Seasonal Sake in Tohoku

Sake is the soul of Japan. It runs through the veins and arteries of the geographical landscape and spirit of the people from Hokkaido to Okinawa. No more is this evident than in Japan’s northern Tohoku region which is legendary for its clear and pure water, an essential component of the sake making process. 

Having explored the region in-depth in a quest for the most authentic sake Tohoku has to offer, this rundown of the key breweries and stores in Tohoku helps showcase the huge variety and diverse culture behind Japan's favourite tipple that I encountered.

Gaman Liquor Store

Aomori is situated in the most northern part of Japan's main Honshu island. Separated from Hokkaido by the sea, it's a stunning and gregarious area of the country. Japan's traditional liquor stores have, unfortunately, been in decline in recent years due to the proliferation of supermarkets, convenience stores and online shopping. However, a real, genuine Japanese liquor store is a sight to behold. Packed full of local specialities these stores should be an essential part of any visitor's time in Japan. Soak up the atmosphere, initiate some banter with the staff and let them guide you to their favourites. Gaman Liquor Store, in Aomori's Nagashima district, is one such place. Famous for its stock of local sake and other beverages stop by and marvel in its comprehensive selection of booze and chat to the owner who has some English language skills to show off. 

Otokoyama Honten, Kesennuma

For more than a century Kesennuma Honten has played an integral role in the local area. Kesennuma was one of the many towns severely damaged by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami but, miraculously, managed to emerge unscathed and the brewery recommenced production of its fine sake the day after the tragedy in an encouraging symbol of the perseverance of the local people and the enduring strength of character which encapsulates the Tohoku region of Japan. 

Urakasumi Sake Brewery

A local and national treasure, Urakasumi is known all over Japan and adored by many. Situated in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture (a short journey by bullet train from Tokyo) it has an enduring and spiritual connection to Shiogama Shrine which is located next to the brewery. The brewery's motto is, "A genuine sake brewed meticulously, delivered with professionalism" and it has proudly continued this from 1724 until now. The brewery also hosts a very popular sake gallery/store and tours on request.

Dewazakura Sake Brewery

Formed in 1892 and known as the pride of Yamagata Prefecture, Dewazakura Sake Brewery is located in Hitoichimachi, Tendo City. Beloved both domestically and overseas for its supreme depth of flavour and has won Gold Prize-winning sake in the Annual Japan Sake Awards for 12 years running, and also awarded the highest Champion Sake title. The space also hosts the Dewazakura Art Museum nearby and makes it an essential attraction for visitors to Yamagata.

Sekinoichi Sake Brewery

Based in Iwate Prefecture, Ichinoseki Sekinoichi Brewery distinguishes itself from other breweries by its reputation for its lovingly created craft beer and sake. Since the Edo era (1603-1868) the brewery has played an essential role in local life and, in 1995, began to brew its acclaimed craft beer. The space also holds a restaurant (adjacent to the brewery) which highlights the diverse and superb local cuisines all washed down, perfectly, with Sekinoichi's sake and beer.  

Imayo-Tsukasa Sake Brewery, Niigata

Niigata is a prefecture renowned for its clean water. So, it’s no surprise that the region is the sake and rice capital of Japan. One of the top breweries in Niigata is Imayo-Tsukasa which is located in Niigata City which was established in 1767 and has been wowing sake afianados since. A 20-minute walk from JR Niigata Station the brewery has a very handy tasting corner where visitors can choose from 15 varieties as well as purchase some bottles of the good stuff as souvenirs.  It’s a beautiful and historic brewery which is at the heart of sake production in Niigata and Japan and well worth a visit - especially for sake fans.

  • Gaman Liquor Store

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