Taste and Discover Local Chiba Sake in Matsudo City

Several times a year, the Matsudo Tourism Information Center organises a free Japanese sake tasting event featuring local sake from Chiba prefecture. After hearing about the event from Amelie, who was in Matsudo earlier this month, I made plans to visit the next event in this suburban city at the edge of Tokyo.


A Relaxing and Friendly Atmosphere

After arriving at Matsudo station, less than 20 minutes from Ueno station with the Joban line, we left the station through the West exit and walked a couple of minutes along the main road to the Matsudo City Tourism Association office. The wide front windows made it easy to spot it from the street. Once inside we were greeted warmly in English by Mai, who showed us up to the 2nd floor, where the sake event was being held.

Outside the Matsudo City Tourism Association

I’ve been to several sake tasting events in Tokyo and each time they’ve been very crowded. Here, on the other hand, it was easy to stop by each booth and chat with the representative from the brewery while trying their  sake. This was one big advantage of visiting an event outside the city center. If you don’t speak any Japanese, some English brochures are available. The event lasts from 11am to 5pm, and groups of people were trickling in and out all afternoon.

The booths are organised by brewery

A Wide Variety to Choose From

Another aspect of the event that I appreciated was that it was free. At other tasting events, I usually had to pay a small fee. Although you can try about two dozen different kinds of sake, it’s preferable to limit yourself to a few that seem interesting instead of trying them all. There were peanuts – a specialty of Chiba prefecture – and drinking water on a table in the middle of the room so that visitors could refresh their palate.

Point to the sake you’d like and the person from the brewery will pour some for you in a small tasting cup

When it comes to sake, I had never taken much notice of Chiba prefecture till recently. Earlier this year on a hike in the Yoro Valley in the Boso peninsula (Southern part of Chiba), I had the opportunity to taste some “jizake” or local sake, and it left me with a strong impression. I was looking forward to exploring this prefecture’s sake in more depth. According to an English brochure I received, half a dozen of the prefecture’s 40 breweries were represented. Apparently, the brewery line-up changes slightly each time, so it makes sense to attend more than once. Another reason to visit again is, that you can also sample seasonal sake that isn’t produced all year round.

Tasting freshly brewed sake

New Brews and Limited Edition Products

The first booth we stopped at was Nabedana, a 330-year old brewery in Narita city, just 5 kilometers from Narita airport and nearby Shinshoji Temple. They had a beautiful brochure in English about their brewery, including detailed information on the sake brewing process. Their “junmai ginjo” (sake polishing rate between 40% and 60%) version of their main brand “Jinyu” was one of the winners at The 2019 Fine Sake Award. Rather than a whole bottle, we opted for a smaller sake box that came with a cute mini “masu”. We also enjoyed their newly brewed sake using rice from this year’s autumn harvest.

This sake + masu set can be bought at Narita airport and makes a great souvenir or gift

We slowly made our way through the different booths and we liked everything we tasted, but the sake we liked best was “takeoka”, shown in the top photo, an unfiltered full-bodied “junmai” sake by Wakura Brewery from Futtsu city, not far from Nokogiriyama, on the Western side of the Boso Peninsula. Their main brand is called “seisen”. It was dry and had a pleasant vivid mouthfeel, like “namazake” but less acid, having been pasteurised just once (usually it’s twice). Since it was a limited edition we decided to buy a whole bottle to enjoy at home.

Bottle cap of sake from Wakura Brewery

Something for Every Taste

I was tempted to buy a bottle from Iwanoi brewery, which shared the same table, but comes from the other side of the peninsula, near Onjuku town, famous for its beach. According to their English pamphlet, their products are held in high esteem by sake enthusiasts. Both Jacques Chirac and Ronald Reagan tasted their sake while visiting Japan, and each brought bottles back with them. In 2016 their “yamahai” sake (using natural yeast) was ranked third by Robert parker’s Wine Advocate. The taste was very dry – a sake for men, we were told by the representative from the brewery.

Iwanoi’s Yamahai in the center

There was more sake from other breweries but unfortunately we couldn’t taste them all. However, we couldn’t resist one last sip after spotting sake aged in wine barrels. We tried the white wine version, and the sake had indeed acquired some of its flavour. If you get tired of tasting sake, you can also sample other alcoholic drinks from Chiba prefecture. We tried sparkling wine made from Chiba’s famous “nashi”, or Japanese pear. I’d recommend it to people who like a sweeter tasting alcohol.

I mostly stuck to tasting sake

Although Chiba prefecture is right next to Tokyo, some areas can take a long time to reach. For example, Wakura Brewery in Southern Boso is only 50km away from Tokyo station but it can take over 2 hours to get to that area by train! By travelling just twenty minutes to the Sake Tasting Event in Matsudo city, I was able to taste and buy sake from every corner of Chiba prefecture. I look forward to attending the next sake tasting event in Matsudo!

Read more about sake on the Tadaima Japan website

Read more about Matsudo on the Tadaima Japan website:

Matsudo: Discovering the Unexpected Charms of a Tokyo Suburb City

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AUTHOR

David

David

Writer / Translator

I’ve been in Japan for over 10 years although it feels shorter because I am constantly discovering new things and new places. Sometimes it can be hard to get the full Japanese experience because of cultural differences and linguistic barriers. For that reason, I want to share what I have learned in order to enhance your experience in Japan. Having said that, figuring out stuff on your own can also be fun. In any case, I hope you can find here whatever you need in order to make your stay a success.

Information

Address 7-3 Honcho, Matsudo, Chiba 271-0091
Hours 10am - 6pm
Price Free
Close Monday
Access 5mn on foot from JR Matsudo Station
Phone 047-703-1100
Language Japanese
English
Website http://matsudoinfo.sakura.ne.jp/