Shinji is said to keep the cellar conditions perfect for sake preparation and storing.

Address: 8 Higashi Chamachi, Matsue, Shimane Prefecture
Phone: 0852-25-0123
Tour Hours: 8:00am – 7:00pm

matsue6330

b0042308_23172720

Asahi Brewery (朝日酒造), Yamaguchi Prefecture

Instead of limiting their brewing period to the winter months, this small brewery is unusual in that it stands by the practice of shiki-jōzō, or four-season brewing. The resulting sake is well-balanced and, luckily for us, available year-round. The name of their best-selling sake, Dassai, actually means “otter festival”, referring to the large otter population that once resided on the shores of Yamaguchi.

Address: 2167-4 Shūtōmachi Osogoe, Iwakuni-shi, Yamaguchi
Phone: 0827-86-0120
Tour Hours: From 1:30pm onwards (book by phone)

00002665_photo1

8AO8ACF2A

Stepping inside a sake brewery in Japan is a great experience; not only do you get to try different varieties of sake, you also learn a lot about the process, the care and the tradition involved in creating rice wine. An educational experience that pairs well with a drink? To that we raise our glass with a hearty kanpai!

Source: Naver Matome
Top image: BIGLOBE Blog
Insert images: Niigata Prefectural GovernmentShiratakiKitadayaAsanoyaBIGLOBE BlogTakarayamaSakaglaOzawa ShuzoHome & Town TokyoIshikawa BreweryGuroBlogTamura, ShuzoujouSyarakuMacogy, Rokka ShuzoHanafusaIchiro-ichie, Pds, MiyamizuYoppawriter