Between March and April, cherry blossoms bloom in Japan every year. This drives both local and international tourists to travel from the south to the north across the country for hanami. This year, you might not be able to visit any spots for the springtime cherry blossoms. Instead of dreaming of Japan, let’s substitute it with some nihonshu from Japan. Taste sake produced in different prefectures from the south to the north and imagine you were travelling across the country. Familiarize yourself with a taste of different sake styles. Next year, you’ll know which sake to bring when catching the pops of pink flowers.
The Land of Shochu - Kyushu: Saga
Located on the island of Kyushu in Japan, Saga Prefecture is famed for brewing both shochu and sake. Saga is also the hometown of Azumaichi which was established 350 years ago. The brewery was the first in Saga to successfully cultivate Yamadanishi rice for producing their award-winning refined daiginjo series. Aside from the rice, the pristine water from Shiota river flowing through Saga Prefecture does not only provide rice field irrigation but also chosen to be the main ingredient for crafting sake. Next year when you’re here, follow the local tradition by toasting with a glass of sake instead of tea or water.
The Winner of Sake Production - Honshu: Hyogo Prefecture
To reach Hyogo Prefecture, it only takes you one hour on the Japan Rail from Kansai International Airport in Osaka. Hyogo Prefecture is abundant with natural resources from mother nature, including the natural mineral-rich mountain streams called Miyamizu, the ‘heavenly water’ which is featured in Japan’s 100 remarkable water; and the top-quality Yamadanishi rice. With one of the largest sake production in the country, Hyogo Prefecture is called the origin of a sake brewery. Fukuju Sake Brewery has a 300-year heritage and expertise in sake brewing. By incorporating the three key elements, that is, rice, water and mastery, Fukuju Sake Brewery creates pronounced flavour profiles, reminiscent of flowers, peach and almond. Grab a bottle of Fukuju next year when you go to Himeji Castle for the sakura blossoms.
The Cradle of Sake - Honshu: Yamanashi, Ibaraki, Tochigi
Yamanashi, also known as Fruit Paradise, is located in the middle of Honshu. Surrounded by prominent mountains such as Mt. Fuji and Mt. Kaikoma, Yamanashi is a cradle for producing some of the country’s best sake as it abundantly supplies superior rice, clear streams and pure underground water. For example, Shichiken Sake is crafted with the pristine streams from the spectacular Mt. Kaikoma, producing smooth and refined sake texture. And Dan makes good use of the underground water from Mt. Fuji which comes from melting snow and takes decades to filter through the inside of the mountain, bringing the sake a clear and bright taste.
When finishing your visit to Tokyo, head north and visit the Kanto region in Eastern Japan. Be welcomed by 300-year Raifuku Sake Brewery in Ibaraki and sample a series of aromatic sake made of different rice varietals with a fairly low rice polishing ratio. Or experience the modern sake style created by Senkin in Tochigi.
The Land of Rice - Honshu: Niigata
A two-hour ride on the Japan Rail would take you from Tokyo to Niigata, the seaside prefecture on the west coast of Honshu. If you’re here to celebrate the harvest season, you’re lucky to see the dazzling golden rice fields in Niigata. In case you’re a big fan of the handcrafted sake expert, visit Sado Island for Manotsuru Sake Brewery by taking a one-hour boat ride from the port of Niigata. The mountain ranges on the two sides of the island offer an ample supply of crystal-clear and icy water while the land offers plenty of premium rice varietals for sake crafting, such as the locally grown Gohyakumangoku and Koshitanrei to craft the prestigious Manotsuru sake, an all-time favourite of Japan Royal Family.
The Hometown of Juyondai - Honshu: Yamagata
It’s quite convenient to reach Yamagata Prefecture from Tokyo or Sendai. Tourists come here for its world-famous natural scenery and sumptuous cuisine. The severely cold weather does not stop people from visiting, as the snowy season brings them winter art and soft rime ice for appreciation, not to mention the rejuvenating Ginzan Hotspring and Zao Hotspring. For sake brewing, as winter is usually the time for fermentation, the low temperature is ideal for slow fermentation, producing a light and soft mouthfeel. In addition to the low rice polishing ratio, the low-iron soft water from Yamagata gives the resulting sake a clear and pristine body with a vividly aromatic fragrance, such as Juyondai and Eiko Fuji, earning the title “the Kingdom of Ginjo” for Yamagata.
So join us to taste a flight of sake from different prefectures, familiarise yourself with sake knowledge and get ready to travel for the upcoming Japan sake and sakura tour.
Highlighted sake are as follows. please click here to shop ALL SAKE.