My secret destination for Wine, Whisky and Sake lovers is Chichibu area in Tokyo’s neighboring prefecture Saitama.
Located only about 2h north-west of Tokyo and conveniently connected via train, it makes a great day trip for anyone who is looking to explore Japan’s great drinks. With over 250 years of brewing history, Chichibu is proud to be known as a “brewing town”. Featuring four sake breweries, two wineries, a whisky distillery, and a beer brewery!
This makes Chichibu a great place to explore for a day or a weekend and for anyone who would like to try some of the local beverages.
Sake cups and Tokkuri | Photo Cindy Bissig
First is Japan’s national drink SAKE. With four breweries in Chichibu there sure is a bottle to be found for everyone.
The four sake breweries: Bukō Brewery, Yao Honten, Nagatorogura Brewery, and Chichibu Kikusui Brewery all date back to the Edo period (1603–1867) and have played a big part in the local community. Furthermore, the area is well-known for its water and has been included in the “100 Famous Waters” by Meisui Hyakusen (2008).
Bukō brewery, which are the makers of Masamune sake, offers a brewery tour and it was exciting to see how they make their sake as well as taste it. Many consider their sake to represent the taste of Chichibu. I also appreciated the beautiful store, which has been designated a national Tangible Cultural Property in 2004.
Bukō breweries Store | Photo Cindy Bissig
Although Japan has a short history of winemaking, there has been a huge demand. Local wine is easy to find, and many Japanese people love the flair of drinking a glass with their dinner or at a nice bar to unwind.
Chichibu area is home to two wineries, one of them being Usagida Winery. It opened its doors in 2014 as a part of the Farmer’s Factory, which is located in the Yoshida district. They produce a variety of wines, including Merlot and Muscat Bailey. The latter is made using 100% locally grown grapes.
They also offer wine tastings as well as free tours of their vineyard and I personally loved being able to sample their wines at the winery. Just be sure to contact them before as reservations are needed.
It is also possible to try their wine and food pairing at the nearby restaurant, which I thought was a great experience. If you do happen to visit in summer you may even get to try “Kachiwari”, a local favorite. Red wine served on the rocks in a beer stein often accompanying a summer BBQ.
Wine tasting at Usagida winery | Photo Cindy Bissig
Chichibu’s whisky distillery (Chichibu distillery) was founded in 2004, and its Ichiro brand has been widely acclaimed and praised for its unique approach to the beverage. Their whisky is loved both domestically and internationally and has won multiple awards including “Japanese Whisky of the Year” and the acclaimed “World’s Best Blended Limited Release.” To find out what makes Ichiro’s malt whisky so special, read our interview with beverage expert Mac from Kanpai Planet here.
Although Chichibu distillery does not currently offer tours, the whisky is served in many of the small bars in town, so hopping from one bar to another is a great way of sampling some of it and getting to know the friendly locals.
Ichiro whisky | Photo Kanpai Planet
This list would not be complete without mentioning Chichibu’s local beer “Bear Meet Beer”.
The microbrewery started in 2016 by husband and wife Tan and Yuka Kōdai. Who, after returning from a trip to Germany and visiting the famous Oktoberfest, decided to start brewing beer themselves.
I found their beer-tasting flights were a real highlight and they had some great small dishes to go with the beers too. Their brews are available on tap at Mahollo Bar, a really stylish establishment near Chichibu Shrine.
A beer tasting fight | Photos Cindy Bissig
If you like alcoholic beverages, then Chichibu area in Tokyo’s neighboring Saitama prefecture is definitely worth a trip. With ample chances to sample Japanese sake, whisky, wine and beer along with the local food and culture, it is perfect for foodies, beverage enthusiasts, and beginners who are interested to learn.
Whether you are looking for a day trip or a short getaway there is plenty to see and do in Chichibu. Aside from the culinary aspect Chichibu boasts beautiful nature along with great festivals (for more about Chichibu check our Chichibu Town Guide). So if you have some time off and feel like discovering some of the local beverages, make sure to visit Chichibu!
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I hope you enjoyed reading about this hidden gem just north of Tokyo, if you would like to know more about fun things to do and travel ideas, please continue to have a look at our must-see / must do things nearby Tokyo page.
To book unique activities in English, please see the Nearby Tokyo experience page.
Contributor: Cindy Bissig
Cindy is a writer and photographer living and documenting her Japan experience. As a Digital Nomad, she travels all around Japan to discover its beauty and share what she finds on her YouTube channel, as well as through her articles and photographs. She is particularly passionate about local culture, food and sake. Tune into her Podcast “Sake Unplugged” to learn more about it. Her goal is to show you an authentic Japan to make sure you have the best possible experience when you visit!
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