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Saijo Sake Tasting – Tour Japan’s Sake Brewery Town


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Garnette Salgado



Welcome to Saijo, a charming town nestled in Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan. Known as the Sake Brewery Town, Saijo offers a unique and immersive experience for sake enthusiasts and travelers alike. With its rich history and traditional brewing techniques, Saijo has become a mecca for sake lovers from around the world.


The town of Saijo has a deep connection to sake that dates back centuries. Its favorable climate and pure water sources create the perfect conditions for sake production. With over 10 local breweries, Saijo has gained a reputation for producing some of the finest sake in Japan.


Stepping into Saijo feels like entering a world where time slows down and tradition takes center stage. The streets are lined with traditional wooden sake breweries, known as kura, each with its own distinct character and brewing techniques. From the intoxicating aroma of fermentation to the sound of sake being polished, every step in Saijo is a sensory delight for the sake connoisseur.


But Saijo is not just a place to taste sake; it’s an opportunity to delve into the artistry and cultural significance of this revered beverage. Sake brewing is considered a time-honored craft in Japan, and Saijo is at the heart of this tradition. Here, you can witness the meticulous brewing process, learn about the role of local ingredients, and discover the secrets behind the complex flavors of sake.


Whether you’re a seasoned sake enthusiast or simply curious about Japanese culture, Saijo offers an immersive experience that goes beyond just drinking. It’s a chance to learn, appreciate, and savor the ancient craft of sake brewing. So, embark on a journey with us as we explore Saijo’s sake breweries, taste the finest sake, and discover the soul of Japan’s Sake Brewery Town.


History of Saijo Sake Brewery Town

The history of Saijo as a sake brewing town traces back several centuries, making it a place deeply rooted in the tradition of sake production. The origins of Saijo’s sake brewing heritage can be traced back to the Kamakura period (1185-1333), when the region first started cultivating rice for sake production.


During the Edo period (1603-1868), Saijo flourished as a sake brewing town. The area’s fertile soil and pristine water sources made it the ideal location for brewing sake. Local breweries thrived, and Saijo’s reputation as a hub for high-quality sake began to grow.


As sake production increased, so did the demand for transportation. Saijo became an important stop along the Sanyo Road, a major trade route that connected Hiroshima with Osaka. This provided the breweries in Saijo with easy access to markets, further boosting their growth and influence.


One of the key factors that contributed to Saijo’s success as a sake brewing town was the establishment of the Nishi Sake Guild in 1902. This guild brought together local brewers to share knowledge, improve techniques, and ensure the quality of Saijo sake. The Nishi Sake Guild played a crucial role in elevating Saijo’s reputation as a center of excellence for sake production.


Unfortunately, during World War II, many of Saijo’s breweries were heavily damaged or destroyed. Despite this setback, the resilient spirit of the town’s sake brewers prevailed, and they worked hard to rebuild their businesses in the post-war era.


Today, Saijo is home to a diverse range of sake breweries, each with its own unique history and brewing methods. Many of these breweries have been passed down through multiple generations, preserving the time-honored techniques and traditions that make Saijo’s sake so exceptional.


As you walk through the streets of Saijo, you can feel the weight of history and tradition in the air. The town’s sake breweries stand as living testaments to the perseverance and passion of the people who dedicated their lives to the art of sake brewing in this picturesque corner of Japan.


The Sake Brewing Process

The production of sake, known as Nihonshu in Japanese, involves a meticulous and intricate brewing process that has been honed over centuries. Understanding the sake brewing process is essential to fully appreciate the craftsmanship and complexity behind each bottle of this iconic Japanese beverage.


1. Rice Polishing: The first step in sake brewing is rice polishing. Sake rice grains, known as shuzo kotekimai, are carefully milled to remove the outer layers, leaving behind the starchy core. The level of polishing directly impacts the final flavor and quality of the sake.


2. Washing and Soaking: After polishing, the rice is washed to remove any impurities. Once clean, the rice is soaked to ensure even absorption of water, which is crucial for proper fermentation.


3. Steaming: The soaked rice is then steamed in large steamers, using traditional methods or modern equipment. The steaming process allows the rice to become soft and gelatinous, making it easier for enzymes to convert starches into sugars during fermentation.


4. Koji-Making: Koji is a crucial element in sake production. Steamed rice is mixed with koji-kin, a mold culture (Aspergillus oryzae), and left in a warm, humid environment to allow the mold to grow. The koji-kin converts the rice starches into fermentable sugars, a process known as saccharification.


5. Moromi Fermentation: In this step, the koji rice, steamed rice, yeast, and water are combined to create the moromi, or sake mash. The moromi is placed in fermentation tanks, where the yeast consumes the sugars and converts them into alcohol. This fermentation process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months.


6. Pressing: Once the fermentation process is complete, the moromi is pressed to separate the liquid sake from the remaining solids. The clear liquid is the sake we are familiar with, while the leftover solids can be used for other purposes, such as making sake kasu (sake lees) or sake-flavored snacks.


7. Filtration and Pasteurization: After pressing, the sake goes through a filtration process to remove any remaining impurities and sediments. Depending on the type of sake being produced, it may be pasteurized to stabilize the flavor and prolong its shelf life.


8. Aging and Bottling: Some varieties of sake, particularly premium and aged sakes, undergo a maturation process to enhance their flavors and aromas. After aging, the sake is carefully bottled and labeled for distribution.


By understanding the sake brewing process, you can appreciate the craftsmanship, dedication, and attention to detail that goes into each bottle. From the careful rice polishing to the intricate fermentation techniques, every step in the process contributes to the distinctive flavors and characteristics of sake.


Exploring Saijo’s Sake Breweries

Exploring the sake breweries of Saijo is like stepping into a world of tradition, craftsmanship, and sensory delights. The town is home to over 10 breweries, each offering a unique experience and a chance to taste their exquisite sake.


One of the highlights of visiting Saijo’s sake breweries is the opportunity to take guided tours, where you can witness the sake brewing process up close. Knowledgeable guides will walk you through the various steps, from rice polishing to fermentation, providing fascinating insights into the artistry and techniques involved in making sake.


Each brewery has its own distinct character and brewing methods, giving you a chance to sample a wide variety of flavors and styles. From dry, crisp sakes to rich and full-bodied ones, Saijo’s breweries offer something for every palate. Some breweries even offer unique and limited-edition sake that can only be found in Saijo.


As you wander through the streets of Saijo, you’ll notice the traditional wooden facades of the breweries, known as kura. These buildings are not only functional but also serve as a testament to the town’s rich sake brewing history. Their rustic charm adds to the overall ambiance of Saijo and creates a picturesque setting for sake tasting.


In addition to tasting sake, many of the breweries have small shops where you can purchase bottles of your favorite sake as souvenirs. Here, you can also find sake-related accessories and local products that complement the sake-tasting experience.


For those who want to delve deeper into the world of sake, some breweries offer sake appreciation classes or workshops. These interactive sessions allow you to learn about the different types of sake, the art of sake pairing, and the nuances of sake tasting. It’s a fantastic opportunity to expand your knowledge and truly immerse yourself in the world of sake.


Throughout the year, Saijo also hosts various sake-related events and festivals, such as the Saijo Sake Festival, where you can indulge in sake tastings, enjoy live performances, and experience the lively atmosphere of the town. These festivals showcase Saijo’s vibrant sake culture and provide a delightful opportunity to celebrate and appreciate the craft with locals and sake enthusiasts from all over the world.


Exploring Saijo’s sake breweries is an unforgettable experience that combines history, culture, and of course, the wonderful world of sake. Whether you’re a sake aficionado or simply curious about Japanese traditions, a visit to Saijo is sure to leave you with a deeper appreciation for this revered beverage.


Saijo Sake Tasting Experience

A visit to Saijo is not complete without indulging in the sake tasting experience. Saijo offers a unique opportunity to sample a wide array of sake varieties, each with its own distinct flavors, aromas, and characteristics.


When you embark on a sake tasting adventure in Saijo, you’ll have the chance to visit different breweries and participate in guided tastings led by knowledgeable staff. They will guide you through the sake selection and provide insights into the brewing process, regional influences, and the unique qualities of each sake.


During the tasting, you’ll be presented with different types of sake, ranging from junmai (pure rice sake) to ginjo and daiginjo (premium sake). You’ll learn about the specific rice strains used, the brewing techniques employed, and how these factors contribute to the finished product’s aroma, complexity, and taste.


The sake tasting experience is not just about drinking sake; it’s a journey that engages all the senses. As you raise a cup of sake to your lips, take a moment to observe the color and clarity of the liquid. Swirl it gently in the glass to release its unique aromas. Close your eyes and inhale the fragrance, noticing notes of rice, fruit, flowers, or spices. Finally, take a sip and let the flavors dance on your palate, savoring the delicate balance of sweetness, acidity, and umami.


Saijo’s sake breweries often offer food pairings to complement the tasting experience. Traditional Japanese snacks, known as otsumami, are carefully selected to enhance the flavors of the sake. The combination of sake and food creates a harmonious balance and elevates the overall tasting experience.


As you navigate the sake tasting journey, don’t hesitate to engage with the brewery staff. They are often passionate sake enthusiasts themselves and are eager to share their knowledge and stories with visitors. Ask questions, seek recommendations, and immerse yourself in the world of sake through their guidance.


For those seeking an even deeper dive into the world of sake, some breweries offer premium tasting experiences or even the opportunity to try unpasteurized, freshly pressed sake known as namazake. These exclusive experiences provide a glimpse into the intricate nuances and exceptional flavors that can be found in the world of sake.


The sake tasting experience in Saijo is not only a chance to enjoy exceptional sake but also an invitation to connect with the local culture and learn about the craftsmanship and traditions that have shaped the town’s sake brewing heritage.


So, raise your cup and embark on an unforgettable journey of flavors and discoveries as you explore the sake tasting experience in Saijo, a place where every sip tells a tale of generations of sake brewing mastery.


Traditional Sake Brewing Techniques

The art of traditional sake brewing in Saijo involves a combination of centuries-old techniques and meticulous attention to detail. These traditional methods contribute to the unique flavors and exquisite quality of Saijo’s sake.


One of the key elements in traditional sake brewing is the use of wooden fermentation tanks, known as kioke. These large, cylindrical tanks are typically made from Japanese cedar or cypress and provide a natural environment for yeast propagation and fermentation. The use of kioke tanks is believed to impart distinctive flavors and aromas to the sake, adding complexity and depth to the final product.


Another traditional technique in sake brewing is the labor-intensive process of hand-mashing. Known as yamaoroshi, this method involves a team of skilled brewers manually breaking up the koji and rice mixture using wooden oars. Hand-mashing is believed to produce a richer and more textured sake, as the enzymes from the koji rice are distributed more evenly, resulting in a higher quality fermentation process.


In addition to the brewing techniques themselves, the quality of ingredients used in traditional sake brewing is also paramount. Sake rice, known as shuzo kotekimai, is carefully selected for its specific attributes and characteristics. Different strains of rice are chosen based on the desired flavor profile of the sake, as well as the region’s unique growing conditions. The rice is then meticulously polished to remove the outer layers, leaving behind the pure starch core, which contributes to the sake’s refined taste.


Water plays a crucial role in traditional sake brewing, and Saijo’s natural water sources are prized for their purity and mineral content. The quality of water impacts the texture, mouthfeel, and overall flavor of the sake. Saijo’s abundant underground water sources, enriched with minerals from Mount Hiba, contribute to the region’s reputation for producing high-quality sake.


Temperature control is also a vital aspect of traditional sake brewing. Sake fermentation is a delicate process, and careful monitoring and adjustments of temperature throughout fermentation and maturation stages are necessary to achieve desired flavors and aromas. Traditional breweries often rely on natural cooling methods, such as placing the fermentation tanks in cool underground rooms, where temperature fluctuations are minimized.


These traditional brewing techniques, combined with the knowledge, skills, and dedication of the sake brewers, result in sake that embraces the craftsmanship and cultural heritage of Saijo. The preservation of these techniques is not only a testament to the town’s rich sake brewing history but also an homage to the artistry and passion of those who continue to uphold traditional sake-making practices.


Whether you’re a sake aficionado or simply curious about the intricacies of traditional brewing methods, exploring Saijo’s sake breweries and experiencing their timeless techniques is an opportunity to appreciate the depth and complexity that sets traditional sake apart.


Sake Brewing Festivals in Saijo

Saijo is not only known for its exceptional sake but also for its vibrant festivals that celebrate the art of sake brewing. These festivals provide a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of the town, experience traditional Japanese culture, and indulge in the flavors of Saijo’s finest sake.


One of the most renowned sake brewing festivals in Saijo is the Saijo Sake Festival, held annually in October. This lively event attracts sake enthusiasts from all over Japan and beyond. During the festival, the streets of Saijo come alive with vibrant performances, traditional music, and lively dance parades. Visitors can stroll through the town, sampling a wide variety of sake from different breweries, and purchase bottles to take home as souvenirs.


Another notable festival is the Saijo Hiyaoroshi Festival, which takes place in the autumn. Hiyaoroshi is a type of sake that is released in the fall after being stored during the summer. The festival celebrates the release of this special sake, and visitors have the opportunity to taste fresh Hiyaoroshi straight from the breweries. It’s a chance to enjoy the unique and robust flavors of this seasonal sake while savoring the festive atmosphere of Saijo.


For those fascinated by the traditional brewing techniques, the Kura Matsuri, or Sake Brewery Festival, is a must-visit. This festival allows visitors to explore inside the breweries and witness the various stages of the brewing process. From observing the rice polishing to experiencing the aroma of fermentation, it’s a hands-on opportunity to step into the world of sake production. The festival also includes cultural performances and exhibitions that provide insights into the history and significance of sake brewing in Saijo.


Throughout the year, Saijo holds various smaller-scale events and sake-related activities that celebrate the town’s sake brewing culture. These events often feature local food stalls, live music performances, and sake tastings. They offer a more intimate and personal experience, allowing visitors to interact with the local community and gain a deeper understanding of Saijo’s sake heritage.


Attending a sake brewing festival in Saijo is not only a chance to taste exceptional sake but also an opportunity to witness the passion, craftsmanship, and camaraderie that goes into producing this revered beverage. The festivals showcase the pride and dedication of the sake brewers, and their enthusiasm is infectious as they share their creations with visitors from near and far.


Whether you’re a sake lover, a cultural enthusiast, or simply seeking a memorable experience, the sake brewing festivals in Saijo provide a gateway to explore the essence and vibrancy of this charming Sake Brewery Town.


Saijo’s Role in Japanese Sake Culture

Saijo, the Sake Brewery Town of Hiroshima Prefecture, holds a significant role in Japanese sake culture. With its rich brewing heritage, traditional techniques, and exceptional sake production, Saijo has become a symbol of excellence and a hub for sake enthusiasts and connoisseurs.


One of the main reasons Saijo is highly regarded in the world of sake is its commitment to preserving traditional brewing methods. The town’s sake breweries take pride in following time-honored techniques that have been passed down through generations. By staying true to these traditional practices, Saijo showcases the importance of craftsmanship, attention to detail, and respect for the artistry behind sake production.


Saijo is known for producing a diverse range of high-quality sake that appeals to various tastes and preferences. Whether it’s a crisp and dry junmai sake, a delicate and fragrant ginjo, or a bold and full-bodied daiginjo, Saijo offers a wide selection to suit every palate. Saijo’s sake not only satisfies the domestic market but also earns critical acclaim on an international scale.


Furthermore, Saijo’s role in Japanese sake culture extends beyond its contribution to the sake industry. The town serves as an educational hub where aspiring sake brewers come to learn the craft from seasoned professionals. Saijo’s breweries offer apprenticeship programs and training opportunities, allowing individuals to develop their skills, refine their techniques, and carry forward the traditions of sake brewing.


The town’s commitment to the sake craft is showcased through various sake-related events and festivals. These celebrations attract visitors from all corners of Japan and abroad, creating a vibrant and engaging atmosphere that promotes appreciation for sake culture. Saijo’s festivals offer an immersive experience, allowing attendees to taste a wide range of sakes, learn about traditional brewing techniques, and engage with the sake community.


Saijo’s role in Japanese sake culture is further recognized through the accolades and awards won by its breweries. Many of Saijo’s sake breweries have received prestigious honors and certifications, signaling their commitment to crafting exceptional sake. These accolades not only highlight the quality of Saijo’s sake but also contribute to raising the profile of Japanese sake as a whole.


Ultimately, Saijo’s significance in Japanese sake culture lies in its ability to preserve and showcase the essence of sake brewing. The town’s dedication to traditional methods, commitment to excellence, and passion for sake make it a revered destination for sake enthusiasts and a beacon of inspiration for sake communities around the world.



Saijo, the Sake Brewery Town of Hiroshima Prefecture, is a captivating destination that offers a unique and immersive experience for sake enthusiasts and travelers alike. Its rich history, traditional brewing techniques, and exceptional sake production have solidified its place in Japanese sake culture.


From the moment you arrive in Saijo, you’ll be transported into a world where sake takes center stage. The town’s charming streets, lined with traditional kura breweries, evoke a sense of history and craftsmanship that is palpable in the air. As you explore the breweries, participate in sake tastings, and engage with the passionate sake brewers, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the artistry and dedication that goes into each bottle of Saijo’s prized sake.


Saijo’s commitment to preserving traditional brewing methods is remarkable. The use of wooden fermentation tanks, hand-mashing techniques, and meticulous rice polishing all contribute to the unique flavors and complexity of Saijo’s sake. The town’s dedication to these time-honored practices is not just an expression of tradition but also a testament to the exceptional craftsmanship and attention to detail that define Saijo’s sake.


Saijo’s role in Japanese sake culture extends beyond its exceptional brewing techniques. The town serves as a source of inspiration and education for aspiring sake brewers, offering apprenticeship programs and training opportunities. Saijo’s festivals and events further promote appreciation for sake culture by providing a platform for sake enthusiasts to come together, celebrate, and delve into the world of sake.


As your journey through Saijo comes to an end, you’ll carry with you not just the memories of exquisite sake tastings but also a deeper understanding of the rich history and cultural significance of sake brewing. Saijo’s commitment to tradition, its contribution to the sake industry, and its role in Japanese sake culture make it a destination that should not be missed by anyone interested in the art of sake.


So, whether you’re a seasoned sake enthusiast or a curious traveler, make Saijo a part of your itinerary. Immerse yourself in the brewing heritage, indulge in the flavors of Saijo’s finest sake, and discover the soul of Japan’s Sake Brewery Town.