Episode-7: Searching for Sake: Sake Tourism in Japan (Pt. 1)

Episode Image
Japan has absolutely exploded as a food and dining destination, but how is it as a sake destination? Sure there’s more than enough incredible sake to go around, but will you be able to find it? Are there specific regions or locations scattered across Japan that are accessible and offer the kinds of unique sake experiences and discoveries that make it worth the trip? What can we expect from “sake tourism” in the (hopefully) near future?   Its these topics (and more!) that fuel this particular sake journey, guided by Sebastien Lemoine,  Chris Hughes, and Justin Potts.   This week’s show is actually from a rather early recording that we did while still in our “R&D phase”. We weren’t sure if it would see the light of day, but giving it another listen, we thought there was info here that could be useful to our listeners, as well as hopefully be something that people could come back to and reference when planning or considering a visit to Japan that integrated sake discoveries.   This is a topic that we’ll be exploring again, both more thoroughly, as well as from a few other angles. That’s why we’ve labeled it “Part 1”. Part 2 doesn’t exist yet, but it will someday! Until then, we hope you’ll find some helpful tidbits tucked away in the discussion.   Also, we wanted to keep some fun content flowing post-holiday while we snuck away for a bit of rest, family time and celebration. We’ve got lots of exciting material coming very soon!   Because this episode was recorded a while back, some of the “news” that we discuss is, as you might have guessed, a bit outdated. That being said, we think it’s still interesting and relevant stuff, so we decided to leave it in there. And hey, if you hadn’t heard about it yet, then it’s news to you!   Topics, places and sake discussed this week (with links) include: – Throughout this episode we’re sipping on the classic nigori sake from Kikuhime in Ishikawa prefecture. – Kit Kat and umeshu (from Heiwa Shuzo, makers of KID sake) become one at a special Craft Sake Week bar. – Italian craft beer producer Baladin teams up with soy sauce producer Yamaroku and their kioke project to bring kioke-aged beer to life. – Mukai Shuzo in Kyoto, producers of Inemankai, which has been gathering attention and turning heads as of late. – Kumazawa Shuzo, makers of Tensei in Kanagawa, have put together a very rich, diverse, option-filled destination just a short trip from Tokyo. – In the Nada region (near Kobe), the big boys Hakutsuru, and Hakushika have invested in creating elaborate and well thought-out sake museums. – Okura Museum of Gekkeikan located in the Fushimi region of Kyoto (worth a visit in its own right!) is a fine destination. – Saijo region in Hiroshima, home to Kamotsuru, as well as 8 other breweries, is the Daigon Alley of the sake world. It also happens to be home to Japan’s largest annual sake festival, more-or-less the equivalent of a sake Oktoberfest. – Lake Suwa in Nagano, home to Miyasaka Sake Co. (makers of Masumi), as well as several other local breweries all within walking distance of one-another is also a beautiful destination. – The Takayama region (Gifu Prefecture) is popping up on a lot of itineraries as of late. Funasaka Shuzo is a highlight. Heading deeper into the countryside of Hida to explore the satoyama is a great way to visit some more great breweries. – Tokyo has a lot of offer as well! An Ishikawa Brewery visit can integrate beer and soba! Sake tours! Sawanoi is in the area, home to plenty of great food and hiking. Enjoy the gardens at Tamura. – A short shinkansen trip to Uonuma no Sato is the home of Hakkaisan. More than enough great food and product, as well as tours and tastings to fill an entire day. New beer brewery on-site as well. A beautiful area at the foot of Mt. Hakkaisan. – Asahi Shuzo, producers of Kubota, are accessible from Nagaoka (Niigata Prefecture) and working to develop the area as a sake and cultural destination. – Fukumitsuya has great retails shops scattered throughout Tokyo. – Izumibashi in Ebina (Kanagawa Prefecture) will offer an introduction to sake from the local rice fields, a brewery tour and excellent dining with sake pairings. – Iinuma Honke has put together a really solid tour and educational program out in Chiba. – Noto Peninsula (Ishikawa Prefecture) is a beautiful, still a largely hidden secret and a culinary a foodie’s dreamland. The town of Wajima has 5 breweries all within walking distance, as well as some amazing urushi lacquerware. The amazing Sogen Sake Brewery has some neat tricks up its sleeve for visitors and those looking to invest a bit of time into their sake. – Azuma Rikishi in Tochigi has their Sake Cave, and a visit to Nishibori Shuzo, makers of Wakazakari, also makes for a great visit. – The Tone Numata region near Minakami in Gunma (also known as a great outdoors and adventure tourism destination) is home to a couple craft beer breweries, a winery, some great food, and several excellent sake breweries, including Nagai Shuzo, makers of Mizubasho (and leaders of the Awa Sake Association), Tsuchida Shuzo, who recently went entirely junmai and yamahai production, has tours and tasting room, and the small craft sake makers at Otone Shuzo.   Have any great sake destinations in Japan or overseas that you’d like to share? Any advice, ideas or experiences you think our listeners would appreciate hearing about? Send them to us at questions@sakeonair.staba.jp and we’ll see if we can integrate those into a future episode!   Follow us on  InstagramTwitter and Facebook by searching for @sakeonair, or you can track us down on Soundcloud.   A nice review goes a long way as well.   Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association and is a joint production between Potts.K Productions and Export Japan.   Kampai!   Our theme is “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.