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Month in Sake & Shochu - February 2024

Back in Japan with a full schedule of events, this was a particularly busy month with a few surprises. As a private custom tour to the south of Japan, turned February into a month dedicated to shochu and awamori (with of course little bit of sake in between). Fukuoka, Kagoshima and Okinawa were all part of the itinerary - such an exciting month!

Nikka Whisky Miyagikyo Distillery visit

Learning more about whisky from the pros at Nikka Whisky at their distillery in Sendai!

Their factory tour is open to the public with a great information centre that has plenty of really smart and beautifully designed exhibits, plus a spectacular tasting room, well worth a visit if you are in or passing through Sendai. They also sell some local-only limited whisky at an incredible price...

Only downfall it is a bit off-the-beaten-track, so getting there might be a bit of a challenge.

Tokyo Station Sake Brewery visit

A little hidden gem and unknown to many is @tokyostation_sakebrewery!

Located inside the maze that is the underground shopping area of Tokyo Station, if you are new in Tokyo you likely would have missed it. However, once you are aware of it and have knowledge of how to navigate to it, this is one of the most convenient spots to drink a fine beverage or two while waiting on your train...

Wazuka Tea Farm

What better way to learn more about Japanese tea than visiting a tea farm? With Kyoto being famous for its Uji tea area, there are a few places that not only allow visitors but encourage people to come and join the farm for a few hours of learning about how tea is grown, processed and of course a chance for a tea tasting and other tea flavored delicacies.

Anyone visiting the Kansai area when in Japan, this really is a special treat and a great way to learn more about Japanese culture that will bring you lots of joy even after returning to your home country.

Ochoko Bar and Restaurant Pontocho

As the name of this bar/restaurant already suggests, this is a great place to drink sake!

Specialized in Kyoto sake the owner has carefully stocked their fridge with some amazing bottles and their Obanzai Kyoto-style food (a few dishes prepared which you can choose from all local and with seasonal produce) is a great match for it.

Although very little English is spoken here, this is an amazing place as the owners love to entertain, so much so, that if you are lucky they may start playing musical instruments towards the later part of the evening.

Possibly a little on the expensive side for Japan, but given its location (Pontocho) and the generosity and welcoming, certainly justified.

NeoMegusta Tachinomi in Fukuoka

Another great sake bar, this time in Fukuoka!

Neo Megusta was a great start and a nice way to ease into the local beverages at the start of one of my custom tours for a client wanting to explore the world of shochu!

Not a full restaurant, but a standing bar only, they had plenty of sake, small dishes and great vibes. The system might be a little complicated as you do purchase tickets, with which you later use to pay for both food and beverages. 1000 yen gets you 5 tickets, which are roughly worth one or two drinks plus a small plat of your choice.

Again nice little tachinomi full of locals and a great way to start off the night!

Yatai - Chez Remi

If you are in Fukuoka spending some time eating out at one of the many Yatai (food stalls) is certainly a must and "Chez Remi" is famous with both locals and visitors alike.

Why is it so famous? Well, for one, these food stalls generally serve Japanese food, but here the fare on offer is French cuisine. And second, the owner "Remi" does not just cook and prepare amazing French dishes in a tiny space, he is also entertaining his guests with jokes & scares creating an exciting atmosphere for the dinners. It is quite an experience!

Nice way to eat out, with plenty of food and wine (no sake here) and with a pretty quick turnaround, worth the wait. As to be honest, there is always a queue for Remi...

Yamatozakura Distillery Visit

Finally in Kagoshima and what an amazing visit to @yamatozakura Distillery!

This was my first time visiting a Shochu maker and I could not have been any better than a tour by owner/distiller Tekkan Wakamatsu including a bit of an unusual tasting - who else steams their shochu?

Hard to not become a fan, especially when the Shochu is so good!

Bar Roku, with Maya Aley

When in Kagoshima and discovering shochu, there is one place not to be missed and it's "Bar Roku" where you will find one of the shochu and awamori experts in Kagoshima and beyond.

Of course, I am talking about the wonderful Maya Aley. Her knowledge of the beverage is unparalleled and her passion for sharing it with people visiting the bar is really amazing!

Whether you pop in to say hello and have a drink or two, or as we did, end up with a full lecture and tasting, this was certainly a highlight of this trip, and looking forward to visiting again hopefully in the not-too-distant future!

Barrel Valley Praha & Gen

Referring to themselves as "A theme park for koji, shochu and beer", this made it very quickly to the top of our list, even though it was quite difficult to get to....

They were founded in 1931 as Kawachi Genichiro Shoten, a koji seed maker in Kagoshima City, they are credited to have laid the foundations for modern shochu culture.

Aside from their core business of being a shochu factory and developing koji products, Barrel Valley Praha & Gen also produces Kogen Beer. So if you are into either of them, their so-called "Them Park" is a place where you can get it all. With plenty of Koji-based products in their shop to take home and enjoy!

Cave age Awamori at

Off to Okinawa and a look inside @awamori_cave, where thousands of bottles are stored underground in caves that were used as war shelters in the past. Walking through tunnel after tunnel lined with Awamori bottles is truly amazing.

If you like you can also purchase your very own bottle and have it aged here as part of their bottle keep. I will be back in 5 years to pick mine up!

But that is not all, the family also ages tofu down here, turning it into a delicious condiment for rice. They even have been featured in Dan Buettner's book “Blue Zones - Secrets for Living Longer”.

Chucko Awamori Distillery Visit in Naha

Excited to be back visiting Chuko Awamori Distillery in Naha, Okinawa to pick up a bottle or two!

Aside from great tasting Awamori, they created these beautiful clay pots to mature the beverage inside, and I cannot get over just how stunning the firing on them is. They do make amazing gifts, but can bit more difficult to transport, so do prepare in advance if you are thinking of bringing some of their "Kusu" (aged for more than 3 years) home. Of course, if you reside in Japan, these can also be shipped...

Kamikawa Taisetsu x in Tokyo

Great Evening in Tokyo at L’art et Mikuni as Kamikawa Taisetsu released two special collaboration sake “心” (heart) with “surf art” pioneer artist Koji Toyoda.

Loved both, but was very intrigued by the white label sake, a yamahai that has been aged for 2 years at -10C°, ginpu rice and made with white Koji - yum!

Also just amazing to see so many Tokyo sake lovers and friends, as well as two of the Toji’s coming to Tokyo among many other staff I got to meet when I visited the breweries two years ago. Lovely to catch up and hopefully again sometime soon in Hokkaido ☺️

To see all that is happening (in almost real-time) you can follow Sake Nomad on Instagram or Facebook, I will be back with another "This Month in Sake" next month!


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