Sipping sake: a dispatch from one of Japan's oldest breweries

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Tamara Hinson

0. The best places to try sake in Japan

Beyond Kawachinagano, there are plenty of places to get a taste of Japan's national drink. Here, we've picked four of our favourites:

1. Ozawa Brewery

The Ozawa Brewery can be found to the west of Tokyo, in Ōme City. It was founded in 1702 and is one of Japan's oldest sake brands. On the daily tours you'll learn about the country's favourite spirit, before touring the brewery and visiting the nearby Chichibu rock formation – the holes dug into the stone allow the brewery to collect the spring water which is used to make the sake.

There are two restaurants here, along with a beautiful Japanese garden and temple – and don't forget to pick up samples (or some beautiful sake glasses) at the gift shop.

2. Takeuchi Shuzo

The people behind this historic sake brewery, in Gifu prefecture's Ogaki city, have been making sake for years – for seven generations, in fact.

This is largely down to the region's ideal conditions – this part of Japan is otherwise known as the country's rice basket, and the spirit is made with fresh spring water from the nearby Suzuka mountains.

Visit for guided tours and the chance to sample some of Takeuchi Shuzo's best-selling sakes. There's also a small museum, filled with the different tools used by sake brewers over the years. You'll learn some fascinating facts, including how rice husks gathered during the sake-making process were used as insulation.

The land of the rising sun will always be the home of this potent, rice-based spirit

3. Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum

This sprawling Kyoto museum is owned by the Gekkeikan Sake Company. It's housed in an old sake brewery which dates back to 1909, and contains hundreds of rice wine production tools, along with more unusual items, including sake gift vouchers used during Japan's Edo period.

There's a large courtyard filled with enormous wooden sake vats, and in the brewery, visitors can watch the fermentation process before heading to the gift shop to sample different types of sake and to purchase their own supply. Gekkeikan is known for its colourful, unusually shaped bottles, making them ideal souvenirs – just remember to pack carefully.

4. Japan Sake and Shochu Information Center

Head to the Tokyo-based Japan Sake and Shochu Information Center to learn more about sake and to admire spectacular displays of equipment. It's a hi-tech affair –visitors can do their own research using the centre's tablets and there are more than 50 sakes to try.

A concierge is also on hand to offer advice about the different types of sake, as well as the best breweries to visit. The centre is well known throughout Tokyo and holds regular events, including talks and tasting events, throughout the city.

Images top–bottom (left–right): Pixabay/CC0; Tamara Hinson; Tamara Hinson; Tamara Hinson; Pixabay/CC0; Yoshikazu Takada/Flickr; Patrick Vierthaler/Flickr

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