Visiting a sake brewery in Japan is a great experience, especially if you get to see a traditional one. It feels like stepping back in time, as they are filled with so much history. It is a real privilege to be able to see and learn more about the people who make the sake, their traditions, and of course the sake they make.
One of these breweries is Katayama Brewery, a small traditional sake brewery showcasing their craft in Nikko. Visiting them is a unique chance to have a look at what they do.
A family run sake brewery near Nikko in Tochigi
This small sake brewery in Nikko is incredibly charming. Just one train stop from the famous Nikko, with its temples and shrines, I thought it was easily reachable by public transport, making it the perfect spot to visit if you are looking for something a little different to do close to Tokyo.
In fact, if you are making your way up, you could even visit two sake breweries in one day, as Watanabesahei is just down the road (find out more here), making your trip double worth it!
A look into the historic sake brewery at Katayama Shuzo
The Katayama family has been brewing sake in Nikko ever since they settled here in 1879 from Niigata. Their sake is traditionally made, without much modern machinery involved. This makes visiting this brewery a special treat. Looking around the brewery is almost like walking into a functional museum and the sake press itself is worth coming to see, to be honest.
As I was shown around, I also learned that not using modern machines and technology is also the reason behind the brewery starting to make sake later than most breweries in Japan. With many beginning brewing around October, Katayama Brewery does not start until December, relying on the temperature to drop, for the climate inside the brewery to be perfect to make their popular genshu sake, which is unfiltered and unpasteurized.
Every turn you take, there is something new to discover
As already mentioned this is a very small family-run brewery and especially in the winter months they are extremely busy making sake, so make sure to contact them here to book a tour in advance.
All their sake is only available at the brewery shop
Meeting Katayama-san and being shown around the brewery by him was such a pleasure. He is extremely friendly, however, he’s not a native English speaker, but goes out of his way to try to communicate. He even has a small translation device that he brings with him to make sure he can answer questions properly. So although I am sure one or two things got lost in translation, I felt I learned a lot about how sake is made here. On top of that, they have also invested in an easy-to-use QR code system, with scannable codes placed around the brewery, so in case you do need that extra bit of information this will help you to understand the basics behind sake brewing in English.
The staff is happy to help you to find the perfect sake
Once the tour was over and as we walked back to the shop, it was hard not to find a new appreciation for their sake, having seen how much work goes into it. With only one thing left to do, which is the informal tasting, it was the perfect way to finish the tour.
However, as your eyes wander around the room you may notice a few rugby jerseys on the wall, which at first I thought seemed a little out of place. Until I had a closer peek into their fridges, which revealed something rather special – the All Blacks sake. So if you are a Rugby fan, make sure to pick up a bottle of this, as rumour has it that there are only a few bottles left.
An unexpected sight in a Japanese sake brewery – Rugby jerseys
–Brewery Tour times: Please use the contact form to arrange the time for you visit.
–Sake Tasting and Tour Fee: Please ask the brewery as availability will change depending on the season.
–What to expect: Find out more at Katayama Sake Brewery: Katayama Sake Brewery English website
–Access: Located just short of 2 hours north of Tokyo.
By Train (JR): Get on the Tohoku-Hokkaido Shinkansen and get off in Utsunomiya to change for the Nikko line. Get off at Imaichi station. This will cost you about 5,150Yen, unless you have a JR Pass, in that case, you wouldn’t need to pay for the train. (10 min walk from the station)
By Train (Tobu): Take the express trains (SPACIA or REVATY) from Tokyo, the direct train is leaving from Asakusa station and get off at Shimo-Imaichi station. (15 min walk from the station)
–Close by: If you wanted to check out the shrines of Nikko, it is only a 7 min train ride, so it is extremely close. You can also check out the Tobu Nikko Free pass, a pass including the train (Tobu line), bus and discounts on other attractions, more info to it here.
–Address: 146-2 Segawa, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1263(Google Map)
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Sake Breweries in Nikko
Traveling through Utsunomiya tonight? Looking for a fun experience? Look no further and use our Utsunomiya Night Guide to explore Utsunomiya.
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!
youtube: Let’s Travel and Eat