As the country’s capital for over 400 years, Tokyo boasts the best curated sake experiences. While sake saw a decline in drinkers in the postwar era, the recent craft sake boom has attracted people of all ages, removing the image of sake as an older person’s drink.
From local watering holes and reasonably priced “izakaya” (Japanese gastropubs), to trendy sake and food pairing restaurants, it’s not difficult to find a spot to sip on a glass or two or bring a bottle back with you. There are new bars and popup joints constantly appearing, but to start, here are some of the best sake bars in the city.
Hasegawa Saketen GranSta Tokyo
Where: B1 1-9-1 Marunouchi Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Mon-Sat), 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Sun, holidays)
Conveniently located inside Tokyo Station, the biggest train hub in Tokyo, Hasegawa Saketen is a worthy stopover. Here, the English-speaking concierge staff can assist you with their extensive list of sake, beer, shochu, liquors and wine. Linger at the standing bar for a few glasses of sake and nibbles, browse through their impressive lineup or grab a mini-bottle to accompany your long-distance train travels. Make sure to sample sake and “doburoku” (cloudy, unfiltered sake) brewed on premises.
It also has locations in Kameido (their original site), Azabu-juban, Tokyo Skytree Town and Nihonbashi.
Sake you may find there: Suigei “Tokubetsu Junmai”
Mirai Nihonten Kubota Sake Bar
Where: Shibuya PARCO, Floor B1, 15-1 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya, Tokyo
Hours: 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. (Mon-Sun)
This sake bar and shop operated by Kubota is located on the basement restaurant floor of Shibuya PARCO department store, nestled among other eateries and bars. There’s sake by the glass, sake cocktails and an all-you-can-drink course, but the most exciting offering is a sake blind tasting of 10 varieties that an AI will match to your preference.
Sake you may find there: Kubota “Senju”
Junmaishu Yata Shibuya
Where: 5F 1-6-9 Dogenzaka, ILA Dogenzaka Building, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. (Mon-Fri), 3 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. (Sat and Sun)
Curious to delve into the world of junmai sake? Check out Junmaishu Yata Shibuya, an elegant and cozy standing bar specializing in all things junmai. The friendly staff will happily suggest brands and drinking temperatures for beginners and enthusiasts. It offers a reasonable one-hour, 2,000-yen all-you-can-drink course, or sake by the glass if you prefer a slower pace.
It also has locations in Shinjuku and Shimbashi.
Sake you may find there: Taka “Noble Arrow”
Orihara Shoten (in Monzennakacho)
Where: 1-13-11 Tomioka, Orihara Monnaka building, Koto-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Mon-Sun)
Rub shoulders with the neighborhood crowd at Orihara Shoten, an old-school standing sake bar and retail shop in southeastern Tokyo. Unlike some of the sake bars listed above, it’s a no-frills local hangout spot with an intimate atmosphere where you can mingle with other drinkers.
While minimal English is spoken, it has an efficient system that does not require Japanese skills. Browse through the selection of 40-plus sake in the refrigerator, bring the bottle to the counter and tell them which glass size you want. Once you receive your glass of sake and pay, return the bottle to its original location. Should you need a break from sake, there’s also beer, highballs and “chuhai” (shochu cocktails.)
Sake you may find there: Tengumai “50”
Where: 1-6-1 Ebisuminami, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo atré Ebisu West Wing 4F
Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Mon-Sun)
A bar and liquor shop inside the Ebisu Station building, Kimijimaya Ebisu is a casual branch of the 130-year-old, fourth-generation store in Yokohama. From sake by the glass to tasting flights and tapas style small plates, it’s the perfect location to pregame before heading off to the many restaurants in the area. Besides sake, there’s shochu, wine, craft beer and spirits by the glass or bottle.
It has another location in Ginza.
Sake you may find there: Gangi “Yunagi”
Where: 2-29-2 Nishigotanda, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 12 p.m. to 9 p.m., bar open from 5 p.m. (Mon-Sat)
Tucked in a nondescript alleyway, Kuwabara Shoten is a family-owned sake bar, store and gallery space. During the day, before the bar opens, you can chat with the staff about your preferences and sample some sake for purchase in a more quiet environment before it gets loud and rowdy in the evening.
It offers over 200 bottles in its gigantic, customized showcase. Bar customers can choose from the daily selection of 40 brands in 30-milliliter, 60-milliliter and 180-milliliter sizes. Besides sake, check out the selection of craft beer, cider, non-alcoholic drinks and excellent Japanese bar snacks.
Sake you may find there: Mizubasho “Ginjo”
Nurukan Sato Gotenyama Saryo (Shinagawa Station)
Where: 2F Ecute Shinagawa 3-26-27, Takanawa, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Mon-Fri), 11:00 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Sun, holidays)
A sake bar with a full menu for those seeking to pair sake with food, Nurukan Sato Gotenyama Saryo is located inside Shinagawa Station, another central train hub. It’s the casual branch of the Nurukan Sato brand, with an impressive selection of 200 brands of sake in 11 different drinking temperatures. Stop over to try the sake samplers at the bar or sit down at the restaurant for a light or full course meal.
There are other casual and high-end locations in Yokohama, Shibuya, Roppongi, Ginza and more.
Sake you may find there: Shichida “Yamahai Umakuchi”
To prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), the bars and restaurants listed above may change their operating days or hours. Please check the official websites for the latest updates and information.