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A Short Guide to Japanese Sake

Mieke A.

by GoWithGuide travel specialist:Mieke A.

Last updated : Mar 13, 20234 min read

Food & Drink

A Short Guide to Japanese Sake

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Japanese cuisine is conquering the world, and with it comes Japanese sake. However, many people are not familiar with the drink (yet). What are the different kinds? What kind of dishes does it pair well with? What temperature should it be?
Just read on and in minutes you will be a true 'sake-expert', leaves you only the extensive tasting of this delicious Japanese drink! Kanpai!  

What is sake?

Sake is an English term for what the Japanese call 'nihonshu' (litt. 'Japanese alchohol'; in Japan, 'sake' is a general term for all kinds of alcohol). It is also called 'rice wine', although the double fermentation process resembles that of beer rather than that of wine. It might have to do with the alcohol percentage sake holds, which is usually around 14-18% so is more similar to that of wine.

Sake is brewed from the no 1. favorite Japanese ingredient, read more...

What different types are there?

Like wine, one sake can have an entirely different taste than the next. Add that some sakes are drunk cold, while others hot, and you can easily get confused by a sake menu or a liquor shop interior.
However, there are a few terms you can look out for that will give you an idea of what you're about to drink. Read more...

Where is Japanese sake from?

Although there are some sake breweries in America and Europe, let's be traditionalist and focus for now on the sake from Japan. There are a few prefectures especially famous for sake production such as Niigata, Hyogo, and Hiroshima. But in fact, all prefectures in Japan except Kagoshima produce sake. There used to be a distinct type of flavor per region, read more...

Should I drink sake hot or cold?

After a hard days' work, what tastes better than a cold can of beer? Or, after an intensive afternoon on the skating rink, how sweet does a glass of warm glühwein taste?
The temperature of a drink (as with food) is very important for the overall flavor. Japanese sake is no exception. The only thing that is exceptional is that you can enjoy different types at different temperatures, ranging from fridge-cold (5oC) to tongue-scorching (50oC) temperatures. Read more...

What dishes does sake go well with?

As with wine, a well-paired sake can really enhance the flavor of dishes. In fact, some have argued that it might work even better than wine, since sake contains much more 'umami', or the fifth flavor, a kind of savory flavor with glutamate as its main taste agent. Also, sake is much more subtle than wine, and therefore does not overpower the tastes from the food. On the other hand, spicy or strongly flavored foods may overpower the sake instead. Read more on how to pair sake with dishes.

What are the social rules of drinking sake?

Drinking sake with other people in Japan can be truly called a ritual. There are many things one can observe while watching a group of Japanese drink. Make sure you don’t make a faux pas at the bar and read along.

Want to know even more about Japanese sake? Or try some of the better varieties yourself?
You can book a tour with our own sake-expert, Masa, in Tokyo:

Tokyo Tour Guide - Yasuro C.

Yasuro C.

4.80 / 5
(64 reviews)

Hello, my name is Yasuro (Mr). I was born and brought up in Kansai, graduated from a univ in Kobe city, after moved into Kanto, 30 years in Tokyo, 2.5 years in Nagoya city, 7.5 years abroad (KL & S'pore) as a rep of a construction company and I got the National Guide Certificate in 2011. My hobbies are making Haiku poems, singing various songs (voice-training for 18 years), playing the folk-guitar, trekking in mountains like Takao and Okutama in the West of Tokyo, visiting museums like in Ueno Park and travelling around Japan to make Haiku poems. Thank you for your attention.                                                                                                                                 

Yokohama Tour Guide - Haruo T.

Haruo T.

4.90 / 5
(10 reviews)

I live in Yokohama, Kanagawa prefecture. I have a license to teach in high schools and was admitted to the degree of Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Language in the University of Birmingham. Until 2015 I had been teaching English at public high schools in Kanagawa for 37 years. During that time, I had some experience of guiding students from overseas through sister-school relationship around Tokyo and Kanagawa. Therefore, I had good command of English with the TOEIC score of 935. As for a tour guide experience I earned the certificate of National Government Licensed Guide-Interpreter in English and since then I have guided tourists to the popular sites around Tokyo, Yokohama, Kamakura and Yokosuka. My guiding focuses on introducing not only Japanese historical and cultural backgrounds but also giving tourists some tips to travel Japan only by themselves, such as how to use trains and subways, find good restaurants, reserve tickets, buy survenier, and speak basic Japanese. In addition, my tour includes opportunities to experience Japanese culture like Zen meditation, ninja performance, visiting anime's location sites based on tourists' request. Besides, by means of my hobbies of writing English Haiku and Waka (traditional Japanese poems) and performing Rakugo (traditional Japanese funny story telling) in English, I can surely entertain tourists during the tour. My moto as a tour guide is let the tourists have a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Japan with my profound, intelligible and interestiog guiding.                                                                                                                                 

Tokyo Tour Guide - Grant A.

Grant A.

5.00 / 5
(14 reviews)

My name is Grant I lived more than 10 years in Japan. I graduated University and translation school in Tokyo. I am fluent in Japanese. I have a degree in Asian studies and have expert-level knowledge of Japanese culture and history. I have memorized the JR rail system across all of Japan, I use the same train timetable calculators as the station staff, and I have experience using bullet train passes that are exclusive to foreign visitors. I can optimally navigate the Tokyo underground and maximize value from a Tokyo metro pass and also understand Tokyo above ground which will allow for seamless transitions between different metro stations and landmarks with minimal backtracking. *There will be a price revision at the end of June* My tour fee is Half-Day Tour: 30,000yen for 1-5hours Full-Day Tour: 50,000yen for 5-12hours The time transiting to and from your hotel for pick up or drop off within Tokyo 23wards does not count towards the time. I am also able to guide historical sites and cities such as Kyoto, Kanazawa, Nikko, and Kamakura on request if you pay my rail fare. If your group is not a tour company and you simply ask me kindly for a 10,000yen discount and I will reduce the price of your tour until the end of June.                                                                                                                                 

Kanagawa Tour Guide - Kaneo U.

Kaneo U.

4.98 / 5
(43 reviews)

I’m so excited to have a chance to show you around my favorite spots in Kanagawa prefecture. I was born in Kanagawa. I spent my whole school life, including university, here in Kanagawa. I worked as a high school English teacher here for 40 years. I love Kanagawa so much. We have many interesting tourist spots, like Hakone, Kamakura, Enoshima and Yokohama. I got my tour guide license in English in 2009. I am still an English teacher. To give an interesting and impressive lesson to young high school students, I’ve learnt and gathered many kinds of information. I also have a license to teach social studies, so I have a wide range of knowledge about Japanese culture and history. I’m sure to provide you an interesting tour.                                                                                                                                 

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