Savor the Flavor of Premium Sake
Tour an authentic sake brewery
Tucked in a corner of Nikko City, located 90 minutes north of Tokyo in the Nikko National Park, you will find a kura, or factory-warehouse. It has been making sake, the alcoholic beverage central to Japanese gastronomy and religion, since 1842, in the late Edo era.
Now entrusted to the seventh generation, family owned and operated Watanabesahei Sake Brewery has also opened the doors of its 120-year-old kura to visitors from overseas. With English audio guidance, multilingual pamphlets and English-speaking staff, sake lovers from around the world can learn all they wish to know about the sake brewing process here. It begins by drawing local river water flowing down from the Nikko Mountains and harvesting rice grown in Nikko and its surrounding areas. Combined with koji yeast, these ingredients produce a premium Junmai sake under the watchful eye of the master brewer, who carefully monitors the temperature, water content and fermentation essential to producing their pure rice sake, made without any distilled alcohol added.
During the 45-minute tour, discover what makes their sake so special by taking a brewery tour and sampling some of their products. For those who wish to go into greater detail, a 90-minute tour offers a peek inside the enormous fermentation tank and a sake-tasting paired with carefully chosen snacks. If you visit during the sake-brewing season (November to March), you may even get to see the brewers in action. This hands-on experience is sure to wet the whistle of alcohol enthusiasts and Japanese cuisine aficionados alike. The adjoining shop offers limited-edition sake and drinking vessels to bring home as precious souvenirs of this unique tour.
Access: from Tokyo Station, it’s about 50 minutes by Shinkansen bullet train to Utsunomiya Station, and from there, it’s about 50 minutes by train to Imaichi Station.
Watanabe Sahei Sake Brewery
About 45 minutes