Home Japan Tips Where to Buy Japanese Sake? Complete Guide to Buy Sake in Japan

Where to Buy Japanese Sake? Complete Guide to Buy Sake in Japan

by Ryu_C@RakuRakuJP

A shopping guide for those planning to buy alcohol in Japan

Japanese sake often gives people an old-fashioned feeling, as if only "grandfather level" is suitable for drinking Japanese sake. But if you have the opportunity to drink some well-known Japanese sake, especially in high-end sushi restaurants, hot spring hotels, kaiseki restaurants, etc., you will find that the Japanese sake they give you is completely different from what you imagined . Many of them are very fresh, with a little floral and fruity aroma, and there is no unpleasant alcohol taste at all.

Then when you are about to leave Japan and arrive at the duty-free shop at the airport, you may also want to buy a bottle of Japanese sake to go home and continue to relive the experience of that glass of high-end Japanese sake that day.
But today’s article is to tell you that when buying sake in Japan, there are places where Japanese sake should never be bought, and where Japanese sake sold is safer? Where do local Japanese often go to buy Japanese sake? Also, if it is the first time to buy Japanese sake, which brands are worth recommending?

Pay attention to the storage temperature of Japanese sake when purchasing

Although Japanese sake is sold in many places in Japan, not all Japanese sake is available and worth buying. Because Japanese wine is different from the canned beer usually bought in supermarkets, JapanSake is extremely sensitive to temperature, as long as it is placed in a slightly high temperature place, the wine body will easily change its taste in the bottle.

Some stores may have no experience in storing Japanese sake, or customers have low requirements for Japanese sake. As a result, some chain stores and airport duty-free shops often sell Japanese sake under high-temperature spotlights. Although selling products under spotlights is a very common way to promote products, it is not beneficial to the quality of Japanese sake.

Because the normal way of selling Japanese sake is to put all the stock in the refrigerator for sale, just like buying fresh milk in the supermarket, and never sell fresh milk under high-temperature spotlights.

It is also because the current Japanese sake production technology is biased towards bringing out the experience of fruity and floral aromas, which is different from the previous Japanese sake with a strong alcoholic taste. If placed in a high temperature environment for a long time, those unique fragrances will be destroyed. Therefore, basically only Japanese sake that has been placed in a low-temperature storage environment for a long time can preserve the aroma and experience that the winemaker hopes to bring to you.

If you are going to buy Japanese sake at the store, they store Japanese sake randomly, completely ignoring the storage temperature required for Japanese sake, it is better not to buy these wines.

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Pay attention to the production year of Japanese sake when purchasing

Although Japanese sake does not need to indicate the "best before date" like other fresh foods. But on the other hand, Japanese sake is not red wine, and it will not become more mellow as it is stored for a long time. Generally speaking, when a Japanese sake is successfully produced and leaves the brewery, it should be drunk within one year, so that you can experience the purest aroma and taste.

Although some people will say that there are some examples of Japanese sake that have been stored for many years, Japanese sake is different from ordinary red wine. The maturation process of those Japanese sake is all matured under strict monitoring in the environment of the winery. As I said at the beginning, Japanese sake is extremely sensitive to temperature changes. As long as a stick of Japanese sake is placed in a high temperature environment for a period of time, irreversible changes will occur.
Therefore, if you plan to buy mature sake, you should choose some wineries that can produce mature sake.

Although the chances of buying "expired" Japanese sake in Japan are not high, but if you are in some shops that are not crowded and do not mainly sell Japanese sake, their views on Japanese sake products may be the same as other tourist souvenirs. Some tourists are willing to buy it, and they don't care whether the wine tastes good or not, as long as it is not damaged and the "best before date" is not exceeded.
They will also feel that it is not their responsibility whether the tourists buy this wine back, whether it tastes good or not. Anyway, even if it is not good, those passengers who do not drink Japanese sake often will not know how to distinguish.

Pay attention to the placement method when purchasing

In addition to the fact that Japanese sake is very sensitive to temperature changes, you need to pay more attention to the way you usually store Japanese sake. If a store selling Japanese sake wouldPut Japanese sake horizontally, just like placing red wine normally. basicallyAll Japanese sake in this store can be completely ignored.

That is because the biggest difference between Japanese sake and red wine is that the bottle caps of Japanese sake are usually metal caps, and only a few brands of high-priced Japanese sake use plastic caps. The biggest problem with placing Japanese sake horizontally is thatMetal bottle caps react chemically with Japanese sake, affects the quality of Japanese sake and the taste it can give you after opening the bottle.

You may also ask, why can't Japanese sake be placed horizontally, but red wine can? That’s because there is no chemical reaction between red wine and cork cork, and the cork needs to be soaked for a long time so that it will not crack and fall due to drying, which will affect the brand of red wine.

Therefore, if you are buying Japanese sake, especially some cheap and popular chain stores and airport stores whose main customers are foreign tourists, if you find that their habit of placing Japanese sake on the spot is to place it horizontally, then It is better to avoid all Japanese sake in the shop. It’s better to save the money to eat more ramen, or if you like to drink Japanese sake, it would be better to go to a high-end sushi restaurant to order a few more drinks.

Further reading:
Best Sake for Beginners: Complete Guide to Pick the Best Sake for Yourself

Recommended places to buy Japanese sake in Japan

Although buying sake in Japan seems to have many pitfalls to avoid, in fact, as long as you find some reliable stores, it is not as difficult as you think to successfully buy high-quality Japanese sake at a reasonable price.

department store

If you are not traveling to Japan for the first time, you may have heard of Takashimaya Department Store, Isetan Department Store Isetan, Mitsukoshi Department Store and other famous department stores. But I should have never thought about it. It turns out that these places are the places where local Japanese often go to buy Japanese sake.

Take Isetan Department Store and Takashimaya Department Store as examples, their basement 1/F is usually a place that sells fresh food. And in a corner next to it will be their specialty store selling Japanese sake.

You can buy Japanese sake at ISETAN Department Store in Tokyo
The Japanese sake corner on the basement 1/F of the Isetan Department Store in Shinjuku (Photo: ISETAN MITSUKOSHI)

The advantage of buying Japanese sake in high-end Japanese department stores is that most of the Japanese sake will be stored in refrigerators for sale. Only when it is taken to pay and packaged will it be placed at room temperature. Basically, there will be no situation where Japanese sake is irradiated with high-temperature spotlights.
In addition, these department stores are probably located in tourist areas. The staff of the department stores are very proficient in answering questions in English and arranging tax refunds. If the Japanese skills are not very good, and they don’t want to spend time searching for other Japanese sake It is a more reliable solution to buy Japanese sake in department stores.

Another point is that the Japanese sake specialty store will also hold occasional drinking tasting sessions. They will take out a few specially selected Japanese sake for promotion. If you don’t know much about Japanese sake but want to buy one to take home, you can try it It's too late to decide whether to buy a small cup or not.

Buy Japanese sake from Japanese sake retailers

If you want to really like Japanese sake, how can you only be satisfied with buying it in a department store? If you already have a certain level of Japanese ability and Japanese sake knowledge, you can go to Japanese sake retailers in some big cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, etc. to buy Japanese sake.

The advantage of buying Japanese sake from these retailers is that you can buy some wines that do not appear in department stores, especially Japanese sake produced by some small breweries, some unique sake produced in a limited number every year, and so on. Those who will go to these places to buy Japanese sake will be those who are particularly fond of Japanese sake culture.

If you simply want to experience Japanese sake, it is still more suitable to buy it in a department store. Because the addresses of these retailers are not necessarily in popular tourist areas, and their main customers are local Japanese, they may have less experience in dealing with foreign tourists, and it is more likely that the tax refund procedures may never be processed. However, communication problems are probably expected.
So if you just buy a small amount of Japanese sake and go home, you can basically buy high-quality Japanese sake at a department store, and you will also get a good shopping experience.

You can buy Japanese sake at specialty stores in Tokyo
In some residential areas, such as the Itabashi side of Tokyo, there are several retail stores specializing in sake (Photo: © LINE CONOMI)

Buy Japanese sake directly from the brewery

In addition to purchasing Japanese sake in different retail locations, there is another method worth considering, and that is to buy directly from the brewery.

If your travel itinerary is arranged near KyotoFushimi Gekekikan Brewery, Itinerary from the Nagoya area to Takayama, or your travel itinerary will pass through Fukushima Prefecture, Niigata Prefecture, Yamaguchi Prefecture, etc., these areas with many Japanese sake breweries. You will definitely have the opportunity to pass by their retail outlets and talk to the brewery staff to buy the latest Japanese sake.

The advantage of buying Japanese sake directly from the winery staff is that you can guarantee that the Japanese sake you buy will be the freshest and most guaranteed product, and you will never find it in the winery’s specialty store. The problem.
Although the selection of tastes will be less than that of department stores, but the price and quality of Japanese sake will definitely be better than those sold in other retail outlets.

Purchase at sake festivals in Japan

Sometimes on the way to different attractions, you will also find some open-air exhibitions focusing on Japanese sake. These are fairs that bring together different local wineries and usually anyone is welcome to come and try a few of their new products for the price of a tasting experience. If you like some of the Japanese sake, you can also buy it directly at home.

For example, in the video below, the sake festival held in Hiroshima City as an example, a total of 600 different wineries were invited to participate in the exhibition, and those who entered the exhibition could taste Japanese sake from different regions of Japan. Although all the wine festivals held in Hiroshima City this time require pre-purchased admission tickets, but because this wine festival is a relatively large exhibition, there is such an arrangement.
If it is a relatively small sake festival, for example, if there are only a dozen breweries, you can enter and experience different Japanese sake without making an appointment. It doesn’t matter if you are not a local Japanese resident, generally they can speak some simple English, as long as you remember not to drink too much and follow their rules, you will probably have no problems.

The open-air Japanese sake exhibition is the easiest place to experience the Japanese drinking culture (Video: 広島テレビニュース)


After years of continuous changes in Japanese sake, different brewing techniques have been developed, allowing the same transparent Japanese sake to show different tastes and aromas. If you are a novice who is just starting to try Japanese sake, it is highly recommended that you try Japanese sake produced by different wineries, for example, there are several branches in TokyoKurand Sake MarketIt is a good travel experience, because you can try almost 100 Japanese sake produced by different wineries there. If you find that some are suitable for your taste after trying, you can also pay for them on the spot and buy them at home.

In addition, if you want to buy a few while traveling in Japan next time, you can also lock in the well-known Japanese sake such as "Dasai", "Ban", and "Hakkaisan" at Isetan, which is suitable for beginners. brand. If you buy it and use it with sushi, you will experience the difference in taste and aroma of Japanese sake before and after eating sushi!

Of course, if brands such as "Dasai", "Fan", and "Hakkaisan" are not enough for you, there are actually other unique brands that you can try. If you also want to know about those brands, you must not miss the follow-up new article about Japanese sake!

Note: Excessive drinking will be harmful to the body, and you must not drive after drinking! In addition, there is an age limit for purchasing any alcohol in Japan, so be sure to abide by Japanese laws when purchasing!

Further reading:
Sake Brewery Tour in Kyoto Fushimi
Free travel in Tokyo – Experience Tokyo Izakaya KURAND SAKE MARKET|Free flow of more than 100 kinds of Japanese sake

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