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THEME
SAKE

Enjoy the true taste in Niigata, a major producer of sake

Niigata sake is considered some of the very best available, even in the home of sake, Japan. The secret to this wonderful flavor is the high quality Niigata rice, the smooth water that flows down from Niigata’s mountains, and the techniques of the various craftsmen who continue to create quality products while vying to become even better. The Niigata Sake Camp held every spring attracts a large number of visitors from Niigata Prefecture and beyond, the acknowledgement of Niigata as the Kingdom of Japanese Sake. The sake from Niigata is noted for tanrei-style dry sake, with fresh mouth-feel and little in the way of idiosyncrasies, allowing visitors to enjoy a range of richly diverse flavors from each brewery. As a major rice producer, Niigata naturally produces high quality sake rice, which combined with the high skill levels of brewers, produces delicious sake. If you want to learn more about sake, why not visit a brewery and learn about the process of making sake?


What are brewery tours?

On a brewery tour, you can learn about the secrets of various delicious local sake and the basics of how they are made. There are a large number of breweries in Niigata that are open for tours, and with advance reservations you can visit all of them. Some even include sake-tasting, one of the main attractions of such tours. Here, we shall show you what it’s like to visit the conveniently located Imayo Tsukasa Sake Brewery, which is just a 20-minute walk from Niigata Station. You will be shown around by the brewing process manager, Mr. Heikichi Yamamoto, the ninth chief brewer.

Things to Know Before You Go!!

  • Point 1:Sake is created through a range of different processes.
  • Point 2:Sense the history and learn about the spirit of sake-making.
  • Point 3:Enjoy a range of flavors through taste-testing.

*Some staff are fluent in English, so feel free to drop by or make a reservation.


Learn the basics of sake-making

Japanese sake is brewed alcohol made from high-quality rice suited for sake, clean, pure water, and rice koji (malted rice). From the kamaba (steaming room) to the main brewery and then the warehouse, sake is brewed in a process unique to Japan that involves the saccharification (turning starch to sugar) of rice starch through the power of the koji mold, then the sugar are turned into alcohol using yeast, creating a fruity scent. All the highly original sake brews are given life by the skilled hands of the brewers. Brewing is generally done in winter, so if your timing is right, you might be able to see the process in action.


Learn the history of sake

Knowing something about the history of sake will increase your appreciation and enjoyment. Many breweries still use old buildings even today, so you can get an idea of what the atmosphere was like and how sake was brewed in the old days. Back when there wasn’t much machinery around, the sake brewers would use their experience and techniques that they had polished over many years to create high quality sakes. These traditions have been passed down, and now Niigata sake is known throughout the country for its quality. The tools and equipment people used back then allow visitors to get a sense of how techniques and tastes have evolved.


Enjoy a tasting session

After learning about making sake and the history of the brewery, it’s time for what you’ve all been waiting for–sake tasting! You can try a wide range of the labels created by the brewery, and the characteristics of each will be carefully explained. One of the secrets behind why brewery tours are so popular is that you can try sake fresh from the brewery or freshly-squeezed sake, which isn’t possible anywhere else. In recent years, there has been a great proliferation of variations, including fruity sakes, sweet sakes, non-alcoholic amazake, and others, which are popular among younger people. You can also buy these varieties at the brewery’s own shop.


Imayotsukasa Sake Brewery

One of the few junmai sake breweries in Japan

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Founded in 1767, Imayo Tsukasa uses no additives or distilled alcohol, making it one of the few junmai, or “pure rice,” sake breweries in Japan. The sake is created by using natural water from Mt. Sugana-dake and carefully-selected high quality rice. Their sake has a surprisingly rich flavor for a dry sake, and goes well with food. This pure sake has been created over the years with focus on flavor, in a tradition that remains unbroken to this day.

  • 1You can visit a rare reconstructed brewery built in the Edo period.
  • 2Thoroughly renovated a few years ago, the pure white building is very impressive.
  • 3The brewery exhibits antique tools and equipment once used to make sake.

infomation

  • [Address] 1-1 Kagamigaoka, Chuo-ku, Niigata City
  • [Phone] 025-244-3010
  • [Hours] 9:00 to 17:00 *Brewery tours are available from 9:00 to 16:00 (once every hour on the hour, apart from 12 noon). Tours take 40 minutes, and are free of charge
  • [Closed] Irregularly
  • [Parking] 40 cars
  • [Access] http://www.imayotsukasa.com/map_eng.html
  • *Please also check out the English information available on their website

Try your favorite Japanese sakes at Kikizake Bansho

After learning all about sake, enjoy tasting and shopping for souvenirs at the sake museum next to Niigata Station!

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At Kikizake Bansho (Sake-Tasting Sentry Station), you can try 93 types of sake from all over Niigata Prefecture at low prices. Buy five tokens for 500 yen, and collect your o-choko, or sake cup. There is information available in English, Chinese, Korean and other languages at the counter. Some people select their sake based on how the label looks, but don’t forget to check the ranking of popular brands on the board located inside the establishment. The staff are all sake professionals, so feel free to ask them any questions you have. You can also try the different types of salt that go well with sake for free.

  • 1The huge number of sake-tasting dispensers filling the Bansho is very impressive.
  • 2You can enjoy sake tasting at the counter inside as well.
  • 3There is also a wide range of salt from all over the world that goes well with sake.

Buy your souvenirs at the Nihonshu Bansho

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At the sake sales shop within the building you will find a wide range of some of the most famous brands produced in Niigata, the Kingdom of Sake. From old favorites to rare brews, from 1-sho (1.8 L) to 4-go (720 mL) bottles and handy cup-size sakes, there are more than a hundred types to choose from, in an almost bewildering array. It’s fun just to admire the uniquely individual and colorful labels of each brand. Perfect not just for souvenirs, but for your own enjoyment as well, why not pick up some of the sakes you enjoyed tasting in the Kikizake Bansho?

  • 1You can also buy the sake you enjoyed tasting at the Nihonshu Bansho. There’s an almost bewildering selection to choose from.
  • 2If you buy a masu cup rather than a glass, you can enjoy the unique way of drinking sake.
  • 3The shop also carries soy sauce, miso, and nibbles that go perfectly with sake or rice.

Ponshukan Museum of Echigo Sake, Niigata Station Branch

A sake museum where you can enjoy sake from brewers throughout Niigata Prefecture

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This sake museum is based on the concept of “telling the drama of Uonuma, Echigo, through food.” In addition to the Kikizake Bansho and the Nihonshu Bansho, it also sells a wide range of unique Niigata food products that make a great accompaniment to sake. Aside from sake, you can also taste other products of Japan’s fermentation culture, such as miso and soy sauce. You can also enjoy sake at Ponshu Bar Kaku-Uchi, or try the “bomb rice balls” (bakudan onigiri), a famous local product, made from Minami-Uonuma Koshihikari rice. The whole museum is filled with the different attractions of Niigata.

  • 1Unique drunken statue(s) greet you at the entrance.
  • 2The Kikizake Bansho counter is also labeled in English, Chinese, and Korean, making it easy for overseas visitors.
  • 3Popular brands of sake are listed on the blackboard in the Kikizake Bansho.

infomation

  • [Address] 3F, Hotel Mets Niigata, CoCoLo Nishikan, 1-96-47 Hanazono, Chuo-ku, Niigata City
  • [Phone] 025-240-7090
  • [Hours] 9:00 to 21:00 (Ponshu Bar Kaku-Uchi: 11:00 to 20:00)
  • [Closed] Open year round
  • [Parking] Supplied by partners

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