Masataka Taketsuru, known as the father of Japanese whisky, founded the Nikka distillery in the 1930s. Today you can visit the original factory, in Yoichi, a town east of Sapporo, close to Otaru. After touring the grounds, you can sample the signature whisky for free.
You can access the distillery by train or car; both take the same length of time.
Take the JR Hakodate Line from Sapporo Station to Yoichi Station, via Otaru. The journey takes 1 hour and 15 minutes and is covered by the Japan Rail Pass. The distillery is a short walk from the station.
The distillery was founded in 1934 by Masataka Taketsuru after he studied the distilling process in Scotland for several years
The extensive grounds stretch over 132,000 square meters and are open for the public to explore
Masataka Taketsuru was born in Hiroshima prefecture, into a family of sake brewers. He became interested in making whisky while traveling in Scotland and studied production techniques there for several years. He returned to Japan with his Scottish wife to open his own distillery, choosing Hokkaido because the climate reminded him of Scotland.
You are free to wander the vast grounds, where the original stone buildings of the factory and Taketsuru's former home still stand. Some of the equipment on display, like the large copper distillation tanks, are still used to this day. There are guided tours in Japanese or you can download an English audio guide for smartphone and tablet.
Nearing the end of the tour, you'll find a museum on the history of Nikka and Taketsuru's life. See old photos and items that once belonged to Taketsuru and his wife.
Stop in at the tasting room to sample some delicious whisky. You can sample two kinds for free and rare malt whiskies for a price. You can even taste some directly from the barrels. Those who prefer something a bit sweeter can visit Rita House, named after Taketsuru's Scottish wife, for afternoon tea.