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5 Best Sake Brands in Japan for Beginners

Updated: Nov 10

Looking for the best sake brands in Japan? Sake is mainly made with pure spring water, premium rice, and koji. No other additives are included. Sake varies in so many different ways. In terms of style, sake can be junmai (pure sake and no brewer’s alcohol added), ginjo (made from 40% milled rice and 60% whole unpolished rice), daiginjo (uses rice mash made with sake rice and milled rice at 35%-50%), honjozo (uses 30% milled rice and 70% unpolished rice), and namazake (unpasteurized sake and any types can be namazake).


These are only the major types of sake. You can still find other types based on alcohol content, whether it’s filtered, carbonation, how they are prepared, and more. Here are the best sake brands for beginners:


1. Suzune

With its silky smooth texture, sweet fragrance, and fruity taste, Suzune is reminiscent of sparkling wine or a cocktail with an alcohol by volume (ABV) of just 5%, making it one of the best sake brands in Japan for beginners. This sparkling sake comes best chilled and is perfect for light drinkers, whether you’re at a party or a casual drinking session. A 375ml bottle costs around 800 yen which can be costly for its size compared to other sake. But it’s definitely worth a try. Suzune is brewed by Ichinokura and originated in Miyagi.


2. Dassai

A staple on the menu of thousands of izakaya (pubs) and restaurants in Japan, Dassai is a must-try sake for beginners. Dassai’s wide selection of sake is popular for its punchy aroma and sweet taste, ranging between 1,650 to 30,000 yen. Dassai 23 and Dassai 45, both junmai daiginjo, are popular options made with high-quality Yamada Nishiki rice. It pioneered the use of a centrifuge to break up the sake from the fermenting mash, which is a huge factor in how Dassai sake tastes. Dassai is brewed by Asahi Shuzo and comes from Yamaguchi.


3. Funaguchi

Funaguchi is an unpasteurized and undiluted type of sake with an ABV of 19%. Because of that, Funaguchi might be too strong in taste and smell. However, its sweet aftertaste will make it more bearable for beginners. With its bright golden yellow packaging, Funaguchi Nama Genshu is easy to spot anywhere in Japan, whether it’s a convenience store or supermarket. You might be dubious about canned sake but fear not. Funaguchi’s aluminum can is UV protected. A 200ml can of Funaguchi Nama Genshu costs around 540 yen. Funaguchi is manufactured by Kikusui Brewing Company and originated in Niigata.


4. Hakkaisan

Hakkaisan takes advantage of the fresh spring water encompassing the Japanese Alps to brew a crisp and slightly dry sake with a spiced fruit undertone. It’s thin in the mouth, which makes it feel like water. They are known for their “snow-aged sake” where their sake is chilled by natural snow for 3 years. All of Hakkaisan’s lineup, even its bottom-shelf sake brands, are made with the most premium ingredients. Whether you drink it chilled or warm, Hakkaisan’s taste makes it one of the best sake brands in Japan. The Hakkaisan Tokubetsu Junmai, in particular, has a rice-cake aroma with an ultra-fine mixture of vanilla and wild herbs flavor, giving you a sake experience like no other. Hakkaisan is manufactured by Hakkaisan Brewery and originated in Niigata.


5. No.6

No.6 is not the common sake you drink in Japan. Its fancy touch of European elegance makes it a worthy selection on the menu of the best restaurants in Japan. The name No.6 is derived from the number of the brewing yeast, which is favored for its ability to extend the purest form of rice. No.6 has a tangy flavor and sharp acidity, which makes it a good mixture of white wine and sake. Plus, it’s carbonated with strawberry and peach flavors, producing fizz from the bottle. No.6 720ml costs around 10,000 yen. No.6 is brewed by Aramasa Brewery and comes from Akita.


You can find the best sake brands in Japan pretty much anywhere. Most of them can be bought in convenience stores, supermarkets, liquor stores, bars, restaurants, and even department stores.


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