Asahikawa is a great place to visit for sake, as there is a small cluster of great breweries located here. One of them is Takasago Sake Brewery and it is a great brewery to visit for more than one reason!
Located a mere 15min walk from Asahikawa station, it could not be easier to reach. Aside from the brewery itself, they feature a generous shop (it is actually insane how many products they make) as well as a tasting room/restaurant. Here you can pick their sake tasting set or just order from their drinks menu. When I visited as part of a tour operator introduction, unfortunately, their normal tasting was not possible as it was closed due to the pandemic, so no tasting set for me. However, I tried a few of their brands and really enjoyed their Nigori sake called "Mofu", look for the bottle with the blue bear cloud on the label.
Takasago Brewery Tour
What is really great about Tagasago Shuzo is that aside from the shop and tasting room, they offer a real brewery tour! And you do not have to be a sake professional, anyone can book this via a contact form on their homepage or by giving them a call ( more detailed info can be found here). They need 3 days notice in advance and tours can be booked for either 10 am or 3 pm. They also state, that you will only be able to see active brewing on their morning tour and during winter, so keep that in mind when booking.
Is it worth it? Yes it is, as their sakagura tour is not just a look through a glass window or a visit to a museum, at Takasago Brewery you will actually be taken inside the brewery and get a real feel for it. They have also put a lot of thought into it and prepared sign boards to explain certain steps (that you may not be able to see live during your visits) and other information. The only drawback, it is in Japanese only.
About Takasago Sake Brewery
It was founded in 1899 by Tetsusaburo Kohiyama who was originally from Wakamatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture. The Brewery was then called Kohiyama Sake Brewery. Further down the line, in 1965 it merged with Ishizaki Sake Brewery Co., Ltd., and it is when the brewery was established under the name "Takasago Sake Brewery Co., Ltd."
Quite innovative in 1990 Takasago Brewery started to work with the environment taking advantage of the extremely cold climate (Asahikawa holds the record for the coldest temperature measured in Japan at -41C) . "氷雪囲い", "雪中貯蔵", and "雪氷室", are all terms related to brewing methods that take full advantage of the snowy winter climate. With some tanks are placed in igloos and others are even being moved (it is said to Biei), where the tanks are then buried in snow to let the sake age at a consistent low (-2C) temperature inside the tank.
If you want to drink one of these sake, look out for the “Ichiya Shizuku”, which is made by "fukuro-shibori", which means the bags filled with the mash are drained in the “Yukihimuro” (picture below).
It is also noteworthy that they are extremely community driven and engage in a lot of local initiatives. They are mainly using Hokkaido rice, 80% of their sake is made from it and are supporting many of the local rice farmers with projects including working with rice farmers in Enbetsu, the northernmost rice-producing area in Japan. Producing a glutinous rice called "Hakuchomochi" to produce their Junmai sake "Kitafubuki".
Find out more about their community engagement and project here.
This is a unique opportunity to look at what is happening inside a sake brewery and Tagasago Shuzo has been extremely passionate about sharing what they do, so it is one brewery you should check out if you are in Hokkaido. Even more so because of its unbeatable location, so close to Asahikawa JR station. And yes, the sake is also really great!
Tip: As you are already in Asahikawa, why not make it a full day of brewery visits and check out another brewery, and head over to Otokoyama Sake Brewery?
Address: Google Maps