This is the second in a series introducing real sake tours to the places where sake is brewed and virtual sake tours to be enjoyed by order. This time, we travel to Sanjo and Kamo cities in the centre of the prefecture, as well as Yahiko Village, home to the Echigo's most important shrine, Yahiko Shrine, and Niigata City, the prefecture's capital. For a real sake trip, make the most of the train if you want to drink, or enjoy a drive if you're a "buy-and-go" type! Sake breweries marked with * have an online shop.
Local sake from the 'manufacturing town' and 'little Kyoto in Hokuetsu'.
The only sake brewery in Sanjo City, known as a manufacturing town, is the Fukukai Sake Brewery, founded in 1897 (Meiji 30). ★
Representative brands are Fukugao and the Igarashi River, which flows right in front of the brewery. Sake of note is sake stored in Western-style casks. There are three types: whisky, brandy and bourbon. Each has its own unique flavour. Sake brewing songs sung by the brewery staff are uploaded on the official website.
The Tsubame-Sanjo Local Industry Promotion Centre Products Hall near the Tsubame-Sanjo Interchange has a wide range of local sake. Spoon polishing and kitchen knife grinding workshops are available, as well as hammering bronzeware demonstrations, so check the events calendar on the website before heading out.
Kamo City, where the Kamo River flows through the middle of the city and is known as the 'Little Kyoto of Hokuetsu', is home to three sake breweries.
The 1 km-long street in front of Kamo Station is lined with eight shopping streets, nicknamed 'Nagaiki Street'. Located in the Nakamachi shopping arcade along this street is the Yukitsubaki Sake Brewery, founded in 1806 (3rd year of Bunka).
The Snow Camellia Brewery brews a junmai ginjo sake, Echino Snow Camellia Snow Camellia Yeast Brewing, using yeast isolated from the snow camellias of Kamoyama Park. Enjoy the taste produced by the original yeast.
Located in the Wakamiyamachi shopping arcade at the far end of the eight shopping arcade is Maskagami, established in 1892 (25th year of Meiji). Its flagship brand is Manjukagami; the 'Alphabet Line' series, where F stands for plain sake, J for junmai sake and the numbers stand for the percentage of polished rice, is popular among all ages for its high cost performance.
Opposite the warehouse is Tanabe Confectionery, famous for its karinko sugar, and on the opposite side of the Kamo River is Tani Street, where wooden buildings and waterways that retain the atmosphere of the Showa period can still be seen. Explore the area and feel the retro atmosphere.
Another brewery in Kamo is Kamo Nishiki Shuzo, founded in 1892 (Meiji 26). The factory is currently located in Akiba Ward, Niigata City. The new brand 'Nifuda Sake', created five years ago by the brewery's next head brewer, Yuichi Tanaka, is attracting nationwide attention; we would like to try a bottle brewed by a young master brewer in his 20s.
Kamo City's local delicacy is fried liver. Take out at Nayakobo Yamada in the Nakamachi shopping arcade and enjoy with local sake.
Keep an eye on the efforts of the five Nishigama breweries.
For several years now, the five breweries in Yahiko Village and Nishigama Ward, Niigata City, have been working together on a mountain forest protection project and the Nishigama Sake Festival. On 15 November last year, the Nishigama Sake Festival was held at Yahole in Yahiko Village, taking all possible infection control measures. Held together with an outdoor marché, the event was enjoyed by a large number of people, not only sake fans but also families.
The only sake brewery in Yahiko Village is Yahiko Shuzo, founded in 1838. Yahiko Aikoku is a sake to be savoured alongside its representative brand, Koshinohakusetsu. It is made entirely from Yahiko sake rice, Aikoku, which has been revived, and the yeast is isolated from a Yahiko cherry tree that grows wild on the top of Mt Yahiko. Yahiko Jelato, handmade at the brewery, can be purchased at ryokans and souvenir shops in the village.
Four of the five Nishigama warehouses belonging to the Nishigama 5 warehouses are located along the former Northern Highway in Niigata City.
Founded in 1885 (Meiji 18) in the Iwamuro onsen area, Hozan Shuzo' s representative brand is Hozan. The brewery was one of the first to try sake made from Koshihikari rice. (Sake brewery tours available, reservation required).
The Mine-no-Shiraume Brewery is located in Fukui village, the birthplace of the calligrapher Maki Ryoko, and has a record of having presented a bottle to the lord of the Mineyama clan in 1636. Mine-no-shiraume and Hishiko are popular brands.
Founded in 1890 (Meiji 23) at the foot of Mt Kakuda, Echigo Tsurukame's representative brand is Echigo Tsurukame. Echigo Tsurukame Wine Yeast Brewed Junmai Ginjo, which uses wine yeast, is popular, especially among women.
Founded in 1899 (Meiji 32), the Sasashuku Brewery*'s representative brand is Sasashuku. Takebayashi Soufu, made from the sake rice Kame-no-o, also has many fans. The Sasashuku challenge brew produces a new themed sake every year. (Sake brewery tours available, reservation required).
It is also recommended to use the Nishikan Sightseeing Circular Bus, which runs until 31 October (dates and times to be confirmed), to tour the wineries and the wineries.
Diverse flavours from Niigata City.
There are three sake breweries in Nishi Ward, which is adjacent to Nishigama Ward. Some of the breweries are located along the old Hokkoku Kaido (Northern Highway), so even if you can't visit them while enjoying a road trip from Nishi to Nishigami-ku, you can still enjoy the local flavour of the land where the sake is brewed.
Founded in 1899 (Meiji 32), Takano Shuzo★'s representative brands are Shiraotsuyu and Koshiji Fukiyuki. It also produces shochu made from sake lees. Nearby is the Ramsar Convention wetland Sakata, where seasonal plants and waterbirds can be enjoyed.
Evening view of Sagata
Higi Shuzo, the brewer of Tsuru no Tomo, was founded in 1832 in the former Maki-cho and later moved to the current Uchino area. The main building of the brewery is a registered tangible cultural property of the prefecture.
Also in the Uchino area is Shiokawa Shuzo, founded in 1912. Along with its flagship brand Koshinoseki, the brewery is also planning products for the overseas market and in collaboration with Niigata University. (Sake brewery tours available, reservation required).
The Asazuma Sake Brewery★, established in 1909 in the former Nishikawa town, brews local sake such as 'Snow Phantom' and 'Snow Fuyuki'.
The Imadaiji Sake Brewery, established in 1767, is located within walking distance of Niigata Station and offers sake brewery tours (reservation required). Its representative brand is Imadaiji. In addition to sake, the brewery also produces drinks using Sakasuke, a lactic acid bacteria-fermented sake lees, and non-gluten and non-alcoholic rice-flour amazake. Available at direct sales outlets.
Ishimoto Shuzo★ was founded in 1907 in the former Kameda-cho, Konan-ku, Niigata City, and its representative brand is the nationally known Echino Kanbai. It continues to brew sake loved by the local Kameda people.
DHC Sake Brewery★, founded in 1908 in the former city of Toei, sells a wide variety of DHC sake and original goods at its sales outlet 'Echigo-no-Sato Kayama-Tei', which was partly renovated from the main building.
The Echigo Brewery, established in 1932 (Showa 7), is located a 3-minute walk from the DHC Brewery. Representative brands are Amagure and Echino Hachiho. The word 'Hachiho' is a wish for the endless development of prosperity.
Near these two warehouses, an open-air market, Kuzuzuka Market, which is said to have started in the Edo period, is held on the 1st, 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th and 25th of every month. Less than 10 minutes' drive away is Fukushima Lagoon, the northern limit of onibasu in Japan.
Founded in 1948 in Akiba Ward, Murayu Shuzo's representative brands are Hanakoshiji and Murayu. Its unique products, such as Natsumikan, a summer-only warmed sake that is gentle on tired summer bodies, are attractive.
If you visit a brewery, visit a sake shop that sells local sake. An increasing number of sake shops are full of individuality, such as those with 'kaku-uchi' (corner shops) where you can enjoy tastings for a fee, or those that regularly invite the brewery owner to hold tasting events, so go and talk sake with the owner.
Photo is an image.
Photo cooperation: Niigata Tourism Association, StudioActivist, Yahiko Tourism Association.