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Handa’s Sake and Vinegar Museums

HOME > Japan’s Local Treasures > Handa’s Sake and Vinegar Museums


Stroll along the Handa Canal and discover the origins of nigiri sushi

Handa City, Aichi Prefecture



Two key elements of Japanese cuisine, sake and vinegar, are made by brewing. You can learn about the history of Japanese brewing culture with a visit to the Handa Canal, some 40km south of central Nagoya on the Chita Peninsula in Aichi Prefecture.
Thanks to a temperate climate and quality underground water, Handa has had a flourishing industry centered on brewing vinegar and sake since the late 16th century. Sake made along the Handa Canal was shipped to Edo (the old name for Tokyo) and much loved. Large quantities of sake lees were emitted in the process of brewing sake, and Matazaemon Nakano I, the founder of the Mizkan Group, Japan’s top vinegar manufacturer, invented kasuzu sake lees vinegar.
Kasuzu was cheaper and more flavorsome than rice vinegar. In 1804, Matazaemon I visited Edo and experienced sushi for the first time. Haya-zushi, or “fast sushi,” was popular in Edo, but it was made with expensive rice vinegar. Matazaemon I realized that if sake lees vinegar were used instead of rice vinegar, the sushi would be even tastier and more affordable, leading to the boom in popularity in what is today known as nigiri sushi.
Handa City thrived through shipping and brewing. Today, the remaining canal is still lined with breweries surrounded by blackboard fences, and there are a number of spots where you can learn and experience the area’s brewing history, including the Mizkan Museum and Kunizakari Sake Museum.
Mizkan Museum is an interactive museum where you can learn about the history of Handa and the processes and tools used to produce vinegar from the 19th century to the present day. Board a replica ship to experience the journey from Handa to Edo (Tokyo), become a sushi chef shaping “play-sushi,” and create your own ponzu label. In the museum shop you can purchase exclusive limited-edition vinegars and fun, original Mizkan goods.
Kunizakari Sake Museum displays include tools and materials from centuries of sake brewing history. The museum is housed in the actual buildings of the sake brewery where sake was once made. Taste sake, including Nakano Sake Brewery’s famous Kunizakari label, and purchase some as a souvenir of your visit. Before you leave, be sure to enjoy nigiri sushi where it originated by trying Bishu haya-zushi (Bishu is the old name for the western part of Aichi Prefecture).


How to get there

Take the train from Nagoya Station to Handa Station (30 minutes). Handa Canal is a 5-minute walk from the station.


2 Toyo-cho, Handa-shi, Aichi-ken


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