Place to Experience Sake:
Ep. 1 The Japan Sake and Shochu Information Center is
the Best Place I’d Recommend to Japan Visitors and Incoming Businesses

Written by Keita Okubo
Translated by Saki Kimura & Patrick Allan Co

I sometimes get a question like, “An overseas friend will come to Japan. Do you know a place where we can drink?” For this article, I’d like to introduce the Japan Sake and Shochu Information Center as the best place for foreign visitors.

Japan Sake and Shochu Information Center

Nihonsyuzo-Toranomon Bld.1F, 1-6-15, Nishishimbashi, Minato-Ku, Tokyo, 105-0003, Japan
About 3 min. from Toranomon Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line)

You Can Taste Sake from All Over Japan

The Japan Sake and Shochu Information Center is the place to know, learn, and taste sake, and is operated by the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association. It’s on the first floor of their building, located in the business district in Tranomon, Tokyo. Honestly, it’s tough to find. Also, unfortunately, it’s open only during daytime on weekdays.

*The Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association was established in order to preserve the liquor tax and maintain liquor trading businesses, based on association laws for the liquor industry (Act No.7 of February 28, 1953).

This seems like a general first floor of the building.

Entering the room, you can see the wooden bucket on the ceiling! It’s huge. I think that it makes the room a bit dark.

You can see sake everywhere.

Of course you can try them. Here’s the list that you can order.

The Japan Sake and Shochu Information Center carries 68 kinds of sake from all over Japan (this was the number of sake available the day I visited), plus amazake, shochu, and liqueurs. You can order from 30mL for 300 JPY.

The most popular menu item is tasting flights. This day, I had the Hiyaoroshi flight (single pasteurized sake that is pasteurized in spring, aged during summer, and bottled in autumn without second pasteurization).

This is the flight of Gangi (from Yamaguchi Pref.), Tabika (from Mie Pref., which I wanted to try the most), and O-sakazuki (from Gunma Pref.) that costs 300 JPY.

The Place Not for Drinking, But for Learning

I know a lot of places to enjoy various kinds of sake at a reasonable price. It’s certainly fun to drink my fill at such places, which are suitable for people who just want to drink delicious sake. This is a good attitude as a sake fan.

(It takes a lot of effort to make authentic shochu popular!)

On the other hand, while you can try various sake at a cheap price at the Japan Sake and Shochu Information Center, you can’t get food. It’s more like a study space that’s surrounded by documents about sake and shochu.
This is the place to learn about sake by tasting, and you can’t gulp down a lot. Many people come here to study professional tasting.

(You can watch the video. While drinking the sake, you can imagine how it was made. I can stay here forever.)

They Serve Mirin Too!

The most surprising thing for me is that we can taste mirin (sweet sake for seasoning) here!
Although drinking mirin would make you look like a desperate alcoholic in Japan, what’s amazing is that it readily appeals to people from overseas.

(Of course I taste some.)

Sweet. So sweet. Mukashi-Jikomi on the left in the picture has a caramel-like flavor and powerful wildness. Yanagikage, the transparent sake on the right, tastes so elegant!

I want to make overseas customers understand that mirin is not just a seasoning but a premium sake.

What the Hell is Sake VR?

I coincidentally found the menu of VR. Of course, by myself.

It shows a typical study video of the sake brewing process for about 10 minutes.
This is unexpectedly good.
Feeling like I was new again, I could see each process as if I was in the brewery. I felt like I really visited their workplace, as I could see the brewers working as usual when I looked around.
My personal favorite part is the wire-like equipment that stirs foam rising in the moromi tank for the fermentation mash.

What is Sake? They Struggle to Appeal to Non-Drinkers

The sake world – including liquor stores, bars, and restaurants – is kind of exclusive. There are exceptions; nevertheless, the fact is that the more knowledgeable you are, the more you can enjoy it. It’s relevant to any kinds of hobbies.

In contrast, the Japan Sake and Shochu Information Center is the place where beginners can enjoy things more. They are very enthusiastic about helping beginners learn about sake; and everything has an English translation. They can do this because they are an information center.

(This is an example of a translation)

I want people who visit Japan for the first time to think:

Japan has a traditional drink called as sake. Hmm, it is made in such a way. It has a variety. It tastes good. Also, every sake tastes different. Well, let’s go to a izakaya to drink sake tonight!

They often hold events. I sincerely recommend that you visit this place!