One of Japan’s most well-known beverages has to be sake, and Niigata Prefecture is amongst the most revered for the brews they produce. Known as a center for high quality rice production, it’s perhaps inevitable that the sake that they make in these parts is also top of the line.
You’ll find many different sake breweries across the region, and across the country – but not all of them are open to tours from the public. One that is, however, is the Tamagawa Sake Brewery (玉川酒造株式会社 越後ゆきくら館), located in Uonuma. Perhaps the best part of all is that the tours of the brewery that they provide are completely free!
Getting to experience a behind-the-scenes tour of a working sake brewery is fascinating – and Tamagawa Sake Brewery is exceptionally unique in the way they preserve what they make. This particular region of Niigata is known for being one of the heaviest snowfall spots not just in Japan, but on the entire planet – and they use that to their advantage here! They store up the winter snow, spread it out, and use it as a cooling mechanism to keep the sake at a nice even temperature year round. It’s the perfect way of using the natural resources in the area to full effect.
As well as being able to check out the unique sake snow storage, you’re able to see the tools and the machinery used in the sake brewing process. If you happen to be there at the right time, you might even see staff members at work preparing some of the beverages you’ll get to enjoy.
Whether you’re a complete newbie to the world of sake or you’ve been drinking it for a while, there’s something for you to enjoy here. The team here at Tamagawa Sake Brewery are exceptionally generous with their samples, allowing you to try various different kinds of sake – as well as local wines, umeshu (a plum wine popular in Japan), and even rice-based bourbon that they make at the premises here. If you’ve been wondering about how to properly “taste” sake, the process is quite similar to wine tasting. Different sake brews have different clarities, different aromas, and naturally, different tastes – so sip each one slowly and savor the effect that they have on your senses.
Most of the beverages that you sample are also available for purchase, so if you find a particular tipple that you really enjoy, you’re able to take some home with you! There are also great souvenir options if you need to pick something up for a loved one, such as gift sets and vintage sake brews.
If you are headed to Niigata and want a chance to try some locally produced specialties, the Tamagawa Sake Brewery is a must-add to your itinerary!
- Opening Hours: 9 AM – 4 PM daily. Closed on New Year’s Day.
- Address: 1643 Suhara, Uonuma, Niigata Prefecture
- By Train: The closest station is Echigosuhara Station on the JR Tadami Line. From Echigosuhara Station, the Brewery is approximately five minutes on foot.
- By Car: If you are driving, bear in mind that the brewery is diligent with ensuring that anyone who is driving is unable to partake in the sampling – as they should be! Drink responsibly!
- Tamagawa Sake Brewery’s website: http://www.yukikura.com/ (Japanese)