Japanese Sake Guide

Japanese sake is a rice wine that provides one of the most distinctive flavors in the country. With a long cultural history, this delicious tipple continues to be produced throughout the country and it should be enjoyed during your stay. From sake bars to sake warehouses there are so many ways to experience all that this local drink has to offer.

Sake Origins

How is Japanese Sake Made?

To fully appreciate sake, we need to take a closer look at where it derived from. This drink has been at the heart of Japanese living for around 2000 years since the beginning of rice cultivation. At the beginning of its discovery, sake was made for individual consumption rather than to sell. This rice wine was not only used as a drink but also as an offering to the Shinto Gods. Sake was and still is used in many Shinto practices including wedding ceremonies.

How is Japanese Sake Made?

Simply put the sake Japanese drink is made from fermented rice. The key ingredients for making sake are rice, water, and Koji (rice yeast). Koji is the yeast that is produced from the rice and this is mixed with steamed rice and water before being left to ferment. After the fermentation process, the mixture is then filtered.

Traditionally sake was made using only pure rice, however, since the Second World War, many manufacturers now add alcohol. Today, there are many different types of sake. Several rules are in place to ensure that the quality and consistency of sake-making remain intact.

Pure sake which is made from 100% rice is very rare in Japan today and is seen as a premium type of sake. The fermentation process of the rice produces a natural alcohol. The amount of distilled alcohol that can be added is entirely up to the manufacturer and typically the more alcohol which is added, the lower the quality.

Types of Japanese Sake

For those looking to taste the sake Japanese drink, it is important to be aware of the different types. The best Japanese sake for you will depend on your taste buds.

Kunshu – Rich and fruity.

Soshu – This is the most common sake and offers a light texture.

Junshu – This is more traditional and boasts a very rich taste.

Jukushu – Spicy.

Diffrent types of Sake in Japan

How to Drink Sake

Those seeking to try Japanese sake can choose from dry, medium, and sweet variations. Often at restaurants, the meal is paired with one of these variations to complement one another.  The traditional way to drink sake is in small Japanese sake cups named sakazuki. Depending on the type of sake, this drink is typically served at 10-20 degrees Celsius. As Junshu is a dense sake it can also be served at 40 to 55 degrees for a warm tipple.

When drinking any alcoholic beverage in Japan, it is customary to pour your own drink to avoid bad luck. The traditional way to pour a drink in Japan is for the younger person to pour a drink first. After someone has poured your drink, try to sip it before placing it down. More recently, sake cocktails have gained popularity. You will find these delicious blends in many hotels, restaurants, and cocktail bars across the country.

Where to Drink Japanese Sake?

Restaurants, bars, and hotels throughout Japan all sell sake. However, if you wish to try it in true style then the following places offer some of the best Japanese sake experiences.

Shimomiya

This traditional sake bar and fish restaurant is the perfect place to sit back and sample two of Japan’s favorite things – fish and sake. Shimomiya is nestled within Tokyo’s Nakano district and boasts around 200 different brands of sake. The restaurant uses fish from the renowned Tsukiji Market (now Toyosu Market) and offers wonderful sake pairings. The staff is extremely knowledgeable and they work to curate a relaxing atmosphere.

Rice field sake

Sasahana

Located in Tokyo’s glamourous neighborhood of Ginza, Sashana is a stylish bar and kitchen that offers limited edition sake. This bar is cozy yet elegant and has a wonderful menu of traditional delicacies too.

Akaoni

For something even more traditional, Akaoni is the perfect place. This quaint sake bar represents a more traditional time amongst Tokyo’s bright city lights. This bar is the go-to place for sake connoisseurs as the staff and customers here take the drink very seriously. The bar stocks one hundred varieties including some unique seasonal options.

Fukujyu Brewery

For those who want to escape the city buzz and learn about the sake manufacturing process then this brewery is ideal. Nestled within the Mount Rokko range lies Fukujyu Brewery which has been producing sake for more than 260 years. Its mountainous location provides the perfect setting for growing rice and fermentation. Visitors can take a tour of the brewery and see the sake makers at work. The tour is free but requires advance bookings. Guests can also have a bite to eat at the site’s very own restaurant.

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