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Japanese sake tourism

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Sake casks at Matsunoo Grand Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

There are many breweries, distilleries and factories in Japan where travellers can observe processes, enjoy tastings and purchase original alcoholic products. Some places offer information and guide service specifically for foreigners.

The Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association offers information about the breweries and distilleries of their members, many of whom many operate study tours or open shops and restaurants. Some of them offer English, Chinese or Korean guides. Not all sake and Shochu makers are members of this association.

The Japan National Tourism Organization offers an online Japanese Sake Guide with some links to interesting articles about Japanese sake.

See also "Japan#Drink" article.

Common words[edit]

酒 or お酒 
alcoholic beverages, call "Sake" or "Osake"
アルコール 
alcohol
酒蔵 or 蔵 
brewing building, call "Sakagura" or "Kura"
醸造所 and 蒸留所 
brewery and distillery, call "Jouzou-sho" and "Jouryu-sho"
日本酒 or 清酒 
sake, rice wine, call "Nihonshu" or "Seishu" - People call all types of alcoholic beverage "sake (酒)" in some contexts.
焼酎 and 泡盛 
Shochu and Awamori - Japanese spirits made from rice, barley, sweet potato and so on. Awamori is one type of Shochu which is distilled only in Okinawa, made from rice.
ワイン 
wine - "Nippon Wine" or "Japanese Wine" is defined by the Association of Nippon's Wine Lovers as wine which is made purely from grapes grown domestically in Japan.
ビール 
beer
ウィスキー 
whisky

Sake breweries[edit]

The major producing districts of sake are Nada-gogou (灘五郷) in Kobe city and Nishinomiya city, Fushimi (伏見) in Kyoto city and Saijo (西条) in Higashihiroshima city (Hiroshima prefecture). Other famous sake brewing areas are Niigata prefecture, Iwate prefecture, Ishikawa prefecture, and there are around 1500 makers all over Japan. Several makers brew sake overseas.

Nada-gogou[edit]

traditional Kura of Kiku-masamune Sake Brewing Museum.

The center of sake brewing with one quarter of domestic production. Some breweries offer guide services in foreign languages.

  • Hakutsuru (白鶴), 4-5-5 Sumiyoshiminami-machi Higashinada-ku Kobe, [1]. 09:30-16:30, closed summer Bon term and year-end, new-year. The largest sake maker. HAKUTSURU Sake Brewery Museum show information guide signs in English, Chinese and Korean, and they offer English audio guide service. There is also a tasting room and gift shop, no regular factory tour. admission free. (34.710185,135.261655) edit
  • Kiku-masamune (菊正宗), 1-9-1 Uozaki-nishimachi Higashinada-ku Kobe, [2]. 09:30-16:30, closed year-end and new-year. One of the oldest-established sake breweries. Kiku-masamune Sake Brewing Museum show information guide signs and audio service in English, Chinese and Korean. There are also tasting room and gift shop, no regular observation tour at operation processes. 10-minute walk distance from Hakutsuru museum. admission free. (34.708631,135.267937) edit
  • Kobe Shushin-kan (神戸酒心館), 1-8-17 Mikage-tsukamachi Higasinada-ku Kobe, +81-78-821-2911, [3]. 10:00-18:00, closed year-end and new-year. Visitors can join guided tour to observe operation processes at this Kura which was rebuilt after the great earthquake in 1995. Reservation needed for this guided tour by telephone, and English tour guide available (there are also audio guide in English, Chinese and Korean). Gift shop, tasting room and restaurant are regularly open. admission free. (34.709960,135.248411) edit
  • Sawanotsuru (沢の鶴), 1-29-1 Oishi-minami-machi Nada-ku Kobe, [4]. 10:00-16:00, closed on Wednesday, summer Bon term, year-end and new-year. One of the major breweries in Nada-gogou. Sawanotsuru Shiryo-kan (museum) show information guide signs and audio service in English and Chinese, and English tour guide available (reservation needed for groups of over 10 people). There are also tasting room and gift shop, no regular observation tour at operation processes. admission free. (34.703252,135.233070) edit

Fushimi[edit]

Kyoto, Japan's former national capital, has been an historical district of sake production for over a thousand years. Fushimi is in theSouthern Kyoto area and there are many breweries even now.

  • Gekkeikan (月桂冠), 247 Minamihama-cho Fushimi-ku Kyoto, +81 75 623−2056, [5]. 09:30-16:30, closed year-end, new-year and summer Bon term. One of the major sake breweries. Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum show information guide signs in English, Chinese and Korean, and you can download a PDF of brochures from their website. It's also possible to observe their brewing processes if you make a reservation in advance by telephone (no regular tour). There are also tasting rooms and a gift shop. 5-minutes walking distance from the Keihan Railway's Chushojima station and a 10-minute walk from the Kintetsu Line's Momoyama-goryo-mae station. Fushimi Inari shrine is a10-minute ride on Keihan railway. JPY300 (with a mini bottle of sake). (34.929128,135.761608) edit

Saijo[edit]

Saijo is one of the major sake production district with a long and distinguished history. You can get the general information at SAIJO SAKE website. It takes about 35-minutes from Hiroshima to Saijo station by JR local train and you can feel a nostalgic atmosphere in this town.

Other sake breweries[edit]

The World Trade Organization (WTO) currrently certifies Hakusan Kikusake (白山菊酒) as a geographical indicator of origin (GI). Currently, 5 brewing companies in Hakusan city in Ishikawa prefecture can use this brand on their products. Hakusan Kikusake home page (only in Japanese)

  • Kanaya Shuzouten (金谷酒造店), 3-2 Yasutamachi Hakusan-shi Ishikawa, +81 76 276-1177 (), [6]. M-F 09:00-17:00. One of the brewing companies of Hakusan Kikusake. Visitors can join a guided tour (reservation required) to observe operational processes. This tour is conducted only in Japanese, but there are English information guide signs. Visitors can also enjoy tastings, product purchase, lunch and dinner at their restaurant. Free.  edit

The Harima (播磨) region in Hyogo prefecture, close to Nada-gogou, is one of the flourishing districts of sake brewing. This region is famous for being the largest rice producing district for Yamada-nishiki (山田錦, the major variety of rice for sake brewing). Here travellers can enjoy visiting the World Heritage Himeji-jo castle and some breweries.

  • Nadagiku Shuzou (灘菊酒造), 1-121 Tegara Himeji-shi (25 minutes on foot from Himeji station), +81 79 285-3111 (), [7]. 10:00-18:30, closed Year-end and New Year. Visitors can see displays of educational material and old brewing buildings free of charge. A guided tour is conducted irregularly (fee: JPY110). English language information signs and audio guide devices are available. If you want the guided-tour in English, confirm in advance. There is also a tasting room, gift shop and restaurant. Free.  edit
  • Honda Shoten (本田商店), 361-1 Takata Aboshi-ku Himeji-shi (3min on foot from Aboshi station of JR), +81 79 273-0151 (), [8]. M-Sa 08:30-17:00. Only in February and March they conduct guided-tours to observe operational processes. If you want to join this, make reservations in advance (English and Chinese available). There is also a gift shop. JPY500.  edit

Shochu and Awamori distilleries[edit]

The major producing districts of Shochu are on Kyushu island. There are more than 300 distilleries of Shochu in Kyushu, and around 50 distilleries of Awamori in Okinawa prefecture.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) certify these 4 production areas which can show the geographical indicators of origin (GI) of each of their Shochus and Awamoris.

Wineries[edit]

Many wineries grow grape and produce Japanese wine. The Koshu (甲州) grape is variety native to Japan and grown mainly in Yamanashi prefecture, especially at Katsunuma town in Koshu city.

The other districts where many wineries are located are Hokkaido, Yamagata prefecture and Nagano prefecture.

Enjoy wine tourism all over Japan!

Katsunuma Town and Yamanashi Prefecture[edit]

  • Budou-no-oka (ぶどうの丘), (near to Katsunuma-budou-kyou station of JR), [9]. 09:00-17:00. You can enjoy tasting of more than 150 brands brewed in Yamanashi. This facility is Koshu municipal management. There is no English language website. JPY1100.  edit
  • Chateau Mercian (シャトー・メルシャン), (8 minutes by taxi from Katsunuma-budou-kyou station of JR), [10]. 09:30-16:30, closed on Tuesday and year-end, new-year. Mercian is one of the major wine makers. If you wish to join their three types of paid guided tours here, you have to make a reservation on their website (no English page). Tasting and museum is free, and there is also a restaurant and shop. JPY500-2000.  edit
  • Chateau Katsunuma (シャトー勝沼), 4729 Hishiyama Katsunuma-cho Koshu-shi, (), [11]. 08:30-17:00 (holiday 09:00-17:00). You can observe operational processes freely, and also enjoy tasting and shopping. There is no English language website. free. (35.663992,138.736997) edit

Hokkaido[edit]

NPO Wine Cluster Hokkaido website offers general information about winery in Hokkaido. (only in Japanese)

Yamagata Prefecture[edit]

Yamagata Prefecture Office website offers general information about winery in Yamagata prefecture. (only in Japanese)

Nagano Prefecture[edit]

Nagano Prefecture Office website offers general information about NAGANO WINE. (only in Japanese)

Other wineries[edit]

Beer factories[edit]

Japanese major beer makers are Asahi, Kirin, Suntory, Sapporo and Orion. There are also many local micro breweries.

Whisky distilleries[edit]

the main distilling building at Suntory Yamazaki Distillery.

2 major Japanese whisky makers are Suntory and Nikka. There are also several small makers.

  • Suntory (サントリー), +81 75 962-1423(Yamazaki), +81 551 35-2211(Hakushu), [12]. Suntory is Japan's largest beverage company. They have two whisky distilleries, Yamazaki (山崎) in Osaka prefecture and Hakushu (白州) in Yamanashi prefecture. Both have guided-tours (reservation required) to observe their distilling processes, and also enjoy tasting (a fee is charged), museums and gift shops. Foreign visitors can use audio guide devices in English, French and Chinese and if you want to use these, it's better to telephone in advance. As Suntory bought Beam Inc. in 2014, now they also have some world famous whisky brands, such as Jim Beam, Maker's Mark, Bowmore, etc.  edit
  • Nikka Whisky (ニッカウヰスキー), [13]. One of Japan's major whisky distillers. Two distilleries (Yoichi (余市) in Hokkaido and Miyagikyo (宮城峡) in Sendai city) open their processes. They conduct regular guided tours including tasting (only in Japanese, reservation needed for groups of more than 10 people). At Yoichi, visitors can also enjoy a self-guided tour, restaurant and gift shop. admission free.  edit

Learning more[edit]

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WikiPedia:Sake