Sake is a way of life in Japan. There are few things that define Japanese culture better than a cup of aromatic and flavourful sake. This is the drink of choice for so many across Japan, and visitors have long been sampling the delicious rice wine beverage. If you are planning a trip to Japan for your next vacation, you definitely need to make sure you indulge in plenty of tasty sake while you’re there.
Try Japan Rail Planner to map out your rail trip across the nation, and you may also want to keep a note of some of the best places to stop for sake en route! There are so many places you can go to in Japan that will allow you to find the perfect sake experience. Check out our guide that is going to go a long way toward helping you find the best places in Japan to drink sake.
So what is sake?
Sake is an alcoholic beverage popular all across Japan, and it is made from fermented rice, which is where it gets its name ‘rice wine.’ When globalisation helped to take Japanese cuisine mainstream, sake became popular all across the world. Japanese sake is made by brewers all across the country and has an alcohol percentage of around 15%. Sake is available all across the world, and some people even like to make their own. If this appeals to you, then you’ll need clean water source, rice, koji mold, and yeast.
There are so many different sake brands that it can be tough to know where to start. It’s kind of like trying to buy a bottle of wine and having a little too much choice. It largely depends on your personal taste, and this is something that you will need to determine by sampling different sake brands. But, if you are looking to go for one of the most popular and highly-rated sake brands, then you should check out Dassai, a brand made in Yamaguchi, and available in all good liquor stores.
Places you can drink sake
If you are serious about enjoying the best sake in Japan, you will need to know about some of the best sake breweries across the nation. Head to Ginza in Tokyo and check out Sake Hall Hibiya Bar, an elegant sake bar that offers beverages from 7 different sake breweries. If you have a clear calendar for the afternoon (and evening), head to Numazu Kokaisho, one of Tokyo’s most famous sake taverns, which offers an all-you-can-drink menu, guaranteed to ensure you have a very merry evening!
Takayama is one of the best places to head to in Japan when it comes to getting sake, and this is due in no small part to the fact that it’s famous for its sake breweries, enhanced by its fresh mountain water. So, if you want to make the most of a trip to Takayama in order to find some of the most delicious sake, you’ll need an idea of some of the breweries to check out. There is Sanmachi Suji, located in the historic Old Town, Hirase, which is the oldest sake brewery in Takayama, and Harada Sake Brewery, which has incredibly good prices. There is also the opportunity to take free guided tours of the district, as well as getting involved with tastings that are on offer in breweries across the city. Some of the breweries will even offer free tastings between the hours of 08:00 and 17:00, so be sure to make the most of that.
If you are going to enjoy sake properly, you have to make sure you know a little about the etiquette and how you are meant to drink sake. There are two different ways of being able to enjoy your sake – Cold (hiya), where the sake, as well as the serving bottle/jug, and the cup are chilled. And heated (atuskan), where the sake is heated in the jug, in a pan of water. Both hot and cold sake are delicious, and many restaurants will offer both types of sake. You will also need to know a little about how you are meant to drink it. Traditionally, it is customary not to pour your own sake, but to get your partner to pour it for you instead, and vice versa.
Sake is a sensual and delicious drink that is so much a part of Japanese culture that you will feel more authentic just by sampling some. There are a lot of different types of sake you can try, and so many amazing places you can go to try it. One of the biggest appeals when it comes to sake is how versatile it is; equally great with sushi, or on its own these days. Your Japanese experience would not be complete unless you try plenty of sake on your travels, and learn a little about this iconic drink in the process as well.