What better way to learn about a culture than through its traditional liquors? Flavours, ingredients and brewing techniques give a unique insight into a country’s history.
The Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center opened its doors to the public in Nishi-Shinbashi, Tokyo in 2016. It welcomes visitors to try different types and flavours of traditional Japanese alcohols like sake, shochu and awamori made from rice, potato, barley, etc.
The center features a small museum that has showcases with different sake and shochu on display. Tastefully and seasonally decorated, the room has plenty of visuals to attract the eye. The ceiling features a large wooden barrel similar to one used in a sake brewery and the showcases are decorated with hydrangeas for the summer season. Above the entrance of the center is a ‘sugidama’ (cedar ball). These were traditionally hung outside of breweries and when the color changed from green to brown, the village would know the sake was ready to be drunk. To this day, it is recognized as the traditional symbol of sake breweries.
The center offers over 100 different types of sake and shochu to learn about, taste and buy. The beverages are on a 3 to 4 week rotation so different breweries from across Japan are constantly featured. To taste them, you can pick a cup (from ¥100) or a tasting set (3 alcohols for ¥300-500; 5 for ¥500). There is no food served with the drinks but the flyers that are available at the center have information on food pairings and the staff are more than happy to give recommendations.
As well as alcoholic sake, they also serve different flavours of amazake - a sweet, non-alcoholic drink made from fermented rice, perfect for those who don’t drink alcohol.
The center always has English-speaking staff and their flyers, booklets and displays are all in English too. There are two screens on either side of the room that show the process of making sake and shochu through informative and fun videos. The best part is the virtual reality glasses. It’s a unique immersive way to experience the brewing process up close. The virtual tour lasts about 10 minutes and features stunning visuals.
In addition to the museum, the center hosts different events throughout the year, such as media gatherings, brewery events and seminars. If you are with a large group, it is possible to book a 30 minute seminar.
If you’re interested in learning more about sake and shochu, they host a bi-weekly podcast that highlights all the ins and outs of the sake world. The show is brought to you by experts in the field.
The Sake & Shochu Information Center truly provides a unique experience for those with even a passing interest in Japanese alcoholic beverages.