Niigata, a leading producer of rice in Japan, is home to many breweries that make Japanese sake from rice. This region boasts one of the biggest production outputs of sake in the country. Sake made here is known for its smooth and refreshing taste. Below are five handpicked spots in Niigata where you can drink delicious local sake.
1. Kura no Ma
Kura no Ma is a place that only has private rooms, where you can enjoy Japanese sake from all over the country. It has a collection of famous local sake from Niigata, including Kubota Senju (864 JPY (incl. tax)), Koshi no Kanbai Futsu-shu White Label (864 JPY (incl. tax)), and Kikusui Karakuchi (648 JPY (incl. tax)). For those who want to drink and compare several types of Japanese sake, the Premium Nomihodai (premium all-you-can-drink set), which will let you drink all the items on the drinks menu, is highly recommended. All you have to do is add 500 JPY to the San-Jikan no Nomihodai-tsuki Course (3-hour course with all-you-can-drink) (3,500 JPY (incl. tax) to 6,000 JPY (incl. tax) per person).
This shop is particular about Japanese sake, offering a collection of more than 70 types of sake at all times. When you visit, you have to try the Ichijo (900 JPY – 2,280 JPY (excl. tax) per shot) series that was created by a prestigious local brewery from the best rice available. It is a prized local sake that is only sold in Niigata. The Mizu no Miyako Ryuto Junmai Ginjo (800 JPY (excl. tax)), named after the way the old urban area of Niigata is called, is also an exquisite sake that is only available in Niigata. Further, you can have local sake (180 JPY (excl. tax)) that is served in a bite-sized ochoko (sake cup).
3. Ponsh bar KiKi
Ponsh bar KiKi is a Japanese sake bar where guests can enjoy not only Niigata’s local sake, but also different delicious sake from around Japan at very reasonable prices of as low as 300 JPY (incl. tax) per shot. The size of the glass that is used to serve the sake is about a third (60ml) of a regular shot. This bar’s sake menu changes depending on the deliveries, so what you will be able to drink is something fun to look forward to when you visit. Taste the sake with your own tongue and try to find the drink that best suits you. Appetizers and snacks can already be very filling, but note that this bar also offers a lineup of dishes that perfectly match sake.
4. Hana no Me
Hana no Me is a Japanese cuisine restaurant that showcases the bounties of Niigata through food, serving dishes that mainly incorporate the fruits of the Niigata’s sea and land. It has a constant stock of more than 30 types of Japanese sake. You have to try the priceless local sake such as Tokugetsu (3,400 JPY (incl. tax) per shot), Senshin (3,400 JPY (incl. tax) per shot) and Hokusetsu YK35 (2,800 JPY (incl. tax) per shot) that is made in Sado Island. They also have a “kikisakeshi” (sake connoisseur), a sommelier of Japanese sake, so you can ask for his help in finding that sake that fits your taste.
5. Tsurumaru Niigata Ekimae Shop
Headquartered in Itoigawa, Tsurumaru Niigata Ekimae Shop is the branch in front of Niigata Station that is obsessed about the use of ingredients from Niigata. When it comes to Japanese sake, this bar has more than 30 types of local sake in its menu, including the five types of sake (prices ranging from 400 JPY (incl. tax) to 460 JPY (incl. tax) for a shot in a large sake cup) that are made by five breweries in Itoigawa. You can also order value plans such as the Kikisake Set (650 JPY) that will let you choose three sake from a selection of 30 local sake, and the all-you-can-drink set for 30 types of local sake by adding 500 JPY to the Ni-Jikan no Nomihodai-tsuki Course (2-hour course with all-you-can drink) (prices start at 4,000 JPY (incl. tax) per person).
The secrets to the delicious sake in Niigata are the superior rice used as raw material, pure water and skills of the brewer. Further, the low-temperature, long-term fermentation brought about by the biting cold winter creates the light and clean finish of the sake. The taste of sake varies depending on the brewer, so make sure to try and compare them.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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