Sponsored by Saga Prefectural Tourism Federation
Hizenhama in Saga has a long history of Sake brewing. Visit to see the old breweries and sample some sake brewed with the finest ingredients.
With the locally grown rice and water from mountain springs, this area of the country is ideal for sake brewing. Saga actually has areas with some of the best water in Japan, vital for making good sake! There are many companies here who have been making sake for many years, and you can sample some of them for free.
There are several breweries along Sakagura Avenue, in the Hizenhamashuku. This is also where you can see many old houses dating back to the Edo period. When you arrive here you can smell the sake in the air and see the brewery chimneys above the rooftops. The area has been connected with sake brewing since the 17th century.
The breweries of Hizenhama
Fukuchiyo Brewery is the maker of Saga’s most well known sake – Nabeshima. This award winning sake is a staple of izakayas in the prefecture and well known among sake lovers around Japan. Established in the early 20th century, this brewery is now registered as “Important Cultural Property”.
The Nakashima Brewery is the oldest one in the town. Free sake tasting is available here. Opposite the brewery is the old building where the owners used to live.
The Mitsutake Brewery has been making sake since 1688 and was established as a company in 1955. For generations it has been run by the Mitsutake family.
The Minematsu Brewery was established in 1916, and you can try sake here for free! See below for details.
You can also see the former home of the Kuretake Brewery. This building is now sometimes used for concerts and events. From outside you can see this impressive structure
Free Sake tasting at the brewery
In the Minematsu brewery you can sample many kinds of sake, as well as shochu and umeshu, for free! Whether you love sake or have never tried it, this is your chance to try all different kinds and find something to suit your tastes. There are sakes from different breweries in the area, with some limited editions so you can try something very unique.
Saga sake is known for its rich flavour. Judges of sake tastes have often referred to it as some of the best sake. Visit for a chance to see why, and when you find something you like you can take a bottle home with you. Prices range from 1300 yen and up per bottle. You can try sake from the Minematsu and Mitsutake breweries here.
Along with sake, you can sample types of shochu – another kind of Japanese liquor. There are two main types – imo and mugi, or sweet potato and wheat. One unique kind they have is make from yaki-imo. Rather than using uncooked sweet potato, this type is make from cooked sweet potato. This is the kind you can see being sold from carts wrapped in brown paper, so the bottle is also wrapped in paper like this!
There are also some fruit liquors you can try, like umeshu – plum wine. This one has a sweet taste and is easy to drink. The kind make here has a mix of honey and brandy, giving it a rich smooth taste.
Non alcoholic options are also available. These include fruit vinegar drinks, which can also be mixed with kinds of sake and shochu. Some of the flavours are apple and yuzu, perfect if you like fruity drinks!
Minematsu Brewery is open from 10:00 to 17:00. The owner and staff are very friendly and helpful!
See how Sake is made
In the last weekend of March, a Sake Festival is held. Six breweries are all open for viewers to come in and see how their sake is made. You can meet the owners.
Visit the Showa Room
In the back of the Minematsu Brewery they also have the Showa Room. This nostalgic room is filled with all kinds of artefacts from the Showa era (1926-1989). The walls are decorated with records by popular Japanese artists, and you can see some old photographs and machines like typewriters and record players. It’s like a mini museum!
How to find these breweries
The breweries are located in Hizenhamashuku, which is just a five minute walk from Hizenhama Station. You can get to this station by local train on the JR Line. If you visit you can also experience the nostalgic atmosphere of the area – see this article for information on the old houses.
For a look into this industry with a long history, and a chance to try what is considered some of Japan’s best sake, visit the breweries of Hizenhama.
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