Sip on Japanese Sake on These 15 Sake Tasting Experiences Around Japan

By The byFood Team
Updated: March 15, 2024

One of Japan's national drinks, sake pairs amazingly well with traditional Japanese dishes and quite a few international dishes, too. The best way to learn how sake is brewed and what sake kinds you prefer is to sign up for a sake tasting. 

What can I expect during a sake tasting experience in Japan?


Get ready to immerse yourself in the world of sake with a knowledgeable guide who will walk you through different types of sake, from light and floral to bold and robust. You'll learn about the brewing process, food pairings, and etiquette while savoring each sip.

How much is a sake tasting experience in Japan?

A sake tasting experience in Japan starts at about ¥5,000 and can go up to about ¥20,000 depending on what’s included. Some sake experiences featured on this list don’t just include a tasting flight but also food pairings and brewery tours. 

New to the world of sake? Read our beginner's guide to Japanese sake

Essential sake tasting experiences for first-time sippers

1. Guided sake tasting in Shibuya (Tokyo)


If you're unfamiliar with sake, knowing how to order and pair it during your Japan trip can be tricky. Hidden in the basement of Shibuya Parco, the Kubota Sake Bar is a sake bar where you can try five kinds of sake from various regions of Japan. This tasting session is guided by Eriko, a sake lover and expert. 

What is the difference between junmai, ginjo, and namazake? Should sake be served chilled or warm? What makes premium sake so special? Ask all your burning questions and educate your palate.

Book this sake tasting in Shibuya (Tokyo).

2. Sake tasting in Shinjuku


Sip your way down a sake-tasting flight while getting detailed explanations of the different sake kinds, a translation of the sake bottle label, and more fascinating info. Knowledgeable staff will also provide tips on how to drink each sake. Room temp? On the rocks? Not all sake is created equal!

You, your fellow tour members, and your guide will share and discuss your initial impressions of each sake. You'll also be provided with a "sake review" document to write down and rate each sake, which you may bring home and keep for reference when buying sake on your own. 

Book this sake tasting in Shinjuku.

3. Sake tasting in Nagano


Embark on a sake-tasting journey in Nagano, a region steeped in history and renowned for its exceptional sake craftsmanship. This sake tasting and sake factory tour in Nagano covers all the bases. You'll try a range of sake, taste amazake (a low/non-alcoholic drink made from fermented rice), enjoy small dishes like pickles and Nagano miso soup, explore the streets of Nagano and the Zenkoji Temple area, then make your way back to Nagano Station. 

Book this sake tasting in Nagano.

4. Sake tasting in Tsuruoka (Yamagata)


Tsuruoka City in northern Yamagata Prefecture is full of resources and offers a variety of assorted, fun activities for visitors. The city has some awe-inspiring landscapes, including the sacred Dewa Sanzan Mountains.

The area boasts many other blessings, as well. In fact, the Shonai region is one of the nation's top producers of high-grade rice, with pure water flowing down the surrounding mountains and clear spring water bubbling up after spending 1,000 years underground on its way toward the surface.

Sake-producing families have made good use of the region's rice and the crystal-clear spring water to brew top-notch Japanese rice wine, earning Shonai a reputation as one of Japan's most renowned sake-producing areas. So, Tsuruoka is the ideal spot to indulge in a sake tasting. 

You can choose from a wide selection of high-quality Japanese sake produced by dozens of breweries. Try three types of fine sake as you enjoy tasting the three small dishes to go with them.

Book this sake tasting experience in Tsuruoka (Yamagata).

5. Sake tasting at a private salon in Tsukiji (Tokyo)


You'll be joined by a sake sommelier who will introduce you to this classic Japanese drink, and you'll be able to sample as many as you want. This private sake salon has around 50 to 60 different kinds of sake bottles!

The best part of this experience is that you will hear the stories of the sake breweries featured and learn from the experts about different kinds of sake. This is a great way to discover your favorite kind of sake from many different types. 

Book this sake tasting in Tsukiji (Tokyo).

Sake tasting for sake lovers

6. Sake tasting at Niigata's oldest shrine


Your sacred sake-tasting adventure will begin at the oldest Shinto shrine in Niigata, where your friendly guide will greet you and take you to the main hall. You'll be briefed on the history of sake and Shinto shrines in Niigata and the broader cultural context in Japan. Afterward, the tasting begins! Four types of sake will be sipped, paired with special appetizers, and studied — you'll learn about flavors, pairings, production, and beyond.

Book this sake tasting in Niigata.

7. Sake masterclass in Niigata


Discover the fundamentals of Japanese sake from a team of passionate pros, assembled by Junya and Jenya — two expert guides who share an appreciation for Niigata Prefecture and seek to share all this beautiful region has to offer with travelers and locals alike. With a vast knowledge of the region's history, culture, and deep-rooted traditions, they bring professionalism to all their experiences.

Your sake masterclass experience will begin with an introduction to the sake industry in Niigata, followed by information about the surrounding history, culture, and customs. Key learnings will include the sake-making process, different varieties of sake, flavor profiles, food pairings, and how the polishing process impacts the final flavor and aroma. 

If you love sake, a trip to Niigata, Japan's leading sake producer, is imperative. Book this sake masterclass in Niigata.

8. Sake tasting at Takayama's oldest sake brewery


Travel back to Japan's Edo Period (1603–1868) when you explore Takayama in Gifu Prefecture! The old town district is home to dozens of buildings from a hundred or more years ago, including seven sake breweries, all within a 400-meter radius. This concentration of sake breweries packed into a small area is relatively rare in Japan, with most other sake production hubs throughout the country seeing their breweries much more spread out.

Takayama’s sake culture is truly unique, even within the landscape of Japanese sake. Book this sake experience in Gifu.

Sake tasting with food

9. Sake tasting and takoyaki cooking class in Osaka


Begin your journey in a cozy local spot with a welcoming bar counter, setting the stage for your sake-tasting adventure. Momoko, your savvy host, shares her passion for sake as she teaches you about the production process, varieties, flavors, and beyond. 

Next, roll up your sleeves for a takoyaki cooking class! You'll learn about the ingredients and use a specialty takoyaki cooking pan. Once you've perfected your bite-sized treats, customize your takoyaki with your preferred toppings and sauces.

To complement your freshly made takoyaki, have a glass of sparkling sake. Momoko curates a seamless pairing of various sake, creating a harmonious blend of flavors. Non-alcoholic options are available for those who prefer alternatives. Conclude this gastronomic journey with a special sake dessert, discovering the delightful combination of sake (nihonshu) poured over ice cream.

Book this sake tasting and takoyaki cooking class in Osaka.

10. Sake tasting and pairing experience in Tokyo


Through this experience, you will be introduced to Japanese sake's history, culture, and cultivation. An expert sommelier will explain a little about the history of sake, how sake is made, and the different varieties available, from sparkling sake to sweet sake and sake for dessert pairings. 

Book this sake pairing experience in Tokyo.

11. Sake tasting with sushi pairing in Miyagi


This local sake brewery is famous for its "sotenden" sake, which is made using local water and rice from Kesennuma. You'll enjoy tasting a variety of fine sake products and receive a small bottle of sake to take home with you as a Kesennuma souvenir! Following the sake brewery tour, you will visit a local sushi restaurant where you can enjoy a tasting with sake and sushi pairing, matching various types of sake with seasonal sushi dishes. 

During this pairing session, you'll learn all about how sake is made and how this brewery in Kesennuma got back on its feet in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Since the disaster, this Kesennuma sake brewery has pulled it together to continue its delicious legacy of over 100 years of sake brewing. Since then, it's become a multi-award-winning brewery and has continued to be shaped by the local community and sake makers. 

Book this sake pairing experience in Miyagi. 

Sake tasting and sake brewery tours

12. Nada Gogo sake brewery tours in Kobe


Nada Gogo, known as the 'Five Villages of Nada,' has been crafting exceptional sake since 1330. This coastal cluster, 12 kilometers from central Kobe and Nishinomiya, is a testament to centuries of sake perfection. Treasured for its crisp, dry taste, Nada's sake draws its character from the medium-hard water called Miyamizu, making it a sake lover's dream.

Your adventure begins along the Hanshin Railway, where breweries dot the landscape. Stroll down Sake Brewery Street, flanked by independent museums that hold the secrets of sake production. 

Book this sake experience in Kobe.

13. Sake tasting and brewery tour near Fushimi Inari Shrine (Kyoto)


Dive into some top-notch breweries, a hip liquor store, and a food haven. You'll grasp the essence of sake-making by comparing diverse types and brands. You'll taste the spectrum from the finest unfiltered and unpasteurized sake to the seasonal sips. Imagine stepping into breweries that have been thriving for almost four centuries! 

You'll also get the inside scoop on their production methods and sip their freshly crafted nectar. A tour of Kyoto's largest brewery includes a museum tour and a neat parting gift (a small bottle of sweet sake).

The final stop is a food court wonderland showcasing all things Fushimi sake. With a little extra budget (about ¥2,300), you can explore up to 18 varieties from the Fushimi region in one spot.

Book this sake experience in Kyoto.

14. Sake tasting and brewery tour in Okutama (Tokyo)


During this experience, you'll sample five to six of Ozawa Brewery's 10 varieties of sake. This opportunity was possible thanks to your guide's close relationship and solid trust with the brewery, which is otherwise not offered in English! The trip includes a fun-filled train ride from Shinjuku to the rolling hills and bright greenery of Okutama, a beloved hiking area and nature spot for Tokyoites, followed by a brewery tour and tasting session. 

Book this sake experience in Okutama (Tokyo).

15. Sake tasting and brewery tour in Saitama


Calling all traditional nihonshu fans to experience the sake-making process firsthand in Saitama Prefecture.

Visitors to Yamane Shuzo Sake Brewery will surely be fascinated by the meticulous, traditional fermentation methods still used at its facilities. Brewmasters will introduce how they carefully manage koji blooming, temperature, and acidity in the fermentation tanks to create an ideal sake each season.

After a tour of the facilities, the friendly staff will guide you through a sake tasting. During the 30-45 minute tasting experience, you'll learn the particularities and enjoy the unique, exquisite flavor of wood-aged sake. Yamane Brewery's wooden aging vats are all built from locally sourced timber, imbuing their sake with the taste of Saitama!

Book this sake tasting experience in Saitama.

FAQ on sake tasting experiences in Japan


What is sake?

Sake is a traditional Japanese rice wine made from fermented rice. It has a unique flavor profile and is an integral part of Japanese culture. Check out our beginner’s guide to sake for insights on Japanese sake and its culture. 

How is sake tasting different from wine tasting?

Think of sake tasting as a journey through the Japanese countryside, where each sip tells a story of craftsmanship and tradition. While wine tasting focuses on grape varieties, sake tasting explores the nuances of rice polishing ratios and fermentation techniques. Some sake breweries (like Yamane Shuzo Sake Brewery) also experiment with aging processes to make aged sake. 

Do I need to be a sake expert to enjoy a tasting experience?

Not at all! Sake tasting experiences are designed for everyone, from beginners to aficionados. Whether you're new to sake or a seasoned connoisseur, there's always something new to discover and appreciate in each glass.

What are some tips for getting the most out of a sake tasting experience in Japan?

Be open-minded and curious, ask questions, and savor each sip slowly to appreciate the flavors. Experiment with different temperature settings and food pairings to enhance your tasting experience. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the journey!

We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan's food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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The byFood Team
Sharing our love of Japanese cuisine and culture, with the mission of spreading happiness through food.
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