Jul 26, 2018

My Favorite Sake Brewery in Japan

Gallery - Tamagawa Brewery & "Yukikura" -- Uonuma City, Niigata

My Favorite Sake Brewery in Japan photo

I love nihonshu, or, as most people know it, Japanese sake.  It's probably one of the reasons why I love living in Niigata so much, since the combination of pure water and delicious rice make for Japan's best sake.  Still, whenever I travel around Japan, I enjoy stopping by local sake breweries and tasting their products, since every place has a different take on this traditional rice wine.  More than just the difference between class of sake (ginjo, daiginjo, junmai, etc.) or flavor (karakuchi vs. amakuchi), the subtle differences often represent the tastes and culture of the surrounding area.  After all, a place that tends to have more flavorful food will pair a different type of sake with it than a place that offers more subtlety in its dishes.  Also, the type of water and variety of rice used from those different regions affects the finished products.

So, I've been to many breweries across the country, and I've settled on one small one as my absolute favorite: Tamagawa Brewery in Uonuma City.

I've been there many times now, (although never in the dead of winter since I'm not sure my car would make it up there!), and I'm never disappointed.  I wanted to take the opportunity to share some photos from the brewery in case anyone is heading up this way.  The brewery is certainly worth a side trip, though if you can't make it, maybe you'll be able to live vicariously through me and my pics.

Now Tamagawa is not the biggest sake brewery in the area.  Hakkaisan brewery is king over here, and if you visit any of the Hakkaisan facilities, you'll see large warehouses and storehouses that reflect its massive manufacturing processes.  After all, Hakkaisan sake is served in restaurants all over the country and has started shipping abroad as well.

Tamagawa has the opposite feeling to it.  Although its products are excellent (better than Hakkaisan, I think) and it produces fairly large quantities for distribution, the facility is relatively small and the staff all treat guests with great omotenashi (hospitality).  

The brewery offers free tours of the facilities (usually lasting around 30 minutes) as well as the best tasting I have ever enjoyed, with 15-20 varieties of liquor available to try (for free, no less).  It's not just nihonshu either, as there are varieties of wines and bourbons on the menu as well.

The highlight of the brewery is its "Yukikura," or storage facility that uses the massive Niigata snowfall to keep the sake stored at just the right temperature.  Even in summer, the mound of snow is still visible, and you can take a trip inside to check out the store room.

Tamagawa brewery is open everyday from 9:00 - 16:00 (except New Year's Day).  It is located at 1643 Suhara, Uonuma, Niigata Prefecture, and the number is 025-797-2017.  They do not have an English language website, but the Japanese website is here.



Hitting the books once again as a Ph.D. student in Niigata Prefecture. Although I've lived in Japan many years, life as a student in this country is a first.

Blessed Dad. Lucky Husband. Happy Gaijin (most of the time).