Just a few steps away from the mecca of Japanese office workers “Shinbashi”, the “Japan Sake and Shochu Information Center” awaits you on the first floor of an office building close to Toranomon station. Here, you can find 100 kinds of sake and shochu selected from more than 1,700 breweries throughout Japan every month. Tasting sake isn’t only possible – it’s a MUST! Cheers!!
The information center, which is run by the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association (JSS), introduces the Japanese alcoholic beverages “sake”, “shōchū” and “awamori” and their history and culture to people from all over the world.
Learn about sake
How is sake actually made? They have two big tv screens introducing how to make sake (in English). In addition, they have brochures in various languages such as Portuguese, German, French etc. and tablets placed on each of the tables in the center of the bright room with further information in Japanese, Chinese, Korean and English. The tablet teaches you the basic knowledge about sake and shochu from “Basic information on sake” to “Sake drinking etiquette”.
Did you know that you are not supposed to peek into those small sake bottles (tokkuri) served at restaurants? Also, when you are drinking with other people, NEVER pour sake in your own cup. That is supposed to be a little greedy. So wait until someone pours sake in your cup. That is something I didn’t know. How about you?
Some of the exhibits show how koji (a rice and mold mixture) and sake rice are used for making sake. Basically, to make sake, all you’ll need is rice and water, but koji (good “mold”) and yeast (fungus) are also indispensable. This few and carefully selected ingredients in some way resemble the “German Beer Purity Law”, doesn’t it? In the end, it’s chemical ‘magic’.
You can also taste sake or shochu at the “Japan Sake and Shochu Information Center”. The tasting cup sizes are 30ml and 60ml, the price is around 100 to 300 yen. So even if you are choosing ten different kinds of sake, it still costs only 1,000 yen, which is very affordable!
Sake types are called Junmai Daiginjō, Daiginjō, Kimoto, Nama (meaning raw sake you can only drink in Japan), Koshu (“old sake” aged more than 3 years), Kimoto and even sparkling sake! There is dessert sake, too. Since there are so many types, doing a sake tasting is a great way to find out more about your favorite “flavor”. I also had different types of sake and I tell you: they are completely different!
Besides sake, we also got 5 kinds of shochu. Shochu is a distilled beverage made out of ingredients like rice, buckwheat, sweet potatoes, brown sugar, Thai rice and so on. Because fragrance differs depending on the ingredients, you can make a guessing game. Firstly, smell all the scents. Then, (in our case) the director of the center gave us shochu without telling us its main ingredient and we had to guess it by smelling it. The first time I actually guessed right, but soon I lost my confidence and I could not distinguish the shochu at all (lol). That was really funny! !
If you would like to know more about sake and shochu, please visit the “Japan Sake and Shochu Information Center”! It’s a wonderful center and a great place to find out more obout this important part of Japanese culture! You might even end up going on a sake brewery trip throughout Japan!
Japan Sake and Shochu Information Center
NS Toranomon Building 1F, 1-6-15 Nishi-Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Opening Hours: 10 to 18 on weekdays
(closed on Saturdays, Sundays, holidays)
Tokyo Metro Ginza Line “Toranomon Station” exit 9, 3 minutes on foot
Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line “Kasumigaseki Station” exit 3C, 4 minutes on foot
Toei Mita Line “Uchisaiwaicho Station” exit A4, 3 minutes on foot
JR “Shimbashi Station” Hibiya exit, 8 minutes on foot