- Japanese Sake at Cost Price
- Famous Sake from All Over Japan
- Keping the Taste Fresh
- Pairing Food and Sake
Japanese Sake at Cost Price
Nihonshu Genka Sakagura (日本酒原価酒蔵) is a fairly new Tokyo-based sake restaurant chain with a very original concept: selling famous sake at cost price. “Sakagura” means “sake brewery” and also “sake cellar”, so the restaurant name could translate roughly as “The sake cellar of sake sold at cost price”.
Normal business practice dictates that restaurants and bars sell drinks with a markup, or above their buying price. For example, if a bottle of sake costs 1600 yen retail, an “ichigo” (one fourth of the bottle) might cost 600 yen or more. However, Nihonshu Genka Sakagura will charge you the price the sake cost them, so just 400 yen, and you don’t need to drink the remaining three quarters of the bottle, but you may if you like!
Famous Sake from All Over Japan
Nihonshu Genka Sakagura opened their first store in Shimbashi in 2015, and as of August 2019, they have 15 locations conveniently located near major stations along the Yamanote line in central Tokyo. Each branch is open daily from afternoon to midnight, and apparently, they all have slightly different decors and sake lists, so it can be interesting to visit more than one location. It’s also important to note that all branches are 100% non-smoking, still a rarity for large izakaya-style restaurants in Tokyo.
I’ve been to their Ikebukuro branch which had 35 kinds of sake on the regular menu, plus a few “special guests”. All are well-known and so, even if you are a total beginner, you can pick any one of them, and still have a great tasting experience. I recognized some brands I had tried before, and found a few that I had heard about, but hadn’t had a chance to taste…up until then!
The colour coded English menu organises the sake into easy-to-understand categories with short descriptions of each taste. For example, “Nanbu bijin”, a famous sake from Iwate in the light-dry category, is described as a sake that “has gorgeous fragrance and umami of rice”. This makes it easier to select the sake that best suits your taste. The menu also contains simple explanations of sake terms. At one point, be sure to try “Dassai”, arguably the most famous sake brand in Japan. Although it’s available in other countries, treating yourself to it abroad will cost you a lot more than enjoying it at cost in Japan!
Keping the Taste Fresh
Another unique characteristic of Nihonshu Genka Sakagura is that the sake is brought to your table in small 100ml glass bottles, chilled or at room temperature, whichever is best to fully enjoy the complex taste of the sake – some are also offered warm or hot. This may seem a bit odd at first, but although an opened bottle of sake keeps reasonably well for a while, after contact with the oxygen in the air, the taste will deteriorate slightly. In order to offer many kinds of sake, while keeping the taste from a freshly opened bottle, storing the bottle contents in smaller bottles is a good compromise.
The bottles are served with small plastified cards reproducing all the relevant information from the bottle label in Japanese, like the name, prefecture, rice milling rate, etc…Since the sake name is also printed in English, these cards provide a handy way to keep track of what you are drinking, and how much you have drunk!
Pairing Food and Sake
Although Nihonshu Genka Sakagura specialises in sake, they are also a restaurant, and thus have a wide variety of typical izakaya dishes (edamame, karaage, sashimi…), and dishes that go well with sake, including cheese. The food menu is also in English and has pictures of all the dishes, so it’s super easy to experiment with some sake-food pairing.
Although each restaurant can seat several dozens customers, the low cost concept means that Nihonshu Genka Sakagura can get quite full, especially on weekends, so make sure to reserve before going and arrive on time, otherwise your reservation may get cancelled. At busy times, your stay at the restaurant will also be limited to two hours. Their English website provides links for reserving online and Google maps for each shop. If you are staying at the Tadaima Japan Shinjuku Ryokan, then the closest branch is Shinjuku East Gate.
Finally, a good tip to avoid getting intoxicated while enjoying all this fine sake, is to drink lots of water. You can of course drink tap water provided at no charge (like in most restaurants in Japan) or you could try “shikomi water” (300 yen for 2 liters), special water used for brewing sake, and which, apparently, can prevent a hangover. Does it work? You’ll have to find out!
Read more about Japanese Sake on the Tadaima Japan website:
If you choose to visit this restaurant after reading this article, don’t hesitate to tell the staff you found out about them through the Tadaima Japan website.
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